Meaning or purpose can be far-reaching, as observed in those advocating for gun control. It can be personal, as exemplified by the woman on the beach searching for sea glass to make jewelry to sell. It can be religious, as expressed by my mom during the last year of her life when she gave a smile to the people in her care center.
Each of these examples, it’s worth noting, has an outreach component; embedded is the desire to do something for someone else. Spending day after day alone at my cottage by the sea, I’m well aware of how easy it is to encase my search for meaning within my own little insular cocoon. I can get obsessed with (think too much about) what I eat, how much rest I get, how my body is doing, how the weather is effecting my walk, and so on. Not good, because my meaning becomes one of obsessive personal survival, of keeping alive at all costs, and we all know that we’re not going to beat that one.
Lately I’ve noticed how obsessed we are as a country with how we are going to die: Will I live too long? Will I suffer? Who will take care of me? Will I have enough money? What about meds? Insurance? These are worthy questions, but I sense they are a threat to our very being when they become the overriding questions in our search for meaning. Without thinking of others, they sound like a dead end to me.