Looking for meaning in all the wrong places
A job is a terrible place to look for the meaning of life.
This morning I read an article expressing a pretty common sentiment: When the novelty of a new job wears off, it starts to feel meaningless. Martin jumps from job to job, believing that with a constant stream of new challenges his life will continue to feel meaningful. No matter how successful he becomes, or how large the salary, it still feels meaningless after a while.
One of the more active comment threads on the article expresses that “life is meaningless, but the work you do still has value.” I’m surprised how many people agreed with that sentiment. Like “Dust in the wind,” life is meaningless, but hey we should still keep waking up and going to work anyway. We have to do something with our time, because laying in bed all day is incredibly boring.
I do agree with one thing: your job should not be your primary source of meaning in life. Neither should your hobbies. Money, fame, popularity on the internet, sleeping around, getting drunk or high are all ephemeral aspects of mortal life and can never be sources of meaning. Trying to derive meaning from these things leads to intense but short-lived highs, followed by disillusionment and depression while you search for the next high. Like Martin, you can never settle, you jump skittishly from place to place, searching for meaning in all the wrong places.
Some search for an earthly version of eternal life or eternal beauty such as the philosopher’s stone, the fountain of youth, cryogenic preservation, Botox or cosmetic surgery. But extending the duration of your life does not give it meaning. Most vampire stories have already played out this scenario: once granted eternal life, you will have the chance to experience every possible earthly high, become disillusioned, and eventually end up stuck in a dark and meaningless hell, where nothing on earth brings you any pleasure. If selfish pursuits hold no intrinsic meaning, what does?
I believe that faith in Christ and an eternal family are the only trues sources of meaning. My wife is my eternal companion, and I can turn to her for solace and strength. Sex in the context of marriage strengthens my bond with my wife, and also brings new life into the world. If you crave novelty, get married and have kids. My daughter decided to turn our living room into a DMV the other day, which was surprisingly close to the real thing. A few days later, she enlisted me in the army and we led an assault on the Stuffedinarians (all of the stuffed animals from her bedroom). My family is a source of deep and durable meaning.
My wife and I are both flawed, we are imperfect spouses and parents. But we are not alone. We are part of a much larger family with our own parents, siblings and cousins. Through our church, we are part of a much larger family that extends across the world. More than that, Christ promises that those who make eternal covenants with Him and strive to keep those covenants can be part of His eternal family. My church offers eternal marriage through sealing ceremonies in the temple. Our family will endure for eternity, and we are sealed with our parents and siblings for eternity. Christ, as the source of all light, has opened the way to eternal progression well beyond the span of mortal life.
Going back to Martin’s search for meaning: you’re looking in all the wrong places. If you believe that life ends at death, that your family will dissolve when you die, that there is nothing beyond this earth, then no job will ever give you meaning. My work building software has meaning because it gives me a way to support my family as we strive for a place in God’s eternal kingdom. There is so much more to life than code.