From Existence to Meaning
99.99% of human evolution we spent our daily lives hunting and foraging for
food. Slowly, we began to socialize and formed communities but still, almost
all daily activity was spent working together to figure out how to survive
in terms of shelter, food, and protection. Over the last 10,000 years during
our most rapid development, it continued much the same. Over the last
100~150 years, however, mankind has gone through a massive transformation.
Today, most of us do not have to worry about daily survival. What we have
created for ourselves is new purpose and leisure. We create a goal and go
for it. We really have no idea why - we just do it.
most of our evolution we have been trying to survive, to exist, but now, in
essence, since we no longer have to fight to survive, we have transitioned
and are searching for meaning for our existence. Nothing is set; we are free
to search in different directions. Still, we do not really know why we
exist, so we just set goals and scramble towards what our society suggests
is forward. Some people fare well, others less so. Part of what we are doing
is to find out who we are and then to create some kind of meaningful
identity in a busy world. We need to apply meaning to who we are, where we
are, why we are here, and where we are headed. Meaning is everything and
creates our own individual identity in a complicated world.
Today, whether we realize it or not, what everyone is doing is searching for
meaning for their existence. And, when or if they cannot find it, they add
meaning by creating purpose which gives them their 'own' particular meaning
for their 'own' particular existence. The young mind that becomes self-aware
early on has a better start and therefore a better chance of achieving more
this modern world where people move from place to place, many people may
lose track or not even think about/know who they are. 'Who you are' is
typically based on your direct roots and includes history, location, family,
and knowing your place within all that. Many people never even consider it
but it remains an important aspect of our mental health. Adults have had a
long time to come to terms with all the change they see around them but to
youngsters it is an indistinct shadow trailing behind, around, and ahead and
sometimes it can be rather dark.
Accordingly, school should make a very determined effort to bring students
to the realization of who they are, their own personal history, and their
place in the local environment.
They need to be made aware of their present identity, which will be a
combination of history, home, extended family, school, sports, hobby, and
academics. They also need to set strong short-medium-long term goals.
They also need to be given forward vision of where / what they might be in
the future. A child with future vision (Eg. job direction) will be more
likely to make decisions (subject choices/reading) that help them arrive. A
child may not yet know, but a school should keep nudging them along.
a child can develop a sense of purpose, it will add meaning to their
existence and they will likely progress positively.
you take control, you will be able to craft your own future; add meaning to
your existence in a positive way. If you do not, you will likely be pushed
along this way or that by circumstance and will not have a clue about who
you are or why you are here. Your current identity will not develop and thus
will just continue as is.
Over the last 20~30 years or more, in the Western world (not Asia), the
creative arts have gotten a bad rap in school. Everyone gets pushed along
the academic track; worse, it seems more important than ever as the arts and
tech have lost status. People want to be somebody: a label, a name, a
position, and after all their effort they find themselves unhappy to be
pushing paper across a desk or selling coffee out of a window - just another
brick in the wall. Comfort and safety are the new norm; hard work and risk
have become the enemy. In the media (TV, film), trades have been projected
negatively over the last 20+ years.
However, the Way is not lost - it is just not quite so clear to the
naive young mind. Look at everything around you; beauty and the arts have
been crafted into everything you see. Your shoes, clothes, watch, necklace,
furniture, appliances, instruments; even the tools look good ... art is in
everything. But most of this is now made in Asia.
the trades, good craftsmanship in woodwork or metalwork or design is always
sought after. But little is made of this at school where the only aim is to
meet some standard and pass a test. The test has become the aim, not the
acquisition of the skill. In school, except in sports, skill is rarely an
objective. In fact, even in sports, it would be hard to deny that
participation has taken precedence over skill. For the young
mind, trades offer a way to redefine the self.
Forge your Identity
What sets a young person free is when they decide upon a path, especially
one that requires a skill, and then ... they set about acquiring that skill.
If they do not need pushing ... they are free. It may take planning, more
study, credentials, and a year or two or more of hard work. There will be
ups and downs ... mostly it will be self-learned/forged though hard work.
This will create a new future and add a positive aspect to, or create a
whole new, identity.
There is nothing more positive than having a skill to a level that few
others have, and that you become recognized for having. And better still, a
skill that you enjoy doing and get paid for doing. The trick is to search
for and create that happiness - nothing happens by magic or wishful
thinking. The person ultimately responsible for forging your future identity
is yourself. Over time, you can completely change from a negative past
To be really settled in your occupation - which becomes your
identity - you need to aim for something that:
|gives you a degree of autonomy (decisions/you are valued/needed)
|allows you to see/experience/being involved in the the results of your
labour (growing crops/seeing a product leave the workshop)
|provides variety on the job (not doing the same repetitive thing all
This all adds up to being mindfully productive. Production is the
ultimate source of wealth in any economy and the closer you place yourself
within this process the more satisfied you are likely to be.
* Note: This is a practical life approach, not
aimed at those seeking to go to university to become a specialist.