Fare thee well!

The end of the semester is near, and even though writing about the meaning of life was probably the most meaningful thing I ever did in my life, I decided to stop doing so.  That’s right, this is going to be the last and final post of this blog.

Writing a blog about the meaning of life proved to be very special for me. At first, I tried so hard to give insight to other people about the meaning of life,  that I was completely neglecting myself. I was so preoccupied with reading philosophical articles and conveying their meanings to other people, that I just failed to realize that all this critical thinking and analyzing is benefiting me just as much as any other reader of my blog–or even more. After carefully analyzing what we should believe in (in the 2nd post) I remember saving the document, and just stopping there for a couple of minutes and thinking about what I believe in. It was in that moment that I realized that the whole thing was very vague and unknown to me, and I wasn’t even aware of it before.

That was the time when the situation changed. This blog wasn’t merely a blog anymore. It was the solution to my problems. Problems that I didn’t even know I had before, but which were literally destroying me inside. Starting from this point, I didn’t write because I had to, but because I wanted to with all my heart. The ignorance I had been facing, was slowly being replaced by knowledge and intellect, which were increasing more with every post I made.

Today we are more anxious and stressed about things than ever before. We worry about everything. But the guilt we feel, the anxiety, is nothing more than the guilt one experiences when keeping the game going on. The game of disguise. The game of hide and seek. We have lost our sense of self. We cannot be ourselves, instead, we are what society tells us to be. We have forgotten how to stop and think about who we truly are, and it’s entirely our fault. We keep dressing our daughters in pink dresses and giving them make up and dolls to play with, while we buy legos and racing cars for our sons. We keep enforcing gender stereotypes. Thus, we don’t let our children decide for themselves, and they grow up being lost, just like we are. Men are expected to act up to certain impossible standards society set up (“you need to be brave, you cannot show emotions, you cannot cry in public”).  Well, what if I want to show emotions and cry in public. Is it wrong?

These set of society’s rules that apparently everybody has accepted are what is causing our problems in the first place. One of the most important things I have learned while writing about the meaning of life is that we must create our own ideas and standards around which we build our lives. Our life cannot be meaningful or purposeful if we live according to standards that society set up. I learned that we must stay true to our character and live up to our own values.

But before arriving at that point, I had a long voyage, which I shared with the readers. It was a tough time, but the results are more than fruitful. Thinking that the meaning of life is one big mysterious question which has one big answer proved to be very wrong. I learned that instead of answering the question of the meaning of life, I should by breaking it down into a series of smaller and utterly unmysterious questions, thus giving a deflationary account of that question.

I started writing about how taking some time to reflect within ourselves is of great importance because that’s how we find out who we truly are. Then I wrote how travelling can make our lives worth living because it makes us more tolerant, resourceful and knowledgeable. After that, I wrote how to manage our emotions, because the just man is not driven by emotions but by reason. Subsequently I wrote how to be tolerant and not impinge on other people’s beliefs because people have a reason to believe in what they believe in. Next I wrote how important it is to have faith in yourself, and this all finally ended up with my conclusion of life being absurd.

I want to thank all of my readers, and I hope that they learned as much about life as I did.

Below are the 7 most important things we have learned in this blog!

1) Reflecting within ourselves is the only way to know who we really are.

2)Traveling makes us more tolerant, resourceful and knowledgeable.

3) A wise man must be driven by reason and not by emotion

4) Even if we have figured it all out and our beliefs are far superior to other peoples’, we should not impinge on them because everyone has a reason to believe in what they believe in.

5) Having faith in yourself leads to one of the most important asset we should have: self-confidence

6) . Our life cannot be meaningful or purposeful if we live according to standards that society set up. We must stay true to our character and live up to our own values.

7) We must accept the absurdity of life. And we must accept our faith of never truly understanding life and its meaning.

Thank you, and farewell!

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Life is absurd

At some point, every one of us arrives at a moment in our lives in which we question everything. Sadly, for some of us, the effects that this questioning brings is nothing but anguish and distress. Life as we knew it is suddenly gone; it has vanished. It is not the life in which we don’t think critically about every action we make. Rather, it is a life full of doubts and questions which we cannot seem to solve. And if you have ever felt this way, then rest assured, there is nothing wrong to have these doubts, and you are not the only one having them.

