|Autumn in my hometown // personal picture (yes I'm starting to long for Autumn...)|
I think I may be reaching a point where my simplicity journey is slowly turning into a quest for meaning. As if I had reached a certain level in the "simplicity" class to unlock the "meaning" specialization (sorry for the role-playing game linguo). But what is that quest for meaning and how does it appear in today's world?
Like many other adepts of the minimalist/simplicity movement, it all started with questioning consumerism, the place of objects in my life, and shopping habits. In today's society, this part takes time, as some of you probably know. Then, also like many fellows from the simplicity community, I started spending much less time browsing, making wishlists, tracking sales, going shopping...
From Free Time to MeaningThat freed quite some daily time and raised the question: what to do instead? The transition is quite slow, but I started reconnecting with old hobbies, interests, passions of mine. As examples, I read more, took violin lessons, started practising sports, reconnected with old interests like science, space discoveries, minerals and geology, and writing fiction.
For example, I'm reading the magazine Science & Vie again (I had a subscription when I was 12) and plunge into science-fiction novels these days (Banks! Herbert! Asimov! K. Dick!). Hell, I'm even writing a science-fiction short story. I wonder about translating my short stories to English. And whether I could make money by being a freelance translator. But I'm digressing.
I can't quite point out the origin or reason for that, but it seems reconnecting with all these deep passions helped knowing myself better, rediscovering parts that were previously shut down, as if I was blooming again. That's where the change started.
Feeling in better harmony with myself created new questions: what is my place in this society? What can I do for others? How can I be the change I want to see in the world? Do my share of the work toward a better world? In Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi says people are usually motivated by one of three things: money, love, or changing the world. I think I know which motivates me.
Happiness and MeaningIt's like the quest for happiness - through simplicity, reclaiming my time and mental energy from consumerism - is slowly turning into a quest for meaning. What do I really want to do with my life? What achievements do I want to be proud of, when I'm 40 and look back to my thirties? What stories do I want to tell my children? What eulogy would I want people to write about me?
Perhaps being happy in my life allowed me to be able to think about these "higher" purposes of meaning and self accomplishment. After all, self actualization is at the tip of Maslow's pyramid of needs, and can't be reached until the "lower" needs are fulfilled. So, perhaps the quest for meaning is the next step in the journey of simplicity and self awareness?
Perhaps meaning is an indispensable part of happiness?
Some Food for ThoughtI will leave you with two pieces that have been food for thought on the topic for me lately. Unfortunately both are in French but, short of Google translate, here are a few words on what it's about and whay it made me think.
Marc de la Ménardière on TEDx
Marc de la Ménardière was a white collar working in New York, a dream job really - good pay, nice parties, living the "american dream" as he says. Until he broke his arm and ended up in bed for two months and a half, watching documentaries like the one on Monsanto, if you've heard of it.
He was particularly touched by the debate around water: is it an indispensable resource that should be free for all, or one submitted to free market like all others? Since he was working for a brand of "luxury" water at the time, thus started his life questioning and quest for meaning.
"Someone said one day, that being well-adapted in a profoundly ill society wasn't necessarily a sign of good health."
That's how his talk starts, to give you an idea of what follows. He tells his story, how he ended up quitting his job and went with a documentary maker friend to meet people who have solutions to the current "ill society". He eventually made a documentary of it: En quête de sens (A quest for meaning). Many of his points resonate highly with me - although, working in the video game industry makes it easier as it is a creative field, and not pure consumerism like "luxury water" can be. I'll leave you with this quote:
Ghandi's vision was that before being consumers, we were makers, creators.
Blogger "La Carotte Masquée" on leaving her job
This isn't the first of such stories, thirty-somethings having an identity crisis and leaving it all behind. I guess her story touched me because I could relate: she is a blogger, like me, a "real person" in a way, and not some famous author teaching lessons from their successful position.
In this post, she explains how she did everything by the book - a famous business school, working in the marketing department of a big cosmetic company, getting this stable job (the "CDI") every young French person is aiming for, and which is said to be so rare nowadays with the economic crisis.
"My mother is extatic: it's great, you won't be unemployed, my daughter. Even I jump from joy when I finally reach the Graal: a CDI [the stable, unlimited duration French employment contract], the species we thought to be on the verge of extinction."
Then she tells of her questining journey, of how she started doubting her job, as if there was an inner conflict with her values. Then she explains the steps she went through - questioning, huge doubts, fear, then the action: she quit her job and started working for a non-profit organization. She now lives in India and her life has never been so meaningful.
I guess the main takeaway from this article, for me, is that it's always possible. It isn't necessarily about quitting our job, but about being in line with our inner values, and have the courage to overcome our fear and take action, whatever that action may be. My personal addition here, such action can be making time for a long lost hobby, sending drafts to publishing houses, dedicate time for non-profit organizations over the week-end...
ConclusionI guess this post is kind of a draft about searching meaning in my life. I thought that, since it seems to be a natural next step within the journey of simplicity, some of you may find the discussion interesting.
What about you guys? Has your journey to simplicity ever opened you to questions of meaning and your place in society? What have you replaced shopping with? What is self actualization for you? Are you a creator rather than a consumer? What do you make? I'd love to hear your stories.