What is the Meaning of Life?
One rainy Sunday when I was a child I noticed a book on my parents’ bookshelf called “The Meaning of Life”. It was a small, shiny and black hardback. I was immediately annoyed that I had been wasting time reading fluff like Anne of Green Gables when this treasure had been sitting around. I mean how could my folks have not STARTED my education with this book? I became so excited that I ran to find Mum to give me a general overview of what was in it.
Mum explained that the book didn’t really hold any answers but was more of a novelty title and it had been bought by one of their post-modern friends as an ironic gift (these weren’t the words she used to 7 year old me but this was the gist). This annoyed me even more. I asked where I could find a book with the answers. My parents were not religious at all so didn’t mention the Bible or Koran or the Vedas or any other religious or spiritual text. They just shrugged and said that the answers unfold as you grow older but nobody is really sure of the meaning of life.
Frustration is an understatement! I was actively pissed off.
Anyway, that was my 7 year old self. Now I am in my 30’s I have discovered it turns out there are lots of books which help to remind us of what we already know when we tune into our consciousness.
For example, here is an 8-page classic piece of writing which everyone should read. I wish I had found it when I was 7. It is called YOUR HEART’S DESIRE and is a deeply insightful short work written by Dr Emmet Fox (1886 – 1951). Yes, it is unabashedly old fashioned. And it is written from what appears to be a Christian perspective. Mr Fox shows his preference for pronouns in the masculine. But look past the dated language and extract its wisdom because it contains a lot of good sense in a rather concentrated form. The truth within the article is universally applicable regardless of religion, or lack of. If you don’t believe in God, try substituting the word “God” which is used heavily in this piece for the concept of the pure transcendental reality of Being as Eckhart Tolle suggests can be helpful if you find the word “God” off-putting through so many thousands of years of its misuse. (Check out the ridiculously popular “Power of Now” for more on Mr Tolle’s excellent theories.)
Here it is: I hope you find it as useful and inspirational as I did.
YOUR HEART’S DESIRE by Emmet Fox.
“AN OLD adage says: “God has a plan for every man, and He has one for you,”
…and this is absolutely correct. Your real problem, therefore, in fact the only problem that you ever have, is to find your true place in life. Find that, and everything else will follow almost automatically.
You will be perfectly happy; and upon happiness, health will follow. You will be really prosperous. You will have all the supply that you require to meet your needs, and this means that you will have perfect freedom; for poverty and freedom cannot go together.
Until you do find your true place in life, however, you never will be really happy, no matter how much money or distinction you may acquire; and until you are happy, you will be neither healthy nor free.
Whoever you are, God has not made you without a definite purpose in view. The Universe is a universe; that is, it is a unified harmony, a Divine Scheme.
There can, therefore, be no such thing, as a misfit, or an unwanted or unneeded piece. It could not happen that God could create a spiritual entity such as you are, without having a special purpose in view, and this means that there is a special and particular place in it for you.
God never repeats Himself, and so He has never made two people alike, and it is for this reason that no two people could ever do quite the same work, or express themselves in quite the same way. That is why, rightly understood, there really need be no competition. There need be no such thing as, say, two thousand people struggling for the same place in life. Whatever the place may be, there can be only one person who can fill it perfectly; and there are one thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine other places somewhere waiting for the other people if only they will find them.
But how is one to find his true place in life? Is there any means whereby you may discover what it really is that God wishes you to do? You may feel inclined to say:
“Even if it be true that God has some splendid thing that He wishes me to do, and to be, how can I possibly find out what it is?”
Perhaps you may even be tempted to add: “I am a very plain, everyday sort of person; my circumstances are extremely restricted; the conditions of my life are just drab commonplace.
How then can there be something wonderful, beautiful, splendid awaiting me? Or, even if there were, how could I possibly get to know about it?
“And the answer is Divinely simple- Already in your past life from time to time, God Himself has whispered into your heart just that very wonderful thing,whatever it is, that He is wishing you to be, and to do, and to have.
And that wonderful thing is nothing less than what is called Your Heart’s Desire. Nothing less than that.
The most secret, sacred wish that lies deep down at the bottom of your heart, the wonderful thing that you hardly dare to look at, or to think about —the thing that you would rather die than have anyone else know of, because it seems to be so far beyond anything that you are, or have at the present time, that you fear that you would be cruelly ridiculed if the mere thought of it were known — that is just the very thing, that God is wishing you to do or to be for Him.