See, every person should be able to rise above the generalized ideas on life. I believe that none of us should do things just because we are told to do them that way. I believe that we need to create our own ideas and standards around which we build our entire lives. To live life by our own philosophy, slipping through the cracks of society’s rules and believing that our future holds whatever we dream for, is a good way to live life. But all this questioning and all this uncertainty, at some point, will bring us to a very fascinating conclusion which is “life is absurd.” We are all capable of reason–well, most of us,– but once we apply that reason critically, we come to the conclusion that life is absurd. Of course, when I speak of applying reason, I mean that we should also rule out any supposed revealed truths (religions, myths etc).  When we come to this point, we realize that our quest  for meaning is futile. There is no God, and there are no eternal truths or supreme meanings in life. Suddenly, everything we do becomes pointless, and we are faced with life’s meaninglessness.

But my point is that even if applying reason leads to the realization that life is pointless, we should not let this apparent meaninglessness ruin our lives. Albert Camus‘ book “The Myth of Sisyphus,” is a very interesting book on life’s meaninglessness and absurdity. One of the most inspiring quotes he uses in the book, is “The struggle itself is enough to fill a man’s heart. ” Although he realizes that life is absurd, he comes to terms with it. He accepts his fate of never truly understanding the world. He accepts the absurdity of life. And we must do the same.

Accepting the absurdity of life in these days is extremely hard. Social stratification is a recent construct, but it is affecting every person out there. We cannot be ourselves, instead, we are what society tells us to be. Adding the burden of confronting  life’s absurdity may be too much for people, but it is something very important to do in the quest to finding the meaning on life. While accepting absurdity is not the meaning of life, it sure is something that a meaningful life consists of.

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Have faith in yourself.

A couple of months ago, I was looking up good street musicians on youtube, and at some point I stumbled on a video that was very inspiring for me. I remember there was an old man grabbing his guitar and yelling “No matter who you are, no matter where you go in your life, at some point you’re going to need somebody to stand by you.” This morning I tried to find that video, but I failed to do so. But there is actually no need to find it, because the message that the song gave me is imprinted deep into my mind.

I have been to countless weddings, and almost every time the groom and bride told each-other that “They are the love of their lives, and that they couldn’t imagine a life without them.” See, we human beings are gregarious creatures; we always want to be in company of others. Even if some of us prefer to be alone now and then, at the end of the day we all strive to have people around us who love and accept us for who we are. But while doing that, we often forget one of the most important things there is in life, which is to love ourselves. Before wanting others to approve of us, we must learn to accept ourselves, be fine with who we are and have a high self-esteem.

Whatever you decide to be in life, whatever goals you decide to pursue, there is one thing that is crucial to do, and that is to love and believe in yourself. If you believe in yourself and have come to terms with who you are, you are going to develop one very important asset, which is self-confidence. In real life, confidence is much more important than knowledge or experience. Self-confidence is how we present ourselves. Your credentials may be impressive, but if your body language gives any indication of uncertainty, then people around you are going to notice that and subconsciously belittle you. But it’s not really about the other people. If you don’t have self-confidence and you don’t believe in yourself, you are not going to like yourself.

Natia Nishnianidze, a student at the American University In Bulgaria (AUBG) who has a blog about Relationships at AUBG thinks that loving yourself first is important.

“I think that loving yourself first is important. It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who is fond of you, rather than looking for love to compensate for your lack of self-love.”

A study released by SADD (Students Against Destructive Decision) showed that a teenagers “sense of self” can have immense importance in his/her life. Among others, the study revealed that confident teenagers work harder towards goals, have a grip on their emotions, know how important change is and see failures in a different light.

Since loving yourself and believing in yourself are the path that lead to self-esteem, you can see how important they are.

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Good Bars & Nice People

There is a young couple on my left, an old man drinking tea and reading his newspaper on my right, and some 3 meters in front of me there is a young lady in her 20s reading a novel. Every now and then, she looks at me for a brief moment and then goes back to reading again. The dimmed lights, the multitude of books stacked on racks which surround the whole place, and the friendly people give this place a cozy atmosphere that once you grow fond of, you never want to let go. This place is not a library, neither is it a bar, it’s a library bar–Yes, really.

