“What is the meaning of life?”

"You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life." - Albert Camus

6 min. read

“What’s the meaning of life?” he asked earnestly, as if he actually wanted the answer.

“To live true, to be honest, to experience spiritual connection, to give, to be…” he replied, rambling on platitudes. The same niceties he found himself saying on a regular basis — a daily basis. The niceties that only ever cross his mind when he’s asked to recite them. When he wasn’t reciting what life was, he was living it. And, for him, more times than not, life was a person.

It was a person who pulled him out of himself. A person who made him need, in a way that need was embodied by want. It was a person who lured then faded, who teased then parried, who pulled then pushed. It was a person who meant more to him than he felt comfortable acknowledging, because there was no sense in it. But his life had never made sense.

I think a lot about life. If you’ve read much of what I’ve published on this site, this likely comes as no surprise to you. If you know me as a person, in the real-life, touchy-feely world, it’s definitely not a surprise. I don’t sleep much. I never have. But I daydream a lot. I always have.

When I was younger, I had a hard time relating to people who were my age. My mom explained this to me by pointing out that I was younger than everyone in my grade. But I suspected it was something else. While other people were sleeping, I was laying in bed, wondering, thinking, considering, debating — all with myself, of course, because I was the only one awake. I’d lay there for hours awake, my mind spinning. If we spend a third of our lives asleep, then we only spend two-thirds of our lives aging. If you only sleep an hour or two a night, well, you might end up like me.

All this time I spent in my head, for the longest time, remained in my head. When I started letting it out, it started to make more sense to me, and I learned it helped other people make sense to them. It was good. It was cathartic. It became necessary.

“Yeah, I know, I know. All that stuff. Those are good things. But none of those really mean anything. When you boil it down, you can say all those things, and try to be all those things, and just end up exactly where you started: clueless and floundering through life. So, maybe I asked it wrong. What’s the meaning of your life?” he asked.

“What do you want me to say? Live life to the fullest? Be more than yourself? Sex, drugs, rock and roll?”

“I want you to be sincere.”

Damnit, he thought. ‘Sincere’ he says. Not honest. Sincere. He knows me. He’s heard me. So how can I possibly tell him the truth? He’ll hate me if he knows.

Because he’s never lied. Not to anyone. But he’s also never been sincere. His world is centered around people. He has too much love, his mom always told him this. And he’s managed to create a life that is honest, where he can find Meaning that is true to himself. But the idea that a person has so much sway over him, a person who barely knows him can pull on his mind the way the moon pulls the tides out of the sea, scares him. It makes him feel weak. Vulnerable. Incredibly, irrevocably human. And that, to him, is life. It’s perfect. But it’s not the way things should be. He knows this.

When I started writing, I finally started to calm my mind and channel the chaos into a discernible message. I wrote a lot of fiction for years, many years ago. I wrote hundreds of thousands of words. I would never share it with anyone, write it and delete it. It was catharsis with no other purpose. It was perfect.

I started writing with other purpose. I wrote cover letters for jobs I was applying to. I wrote emails to the memberships of organizations I was responsible for. I wrote training manuals and educational pamphlets. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. And I really loved it. It was natural for me. I had all these thoughts built up in my mind from dozens of years of not sleeping — all this age I hadn’t aged — and I finally found a relief for it.

I was told by someone I respected a great deal that my writing was the “best student writing” she’d ever read. I didn’t know at the time how meaningful that would be, and I doubt she does to this day, but a few years later it would be the nudge I needed to become me.

“It’s hard to be sincere,” he replied. “Because I’m worried you won’t understand.”

How could he believe that the meaning of life was a person? But how could I not, he thought, not even entertaining the idea. His life had changed a lot in the years he’d been alive, and he’d said a lot of things “absolutely” that changed just as quickly. Maybe this would change. But he didn’t think so. There isn’t much he’s sure of — he’s a person who celebrates and relaxes into the greys between the blacks and whites — other than this. This was right. This was yes. This was clear. Absolutely.

“I’ll understand,” his friend reassured.

When I wrote my first “article” I had no idea what I was getting into. In fact, at the time, I wouldn’t’ve even called it an “article.” I just thought of it as “this thing I’ll write because I was told I should write it.” It got 20 views, three of which were probably my mom. When a little over a month later my site broke 100,000 readers, I was more surprised than anyone.

I became a writer. I’ve since written a few books, one of which is published, and the others will be published soon. I’ve made a wage as a writer, hammering keys and expunging overburdened thoughts to the shared consciousness of everyone who deems me worthwhile.

I can’t imagine life now without writing. But I also couldn’t’ve imagined that writing would be such an important part of my life. And for a person whose life relies on his imagination, this is disconcerting.

“The meaning of my life is a person,” he said through his teeth, realizing that saying it out loud wasn’t just admitting it to his friend, it was affirming it to himself. “A person who inspires in me need embodied by want. Who lures then fades. Who pulls and pushes. A person who will likely never understand the importance they have in my life, but will hold that meaning regardless.”

And then his heart quickened, and he felt sweat upon his brow. He knew that he’d gone too far, said too much, been too sincere. He’d always been honest, but he’d never been terrifying. And to say that the meaning of life is a person, well, that’s terrifying. He never wanted to terrify.

“Sounds like a person I would love to meet.”

He smiled. Because it made him feel weak. Vulnerable. Because life was perfect.