And the birth of that marvelous wish in your soul —the dawning, of that secret dream— was the Voice of God Himself telling, you to arise and come up higher because He had need of you.
God is Infinite Mind, and that Mind is ever seeking for more and for new expression. “For such the Father seeketh to worship Him.” Now, because you are a human being, you are intended to be a new point of expression for God —a focal point infinite Mind, in fact, somewhat as an electric lamp may be regarded as a focal point for the manifestation of the electric current in the circuit.
A focal point for the Divine Self expression—that is what you are intended to be; and if you are willing to become that, then you will be fulfilling your destiny, and you will experience absolutely perfect and unalloyed happiness and harmony, and eternal and unrestricted development.
A few people have attained to this, but they are still comparatively few. The great majority have lives full of problems of one kind or another that they have yet to work out. If one has perfect bodily health and how few have even this, really perfect health then he probably has financial difficulties; or it may be family troubles, an unhappy home life. If health, finance, and home relations are satisfactory, there can still be a sense of frustration in other directions.
In any case, in the absence of all-round fullness and harmony of expression, there is frustration; and frustration means trouble. Modern psychology has been slowly realizing that many human ills are traceable to mental suppression, but our study of fundamental Truth teaches us that all trouble of every kind is really failure on the part of the individual to be a completely free focal point of expression for God.
You say that you are unhappy, dissatisfied, perhaps ill or impoverished, a failure; and this is simply another way of putting the fact that you are not allowing the Will of God to have free play in your life —you are not doing the thing that He meant you to do.
You are drifting; or else you are trying to do something that He never intended you to do, and doing it badly, and distorting your soul in the process.
It is useless to blame Providence for your troubles, or to endeavor to saddle the responsibility upon other people. The universe operates strictly in accordance with Law, for God, among other things, is Principle, or Law, and where law obtains there can be no room for the idea of blame.
If you break a law, you suffer the consequences, and that is all there is about it. It is not a matter of blame or punishment. It is just an impersonal question of cause and effect. This may seem hard at first sight, but actually it is your certain guarantee of ultimate victory and freedom. Impersonal Law is certain to hurt you when you work against it, but, for the same reason, it is equally certain to help you and heal you when you work with it.
A human soul may be thought of as an opening through which Infinite Energy is seeking, a creative outlet.
If that outlet be a clear, open channel, all is well. If, on the other hand, it should become obstructed by any means, then the Infinite Energy, the Life Force, is frustrated, dammed back —and all sorts of local stresses are set up in that soul; and these we see as sickness, poverty, fear, anger, sin, and every kind of difficulty.
Now we are in a position to understand what the real art of living must be. It must be to make this channel clear, and to keep it clear; and if only we will do this, we shall find that health, prosperity, full self-expression — true happiness, in short— will then follow automatically.
People work so hard to bring health to their bodies; to bring prosperity, to bring happiness, to bring success into their lives; to bring artistic or literary gifts or talents within their grasp, to bring great new ideas from the outside; and, of course, they continually fail, because we cannot “bring” a single one of these things from the without to the within.
The actual development is just the very reverse —they have to be released from the within that they may appear on the without. In short, we have not to build on from the outside; our task, as Browning says, is…”to set free the imprisoned splendor.”
This process, the true manner of nature’s working, is well illustrated by a simple anecdote. A certain man was working, in his garden, assisted by his little girl. She had undertaken the interesting task of watering the lawn by means of the usual rubber hose. Matters proceeded harmoniously enough until she suddenly cried out in disappointment: “Daddy, the water has stopped.” The father looked over, and, taking the situation in at a glance, said quietly, “Well, take your foot off the hose.”
The child had inadvertently placed foot and her most of her weight up on the soft rubber pipe, and thus, by her own action, shut off the water that she needed. She, of course, removed her foot at once, whereupon the water again flowed freely.
Five minutes later, she once more cried plaintively: “Daddy, the water has stopped again.” Her father glanced across and observed that now she had placed her other foot upon the hose. He replied: “Well, take your foot off.” The child did so, and again the stream flowed freely, and, as she had by this time learned her lesson, she did not repeat the mistake, and completed the interesting task she had chosen, with much satisfaction to herself.
The ultimate cause of all our troubles is just this. Behind all secondary and proximate causes lies the same primary mistake. We have been acting like the little girl in the story; we have been pressing our feet and the whole weight of our mentality upon the pipe line of life, and then complaining bitterly because the water does not flow.