Here’s a picture of it:

It’s not always as crowded as the picture shows though, it’s mostly very quiet. A place where you can go to have some time for yourself, drink tea and maybe read a book as well. For more information on why taking time for yourself is important, check my previous post here —> https://lisarmorina.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/60/

I am currently in my hometown Pristina, and the “library bar” i described is the place where I most frequently spend my abundant free time in this long-awaited fall break.

As I sit here surfing the internet, I realize more and more that all this writing about the meaning of life has changed many of my views on life. I question everything I ever thought to be the right thing to do or believe in, and I got much  more tolerant on other people’s beliefs. I don’t argue with people whose beliefs contradict mine, rather I sit and listen to them carefully, thinking what it is about those beliefs that makes people happy, and whether I could profit from them too.

Okay, the looks that the girl was giving me have become much more frequent. I shall go and approach her. Wish me luck 🙂

Oh, and as a farewell note, check this video I found about science’s 10 great unsolved mysteries.

Here’s a quote I took from it:

“Did intelligence allow us to speak ? Or is it our ability to speak that progressively gave us our intelligence”

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Our journey so far

Dear readers, the journey so far has been staggering. To me, the topic on the meaning of life proved to be a special topic to write about. Not only did I try to give insight to other people on what living a purposeful life means, I have also learned a lot myself. As it turns out, thinking you have good ideas on how to live a decent life, and actually writing them down are two completely different things. While trying to put my thoughts about life into words, I realized that my ideas and opinions are not as clear as they ought to be; they seemed rather vague at times. As a result, many times I found myself sitting and wondering if I am just a hypocritical individual who thinks he is not as subject to the common ideas about life as a normal commoner would be.

Very soon after, I think I learned the most important thing there is when trying to tackle the question of the meaning of life, which is not to be pretentious. By pretentious, I mean that no one, even the brightest minds, should act like they have it all figured out, particularly when it comes to the meaning of life. Many philosophers have tried to define the meaning of life as being a question which has one big answer, and in my opinion, they were not correct about it. Aristotle, for example, thought that the “meaning of life is eudemonia, which means happiness.” Judging from that, even I myself have dedicated a whole post on how happiness could very well be the purpose in life, but I have soon come to the realization that no single answer could answer that question.

Think of this simple example that Julian Baggini stated in his book “What’s it all about.” Let’s say that there is a virtual machine that basically assures you that once you enter it, you are going to live a virtual life full of happiness. On the question whether one would enter it or not, a vast majority of people say no. This simple, but very meaningful example proves that happiness cannot possible be the thing that humans pursue above all else in this world. But then again, this leads us to the question if authenticity is the supreme goal in life, since living a genuine life obviously stands above happiness. The answer is again no, because a person who would be sure to have a life fear and torture in this world, would not hesitated to choose a virtual life where his happiness is guaranteed.

What I want to say with this example is that if a person takes on the topic of the meaning of life in a pretentious way, thinking that there is only one goal in life to live for, she is bound to fail because for any answer that is proposed, there are a hundred arguments to refute it.

Now what does this tell us about the meaning of life? It tells us that the meaning of life cannot possibly be unfolded by one mysterious answer. To the contrary, the way we answer that question is by breaking it down into a series of smaller and utterly unmysterious questions, like, “how can traveling help me on the quest for meaning,” or “how are my emotions restricting me from having a fulfilling life?” The responses to those questions, I believe, have the answer to the meaning of life imprinted on them.  Philosophy in itself, as I also stated in one of my previous posts, “Is a method of problem-solving and it changes your views on life, but it never gives an absolute answer to something.”

Thus, this blog has and will not offer a big secret on the meaning of life. Rather, it offers a deflationary account of that question, meaning that it reduces it into much smaller questions which will help you create your own meaning in life.


