First, I have to admit the question is posed in an odd way and I don’t blame anyone for interpreting it as, “What is the meaning of Life?” When I use the expression, “What makes for…”, my meaning is “What are the elements which create a meaningful life?”
One could easily ask, “Meaningful to whom?” Are we to be judged?” My answer would be, “For the purposes of this essay, let’s say that it’s just us judging ourselves.”
We have to define for ourselves “a meaningful life”. It’s a problem I’ve often confronted. Where should I put my efforts? What goals am I trying to achieve? Are these goals, once accomplished, evidence of a meaningful life?
When I was closing-in on 40, I suddenly lost most of my fervent interests in many forms of entertainment, especially sports. It occurred to me on a deep level that I was spending an inordinate amount of time and intellect on other peoples’ achievements. Up until then, I was very concerned about that great catch the receiver had made or the great joke a stand-up comedian developed. I still enjoy these things but since then I’ve viewed them quite differently. One might say I lost the thrill of the vicarious. From then on, I told myself, my time and energy would be reserved for my own accomplishments.
Another big shift came as I approached 50. I didn’t abandon the first idea, rather I expanded upon it. The philosophy became this: “In this life, all that matters is what a person does. Not what they think, plan, or get emotional about, but what they actually do.”
This may have come from watching hundreds, maybe thousands, of people talk about what they believe or what they intended to do. As they say, “Talk is cheap.”
I could go on a little longer on what drove this thought, but the baseline is this: What makes for a meaningful life is what a person does. Not what they intend, hope, or plan. Not how they feel about something: angry, happy, sad, or glad. All those things are fleeting, disappearing like a forgotten dream.
One of my favorite lyrics comes from a song by the Police in the 90’s,
Poets, priests, and politicians,
Have words to thank for their positions…
Again, “Talk is cheap.”
To close this, in my existence I tell myself again and again, “All that matters is what you do.” As Nike, the goddess of victory might have said, “Just Do It.”
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