“Life is empty and meaningless,” said the conference facilitator, much to the outrage of many in the audience. Gasps pulled the air right out of the room. Some stood up and walked out. It had been a long weekend, and the culminating message was not received with a loving embrace. Nearly 36 hours of interpersonal reflection and, bam, it was all for nothing, it seemed.
“Life is empty and meaningless,” he said again, because it wasn’t enough to hear it the first time around. I had the benefit of being a repeat guest of the conference, so this wasn’t my first rodeo. The woman beside me began gathering her belongings, as she mumbled, “What a waste of time, I’m outta here.”
I encouraged her to sit with the notion for just a little longer, let it percolate. “If you could spin it positively, what would it mean to you?” I quietly asked. One of the notions we had been discussing throughout the weekend is that humans are “meaning making machines,” which wouldn’t be so much of an issue if we attributed positive meanings to life events. But most often, we interpret the way we are treated, or the way life shakes out, to mean something harmful and hurtful to our minds and hearts. Over the years, we accumulate a whole lot of hurt. Buckets of it that some of us laboriously carry along with us everywhere we go, in everything we do.
“You only have this very moment,” the facilitator had said earlier in the conference. “There is no future. No promise of a future or a tomorrow; yesterday is gone, yesterday doesn’t exist.”
“I don’t get it,” said the woman beside me. I encouraged her to put it all together, the thought that we only have right now. Ten minutes ago, ten years ago, isn’t really anywhere but in our memories. We know it happened. We see evidence of activities from the past: buildings, homes, cars, trees, our aging bodies. I know there was laughter, I can see it in the laugh lines becoming increasingly etched in my once-flawless face. But as far as our human experience, we only have now. And tomorrow? It hasn’t happened, therefore it doesn’t “exist.” We are the forces behind the meanings that fill all of those spaces. We choose the way we color our past, the way we color our experiences, the way we want our future to look. Some of us use more black and gray, others are limited to a bright color or two, and some can’t wait for Crayola to release the next array of color variations.
When we stay present to the now, to this minute, we allow ourselves to stand in the very space we have full control over, regardless of the past or a perceived future. We choose the meaning we want it to have. We choose how to be, regardless of how we have ever been before. The only chains binding us to the past—or to a yet to present itself future—are the ones we shackle to ourselves. “Life is empty and meaningless,” although hard on our ears upon the first entry, becomes one of the most freeing, beautiful expressions to consider.
So often we are torn to bits as we search and ask, “What is my purpose? What does THIS mean?” There is one answer: your purpose is what you choose it to be. And all of life, every bit of it, means exactly what you choose it to mean. Want to be fearless? Be fearless. Want to see joy in the world, see the joy in the world. Want to make a difference in the lives of others? Be the difference you want to see in the world. You hold all of the power in an empty and meaningless life, and you get to choose how to fill it up, how to color it, how to feel.
What is the prime of your life? The prime of your life is the “someday” you’ve always referred to, maybe even dreamed of. It’s today. I would love to hear how you stay present in the “now” and how you have filled your life with meaning and purpose. Find me on Facebook to stay connected between issues, or send me an email to the address below.