From Existence to Meaning
For 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.
For 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 later.
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.
If a child can develop a sense of purpose, it will add meaning to their
existence and they will likely progress positively.
If 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.
In 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 take 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,
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 'experience'.
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.