The Secret to Life

Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night I turn over different ideas about my purpose in life in my head until some kind of idea starts taking shape. When an idea starts taking shape, sometimes it feels like a kind of excitement passes through me, like electricity on a stormy night passing through a power line outside your house. And sometimes this excitement makes me feel like maybe there actually is a meaning behind everything. But I know logically there can’t be because there are too many random events for there to be any meaning behind anything at all (and cause-and-effect only goes one direction -- from A to B -- so how could something cause itself?) But sometimes this excitement is so strong that sometimes I almost believe anyway. A stormy night with strong winds blowing through power lines outside your house also means that somewhere else on earth there could be nothing going on at all -- total silence -- because electrical energy can travel over long distances without any connection between them the same way meaning connects events together through time into logical patterns.





When my mother died last year (another event historians mark as proof that there is no God), she told me her secret: The best thing in life isn’t doing good things; it isn’t doing bad things either; the best thing in life is letting yourself feel fully alive inside even if it means feeling guilty or being embarrassed about what you do; doing whatever you do wholeheartedly; being true to yourself no matter what anyone else thinks about who you are; knowing deep inside yourself that you always did your best even if sometimes your best wasn’t very good; facing reality and seeing things as they really are; never wanting anything more than what you already had; never settling for less than your heart desired; giving everything your very best shot no matter how hard it seemed or how much risk.




There is no God, she told me. There’s only you and what you create yourself.


And so sometimes I think maybe if you can let yourself fully experience an event -- even a bad one like getting drunk and vomiting on your shoes -- then that moment will always be with you in some special way forever. And maybe if you can let yourself feel the excitement of being alive in that moment, then it will never go away.


And so sometimes I think maybe there really is a meaning behind everything and this is how we find out what it is -- by letting ourselves fully experience each event as though for the first time, with all our attention focused on experiencing every detail inside ourselves; not just remembering certain events but also feeling them over and over again until they become part of who you are forever (and therefore part of your meaning), like when my mother told me her secret. The best thing in life isn’t doing good things or doing bad things; the best thing in life is to be true to yourself no matter what anyone else thinks about who you are.


And she was right: The secret to happiness isn’t anything logical or practical at all -- because if it were logical or practical then everyone would know about it already and wouldn’t need her advice anymore; instead, people would already have found their own way around whatever problem they had without needing any help from anybody else. Instead, the secret to happiness is something that has to be felt deep inside yourself -- not just remembered or talked about, but actually felt; like if you can experience every moment as though it were happening for the first time, then it will never go away.


Sometimes when I’m thinking about my purpose in life at night before falling asleep or right after waking up in the morning, I imagine myself as one single point moving through space like a tiny speck passing through an ocean liner’s wake; because even though history moves forward like waves rolling across an ocean liner’s wake or ripples spreading out from a pebble dropped into water, people don’t notice these movements very much at all -- only their own little lives moving forward one minute to the next without any connection to the movements of history.





And so sometimes I think that maybe my purpose in life is to be one single point moving through space like a tiny speck passing through an ocean liner’s wake or ripples spreading out from a pebble dropped into water, but with the difference being that I am aware of these events and can choose how much attention to pay them; choosing whether or not to let myself feel the excitement of being alive as history moves forward.


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