What is it about conscious existence that compels us to look for meaning in everything? Is it because we have too much time on our hands? Is it because we take everything personally? Is it possible that meaning makes us feel worthy? Is it fear of the unknown? I think it’s a little bit of each.
The human mind (and maybe other minds for that matter, but I don’t have any experience in those forms of thought) does not enjoy chaos – sure some people like surprises more than others, but chaos or being in a position in which nothing is known for sure and the next moment could hold any number of possibilities, is very hard for the human mind to process. Given enough time most people will begin connecting dots and filling in blanks, creating theories and probabilities to reduce the amount of unknown.
This is evident in human behavior such as insecurity, anxiety, and worrying. These mostly only occur because of fear of the unknown and uncertainty of the future. The human mind will attempt to reduce these feelings through many means, some turn to drugs/alcohol to numb the mind, some look to others for reassurance, and some will imagine many possible outcomes and follow each to their logical (or illogical) conclusions. One thing is for sure, people are really bad at predicting the future.
Sure, some people actually make the future. But no one can accurately predict the future 100% of the time. Did you ever notice that people predict what will happen with a set of events, but in a few months no one really remembers the prediction? Or if they do, it’s only because they got it right. The human mind has an amazing capability to fill in the gaps of data, most of the time without even noticing that a gap even exists (computer’s are notoriously bad with this concept), and this means that most predictions are made on bad and incomplete data.
Why do humans make these predictions, and look for meaning in their environment? As if the environment was solely created to have meaning to them? Probably because the center of everyone’s life is “me”. Well not me, but “you”. Not you, but the center of you is you and the center of me is me, you get my drift. It’s hard to accept that sometimes things happen to you so that you might be an example to others, and vice-versa, you witness events happening to other people so that you might grow from their experience.
Looking for meaning helps us make sense of the world and allows us to find justifications for our’s and other people’s behaviors. Justifying that something bad happened to another person because of direct actions that they took, helps us to confirm to ourselves that we are smarter, that those events could never happen to us. And if we are smarter, if we are impervious to the bad, then we don’t have to be insecure, or anxious, or worrisome.
Except it doesn’t work that way, feeding into a behavior only causes the behavior to become stronger. Our need to find meaning becomes stronger, our need to remove our basic feelings such as insecurity becomes stronger.
Focusing on not coloring outside the lines is not the same as focusing on coloring inside the lines. They sound the same, but they are not. So to is a focus on not being insecure, anxious or worrisome not the same as focusing on being secure, calm and worry-free.
Focusing on finding meaning in your life does not create meaning because the focus is on finding instead of creating meaning, and how can you tell when you’ve actually found it?
Like the saying goes, “Life is not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”