Man’s business is rightly to handle his Divine Spiritual Energy, and when he does this, he has found his true place, and then all goes well.
There is only one Fundamental Energy in the universe, but this energy may be applied by us either constructively or destructively, because God has given us Free Will. When we use it constructively, we are acting in harmony with the Will of God, and we are improving ourselves and our lives in every possible respect, and we are helping the world in general too.
When we use it destructively, we damage ourselves, retard our progress, and waste an opportunity of helping mankind at large. We use our energy destructively whenever we think or talk fear and limitation; whenever we grumble, or give way to self-pity, or indulge in useless regrets, or, in fact, in any form of negative thinking. Most of all do we use our God given energy destructively when we hold thoughts of criticism and condemnation of others.
All bitterness, resentment, spiritual pride, and self-righteousness, are peculiarly disastrous methods of misusing the Great Power, and that is why such thinking causes the terrible havoc that it does in people’s lives.
When we are in a condition of fear, anger, or worry, our Divine Energy, instead of flowing, in some positive, creative work, becomes dammed up within ourselves, like the water in the garden hose, and produces all sorts of trouble in soul and body.
Meanwhile, our true work in life is either missed altogether, or, starved of the supply of Life Force which it should receive, it languishes accordingly, and we get mediocrity, poverty, and failure.
This is why all true spiritual leaders are so insistent upon the need for unselfishness in motive, for forgiveness of others, and of ourselves too, and for a general attitude of peace and good will toward all; for only in this way can we get that sense of true harmony and freedom that will permit the clear unobstructed flowing of the Divine Mind through us. Only in this way can we become a free channel for the Divine Energy to express Itself at the point of Being, which is our Selves.
This spiritual state of consciousness in which the Life Force finds the unrestricted outlet which is so essential if we are to experience any kind of good, is technically known as serenity, and serenity, the great mystics are never tired of telling us, comes from within. It is not to be imposed from without by manipulating conditions or circumstances, or by any exercise of the will, but can only be derived from the natural, free flowing, of our Divine energy.
It is important to understand also that, for practical purposes, the amount of this Energy that one has at his command is limited, and, therefore, all that is frittered away in unnecessary or trifling activity or thought is so much taken out of one’s capital, so much withdrawn from the things that really matter in life. If only people understood this, they would save themselves a great deal of wear and tear in the course of the day.
And, if all waste is foolish, how much more deadly is it to squander one’s resources upon the kind of thinking that is absolutely destructive. Yet, I have known people, as I suppose we all have, actually to rehearse trouble beforehand —thereby of course, bringing it upon themselves— through saying such things as that they never had any luck, that they felt quite sure that some important scheme would fail, that they expected to be ill, and so on.
One who understands the Law of Being and how it works would no more think of wasting thought by allowing himself to occupy his mind with inharmony than a business man would dream of throwing away money into the gutter as he walked along the streets.
As far as God is concerned, our supply of Divine Energy is, of course, absolutely unlimited; there is no check of any kind upon the amount of it that we can appropriate, or, therefore, upon the things that we can do or be.
Yet, for practical purposes, it remains that at any given time you can draw from the inexhaustible Source only in accordance with the measure of your understanding, just as you can draw water from the Atlantic only in accordance with the size of the vessel that you use. If you have a pint pitcher you can get only a pint of ocean water, although the number of pints in the Atlantic runs into inconceivable figures.
At the same time, it is well to remember that very few people do, ‘in fact, draw anything like as much of the Divine Energy as they could draw, even with their present understanding. Almost everyone is foolishly content to fill his pitcher, small as it may be, to somewhere very far short of the top. It will now be clear to the student that discontent is not necessarily a bad thing.
On the contrary, it is your duty to be discontented with anything less than complete harmony and happiness. Discontent is an evil only when it takes the form of discouragement cynicism, or despair. Without it, you would never find your true place.
But, whoever you are, your true place is calling, calling; and, because you really are a spark of the Divine, you will never be content until you answer.
Remember that this call is the call of God, and when God calls you to His Service, He pays all the expenses in whatever kind of coin. “What soldier goeth to war at his own charge?”
Whatever you may require to answer that call, God will provide. Money, opportunity, introductions, knowledge, training, freedom, leisure, strength, and courage– all will He furnish, if you be about His business and not your own.
Your Heart’s Desire is the Voice of God and that Voice must be obeyed sooner or later.”
What did you think? Did Emmet strike a chord with you? Did his words wake something up inside of you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Photo: seyed mostafa zamani