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Home » Features » The Yearning for Meaning

The Yearning for Meaning
by Jorge Waxemberg

There are moments in a lifetime when a person becomes consciously aware of the mystery of life.

Such moments may occur at any age:   in the discovery of a friend's need for comfort and love and of one's desire and ability to assist; in the sudden realization that a lifetime of possibilities and choices lies ahead; in the desire to devote one's life to something greater than oneself—to science, to finding a cure for a disease.  Such moments may occur when one has everything in life, or when one encounters the inescapable sorrows of existence.  Such moments may occur when one has everything one needs yet feels a strange uneasiness, a feeling that says, "but there has to be more to life than job, home, friends, movies…. There must be something underneath to tie it all together."

These are the moments in which the search for meaning in life surfaces.  Usually the search is phrased in questions—"Where am I headed?  What am I going to do in life?", "What is the meaning of my life?"  For most, the answer to these questions remains a mystery, but this does not preclude a search for an answer, and it does not mean that one cannot come closer to it, step-by-step.  This search for meaning, this yearning toward the unknown, is the foundation of spiritual life. 

Now that we have asked our questions, where do we get the answers?  Where does a person begin to look for meaning in life?  It begins in the last place one usually thinks of looking: within the heart, mind and soul of the questioner.

Most people are accustomed to asking others questions and receiving guidance from their answers.  The questions may be fairly trivial such as, "Is it going to rain again on Sunday?" or more serious, such as, "Do you still love me even though I got really angry at you?"  People are accustomed to seeking the advice of family members, friends, therapists and counselors about the direction of their professional and personal lives.  Advertising helps answer unspoken questions about how to fill free time and where to spend the next vacation.

Questions, questions, questions.  And the answers or elements to form answers usually come from outside.  But the search for meaning involves a different type of question and calls for a different type of response.

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