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Create your own beliefs, but don’t impinge on others’

Dear readers. If you have followed my blog till now, you noticed that even though the topic of the blog is “The Meaning Of Life,” I haven’t given any concrete answer on that question. Philosophy, especially when concerned with life, is supposed to redefine problems, and help people create their own opinions about things. It is a method of problem-solving and it changes your views on life. Additionally, it makes you more open-minded about things and helps you discover what you want in life. Nonetheless, it never gives an absolute answer to anything. Even Plato, an ancient Greek philosopher, who thought that virtue is the supreme goal in human life, didn’t state that in a blatant manner. His writings like “The Allegory of the Cave,” consisted of series of suggestions about how ideas are to be “interrogated and deployed.” His readers are drawn into giving Plato’s words a greater meaning which suits them—they are drawn to create their own beliefs.

Since there is no single answer that can be ubiquitously shared and be valid for everyone, people create their own opinions about their lives. That is why we need to be tolerant toward other people’s beliefs. They all have a reason to believe in what they believe in, even religious people—especially them. If you are okay with the idea that when you die, you will die for good and there will not be a second life in a better place, it does not mean that other people find that acceptable; and vice versa. If you ask a religious person of the logic behind their faith, they will not know it, but they will also tell you that there is no need for them to know it, because faith is what keeps them happy and alive; it is what fulfills them.

So, try to tolerate anyone’s right to say and think whatever suits them best, even if they contradict your viewpoints. It is fine to dislike religion (I’d be dead If I said this two hundred years ago) but it is not fine to impinge on anyone’s right to hold those beliefs.

Instead of shooting a 5-shot-video of a person, this time I am going to shoot more people, and let them say a sentence on what their purpose in life is. Please see what these people have to say (The video turned out funnier than I had intended, but, you know how college students are). 

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The just man is driven by reason, not by emotion

Throughout our lives, we have to do a lot of decision-making. The decisions we make are one of the few things that we are truthfully responsible for. Everything we do is a result of a decision we make in our heads; it is the starting point of an action. That being said, we can easily assume that decision-making is what guides us in life. Decisions are what can make our lives worth living, and they are also what can ruin them. So, when making decisions, we have to be extremely careful and not let anything interfere. One of the things that most interfere with our decision-making are emotions.

To live a happy life, we must be ethically virtuous, and virtue comes only with reason. Though reason is not what guides many people; emotions are. People tend to be led by their emotions and passions, which impairs them significantly. When people are led by emotions and not by reason, they often can not get what they desire. The Dalai Lama said, “The greatest obstacles to inner peace are disturbing emotions such as anger, attachment, fear and suspicion, while love and compassion and a sense of universal responsibility are the sources of peace and happiness.” Some philosophers like Benedict de Spinoza went even further by saying that every emotion—even love—when stretched to the extreme, will have grave consequences on our lives. He said that excessive self-confidence causes boldness, and with that comes arrogance. Fear hinders us from attaining things we desire, shyness causes self-disparagement and so on.

Now there’s the big question: How do we control our emotions? How can I stop my heart from racing and my hands from sweating the next time I face public speaking ?

Throughout my life, I have learned a thing of two about emotions, and the most important thing that I figured out, is to not try to control your emotions, but rather to manage them. It takes skill to know how to manage your emotions, but it’s a skill that can be easily learned. To do this, you will have to rely on one of Aristotle’s main ideas, which is, “To know, means to experience.” Aristotle said that reflecting in yourself is not enough; you have to experience the things you learn.  Arblir Pireva, a freshman from Kosovo says that he used to be led by his emotions, but that has changed during the past years.

“I used to be very shy when I was young. I couldn’t do things I wanted because shyness ruled my life. But as I grew up, I became much more responsible and mature, and can manage my emotions fairly easy.”

But still, there is something that is missing. Experience alone can’t be enough. If someone experiences shyness or sadness over and over again, it doesn’t have to mean that at some point they will learn to learn how to manage with them.

You need to know one little thing, everything in this world has its purpose, especially emotions. The next time you feel sad, or shy, think how your emotions are trying to help you. Every emotion has a positive intent, even sadness. When you feel sad when a loved one has died, you do that with the positive intent of thinking about that person; of staying close to him. Shyness is present to keep you from saying things you shouldn’t say and so on. What I want to say is that, the next time you are feeling down just try to reframe your thinking. Think of how your emotions are trying to help you, rather than harm you. Once you think of emotions as helpers you will look at them from a different angle, and will learn to manage them.

 

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