Thought Cookie: Edition 7
300 Words of This and That
How do we make meaning? Do we infuse meaning at the get-go? Or do we look back and pick apart our experiences to uncover meaning in retrospect? Do we find meaning only when the thing we have done, imagined, created, is past us? Is meaning iterated in the present tense? Or in the past? It’s been a year since this pandemic came into our lives in America. I took my last leisure trip on an airplane one year ago next week. As we pass this 12-month threshold, I wonder about the meaning of these times. As the year rolled by, I’ve been searching for meaning. I have found it, lost it, and been thwarted looking for it. I have stared down a lack of meaning. And I have been crushed by simple moments that charge my soul with deep meaning. As we went along, I have been creating experiences I imbue with meaning. And yet. I have the strong sense there is so much more sensemaking and recalibration and meaningful assessing and creating to come. I know that once we round the bend on this pandemic, there will be meaningful narratives that emerge -- both for each of us and for the collective us. Meaning has many twisting and deep roots in change. Part of the meaning-to-come will be in how these times have changed our souls, our perspective, our behavior, for the good. My grandfather, a child during the Depression, ever after stockpiled food basics in the basement pantry of my grandparents’ home. My grandmother would ask him to buy flour and he’d come home with four bags. What will we stockpile (besides toilet paper), mentally, emotionally, physically, in the years after these times? What will we release more easily? And what meaning will we give it all?
Reminder from the soul of truth: We all make meaning, both as we go, and in retrospect. What is your tendency? Are you a reflective meaning maker, looking back to find importance and salience? Or are you a present-minded meaning maker, seeing clearly meaning as it unfolds? What meaning, big and small, have you found in the last year?
Takeaway: What meaning, big and small, have you found in the last year? Is it time to consider how you have been making meaning throughout the tumultuous year you have survived?
As I spoke to a friend recently, we were talking about the inadequate way our culture measures success. Our most handy yardstick is money. In our culture, money equals success. I believe this to be facile and false. Having been in the company of very monetarily successful people in my life, I have observed that money does not equal worth. It does not equal meaning. It does not equal healthy relationships -- all well-documented building blocks for fulfillment in this life. So, what is your definition of success? This has been the twisted necklace I’ve been working to unravel since that conversation. A profound and veracious take on this I love is from Winston Churchill: “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” Put another way: success is persisting joyously. To me, success is a blend of rich relationships, meaningful, creative work and presence of mind. What’s yours?
From my bookshelves
I used to gag on the word, “artist” when I tried to use it in reference to myself. I had a lot of imposter thoughts around owning that word to describe a part of who I am. Making art is definitely what I do, but to be called an artist invoked a level of achievement I did not (and some days still do not) feel I can claim. It helped to read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, and then The Artist’s Journey: The Wake of the Hero’s Journey and the Lifelong Pursuit of Meaning. If you struggle as I do to own your creative self, and are intrigued by meaning, these are rich places to begin.
I hope you return to Thought Cookie on March 9, when I will share another freshly-baked batch. In the meantime, if this struck a chord with you, think of someone you love and, if you would, love, share it with them, or share it on your social platforms. I am grateful. If you’d like to ingest more of my writing, visit my full website.