Where Do You Get Your Meaning?

I often say that most people are built to get most of their meaning in life from their family, extended family and friends, and they don’t need additional sources of meaning beyond, for some, work, hobbies and community, but I admit that for people like me, we get most of our meaning in life from unpacking how the world works and spending time around people not interested in this is excruciating.

Most Orthodox Jews I know happily spend hours talking about food and drink. I find this excruciating. I’d rather daven.

I often wake up at 2 a.m. and write for hours. There aren’t many people I’d like to talk to during this time. I want to be alone with my keyboard.

I don’t get my meaning in life from having the best sources on controversial religious questions. I simply accept the consensus of the best scholars. 

There was a time when the ultimate truth of Judaism was issue number one for me (between 1989 and 1993). As my life improved during 1993, I found I had less need to be right about matters of religious faith.

The happier I am, the less need I have to be right in general. The happier I am, the more at ease I am with who I am and with who other people are.

I like doing battle online over what is true and right but I don’t like that combat in my personal life.
There’s a teaching in Alexander Technique that all opinions are just unnecessary muscular tension. That’s had a profound impact on me (though of course it is a limited truth). I think I hold most of my opinions lightly (though I do hold tight my interests such as safety, security, and prosperity). 

I like talking about things in a way that is equally open to atheists and theists and I usually don’t feel a need to defend one or the other except noting that they are both powerful in different ways (a Hasidic rebbe said the purpose of atheism was to prompt us to help the poor as though there was no God to look after them). 

There’s a teaching in 12 step that’s influenced me — that we don’t argue over the truth and effectiveness of 12-step (we just offer it to those who want it), and we’ve given up fighting anyone or any thing. I’ve incorporated that some of that into my life.

I can’t claim to be a major exponent of anything. I’m intellectually promiscuous, falling in love with comely new ideas on a regular basis while ultimately staying loyal to none (my various practices, however, including Judaism, don’t change).  

I notice that many non-Jews are irritated when I talk about Judaism, so I don’t do it. I notice that some religious Jews are irritated when I talk about hero systems, so I don’t do it. I want the best possible relations with everyone in my life.

In the end, I live in a post-modern world. To me that means that no one narrative is up to task of explaining reality.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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