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Thread: The meaning of life is practice

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    Senior Member Gardenarian's Avatar
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    The meaning of life is practice

    In a recent thread on climate change, which I can't locate, someone posted a link to the following excellent essay from the NYT:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/06/o...l-warming.html

    What I found most interesting was the casual bomb in the middle of the article, that we have discovered the meaning of life (not 42):

    "Historically, we’ve tackled the biggest challenge — that of meaning, and the question of how to live a life — through the concept of “practice,” in the form of religion, cultural tradition or disciplines like yoga or martial arts. Given the stark facts, this approach might be the most useful. Practice has value independent of outcome; it’s a way of life, not a job with a clear payoff. A joyful habit. The right way to live."

    I think he should have included the arts (music, writing, painting, dance, crafts, etc.) under types of practice.

    Anyhow, I don't think I have seen this particular philosophy stated so succinctly before.

    I agree. Contentment and peace of mind are found through developing and honing skills in an area that is of intrinsic interest to you. Not "I'm going to write a novel this month!" but, I am going to write every day.

    My regular practices are dance, nature walks and study, French language, painting, and writing. It's satisfying when I can translate a previously difficult passage, learn a tricksy new dance, write a satisfying paragraph, observe nature on a deeper level.

    Does practice make your life meaningful?

    I was also interested in rereading (from another thread) David Foster Wallace's speech "This is Water."
    https://fs.blog/2012/04/david-foster...this-is-water/

    Particularly where he mentions that you must worship something greater than yourself or fall into despair. There is truth in that as well.

    I see these as two sides of a coin that makes a whole; practice brings meaning to individual life + choosing to believe in goddess/god/ethos brings meaning to the world.

    (I'm not a person of faith; I know I am choosing to believe what I do. I defined myself as an atheist for a long time. It's more fun, magical, and inspiring to believe in Gaia, Earth Goddess, and, surprisingly, less effort
    "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” -- Gandalf

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    Senior Member Geila's Avatar
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    This is really interesting. And timely for me. I don't practice very much, partly as a result of having to focus on survival most of my life. I've had a difficult time transitioning out of that into thriving. I've been aware for some time that my life lacks rituals (and the benefits they provide to one's life). I've been trying to think of ways that I can create meaning in my life during the holiday season and I'm not having much luck. The bombardment of consumption, religion, idealized family, and materialism is overwhelming.

    I too find nature the most inspiring of all.

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    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geila View Post
    I've been aware for some time that my life lacks rituals (and the benefits they provide to one's life). I've been trying to think of ways that I can create meaning in my life during the holiday season and I'm not having much luck. The bombardment of consumption, religion, idealized family, and materialism is overwhelming.

    I too find nature the most inspiring of all.
    So why not work with that? There's a solstice right around Christmastime and a New Year, big changes in the seasons until then (depending on where you live),... Maybe your practice is setting up holiday rituals that mean something to you and you keep trying different ones (practicing) till you find some which satisfy (and maybe not even stop then).

    I like to think of practice both in terms of perfecting a skill (for example, folk dancing or photography for me) and in a wider "meta" sense. I can "practice" being a better listener, being kind, etc. That kind of practice fits well into many faith traditions, as well.
    If Americans expended even a fraction of the energy on civic engagement that we spend on consumer ideology, our democracy would be much healthier. Can you imagine people camping out to vote? -- Charles Roberts, Amherst, Mass., Nov. 25, 2006

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    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Wow, interesting. Also in the NYT was an essay I recently read with a similar theme: "In Praise of Mediocrity."

    It also speaks of the joy of just doing, without seeking any ego-aggrandizing outcome. It's true that we've forgotten how to "be" but we've also, in many respects, forgotten how to "do" pleasurable, mind-absorbing, time-negating pursuits--with no reward other than just the reward of doing it. Nice article!

    BTW, my son gave me the book version of "This is Water" and it's one of my favorite books.

    I'm a true believer that meaning is found outside of myself. I do have a spiritual life--but I take my cue from the mystics of all religions. They transcend dogma and division. As far as more temporal meaning, my family gives my life meaning. But I do want to rediscover the more creative side I had when I was young...when I regularly drew, painted, sewed my own clothes, wrote poetry, made home crafts.

    I'm not big on routine, so I don't relate as much to that, but I do seek a certain creative spontaneity that I feel I've lost, thanks to technology and work.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
    www.silententry.wordpress.com

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    I've been trying to think of ways that I can create meaning in my life during the holiday season and I'm not having much luck. The bombardment of consumption, religion, idealized family, and materialism is overwhelming.
    you don't have to do any of it: you can just: opt out. It truly is liberating. I tried to create rituals like that to make holidays more bearable as they just depressed me, I learned I was happiest just opting out (it doesn't have to be 100% if there are family members you still want to see or other rituals you still want to observe you can).
    If you want something to get done, ask a busy person. If you want them to have a nervous breakdown that is.

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    I thought it might be another essay guilting people for not having hobbies in addition to all else they are guilted for (not exercising regularly, not cooking enough, not having a relaxation practice - all good things, but everyone has to choose their battles - survival is so hard already afterall even though never has a self-help essay ever admitted that reality).

    But I really like the focus on political activism and climate change as a practice (sure it's WAY optimistic) so
    If you want something to get done, ask a busy person. If you want them to have a nervous breakdown that is.

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    Senior Member Geila's Avatar
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    I did celebrate Winter Solstice last year and it was nice. And I know that I can opt out of all the hoopla, and that's what I did many years ago, and it was liberating at first. But now it just feels kinda lonely.

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    Senior Member Gardenarian's Avatar
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    I wasn't thinking of rituals as such, but I do like to acknowledge the "Wheel of the Year":

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheel_of_the_Year

    Our rituals include long hikes before having a seasonal feast (we do that on Xmas and Thanksgiving too,) watching the sun rise /set, lighting candles and setting intentions. The rituals are not as important to me as simply appreciating the Earth and feeling myself as part of Nature every day. Holidays are mostly a family thing, like celebrating birthdays - yes, isolating if you're alone.

    There are lots of groups near me that have alternative celebrations, and I take part in some of them (group hikes, gift swaps, community meals.) I would do more if I lived alone.

    The NYT article talks about using 'practice' to reduce climate change. Those are lifestyle things that many have been doing for so long, I don't think of them as practice: re-use water, compost, recycle, walk/bike, not buying toxic stuff, eating low on the food chain, etc., etc., educating yourself, supporting environmental groups and legislation, and, probably most importantly, voting for the Earth. Yep, I guess those are practices.
    Doesn't seem to be saving the Earth yet - but worth doing just the same.

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    Senior Member Rosemary's Avatar
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    Yes ---- practice and observing the cycle of the earth throughout the year provide motivation and meaning for me. I'm happy to see this idea appearing in print; hopefully it will resonate with many.

    I guess one of my practices is eating in season. My aunt is absolutely bewildered by my abstaining from purchasing berries in the dead of the cold Midwestern winter. I am just as bewildered by her lack of understanding of my simple argument.

    I began to enjoy knitting when I began to pursue it as a practice, not the means to an end.

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    Senior Member Gardenarian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rosemary View Post

    I began to enjoy knitting when I began to pursue it as a practice, not the means to an end.
    I have the same experience with writing. I used to feel a sort of obligation, and some anxiety about not writing well enough. But when I approach it like yoga - just a practice, not a performance - it is really enjoyable

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