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The American intelligence quotient rose significantly when John Q. Public stopped watching reality television.

I agree with James Van Praagh who said, “We have all been placed on this earth to discover our own path, and we will never be happy if we live someone else’s idea of life.”

“Why not, we spend our lives attaching names or labels to things, and not seeing them for what they really are. Is a label or a name reality? For example, when you call someone ‘learning disabled,’ is that real or just a label? Too many people are labeled in our schools. Maybe the person just learns differently. It doesn’t describe why a person is different or having trouble. In fact, there is no such thing as ‘learning disabled.’ It’s just a label that points to the result of a challenge or problem. The label gives comfort to some people because they can point at what they don’t know and give it a name. Labels can be helpful if they explain how to deal with objects or situations. The problem is labels don’t necessarily point to the causes of the problems and often hold bad stigmas.”

“Linguistic meaning and the meaning of our lives are intimately connected. The words we use capture the significance of our acts and reflect what makes our lives meaningful for us.

“So how I think and what I think about all day determine the quality of my life?”

“From biology we know life is not a passive state of indifference and inertia. The essence of life is intense care and concern. It’s difficult for most people to step outside of the bounds of what is commonly accepted by the majority. The problem is when everyone thinks alike, no one thinks very much at all. Over history, we find new ideas are usually challenged, and the people who offered these new ideas are usually castigated which is tragic. Men fear what they don’t know.

The only reason for life… is life. There is no why. We simply are. Life may be beyond reason. One might think of life as part of a larger whole, and as such, we are only a very small part of it. My guess is we share a collective spirit or life force or consciousness that encompasses and goes beyond individual life forms. There is a part of us that connects to other humans, animals and plants. Ultimately all life forms are trying to reach a harmony or resonance with the other parts of the life force. And our efforts to understand what life is all about often revolve around expressions of compassion and love. We accomplish this by caring about others without any conditions or expectations. When we give without expecting to get anything in return, our motives are pure. Can you picture it? Can this force be with you?” Just then a big bubble floated by with the words

Our unique perspectives help us make sense of our lives which creates a personal security.”

Luke said “I always thought security was an illusion. I’m not being pessimistic, but security is simply not real.”

Plato added “Everyone creates their own unique brand of meaning. Security is something perceived. We all want to feel safe. Maybe nothing has any meaning because unless we provide meaning, none can be discerned. Maybe this is why we are all so important. Everything merely exists as it was created and exists in a constant state of change. Some say everything is complete and perfect as it is, and everything fulfills its purpose by fundamentally being what it is. The only ‘requirement’ for anything is just to ‘be’. Therefore, everything is the potential fulfillment of its own unique essence.”

Man answers for his own life by taking responsibility for who he is, what he does, and even for what he thinks. Life ultimately means taking responsibility for your existence. Ultimately man’s purpose in life is assuming responsibility for his thoughts and actions. When a person discovers the ‘why’ for his life’s circumstances, he can bear almost any ‘how’. Only the unfulfillment of potential is meaningless, not life itself.”

“Luke, I think the unfulfillment of potential isn’t meaningless, it’s tragic.”

Plato couldn’t help himself. The lively discussion had him skipping up the trail. “Never be afraid to sit awhile and think. You’re the authority on your own life. A ‘beginner’s mind’ is a blank slate fully open to seeing things as they truly are in the moment without putting illusory layers of meaning on. We assume we are thinking. Much of the time, it’s more likely we are being thought.”

With new knowledge come new perspectives. You’re familiar with the thought ‘a mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions.’

When you come to know a person, you have a better grip on their vested interest in different ideas.”

“Intellectual, emotional and spiritual growth all requires us to broaden our perspectives. We need to continually explore the wisdom of the past. We require a continual critical assessment of our current beliefs with openness to new information, different ways of life, and an eye towards expanding our capacity to feel, to care, and to value alternative beliefs.”

“One test of intelligence is the ability to hold opposing ideas in your mind at the same time while still retaining the ability to function. After all, the paradox is a stimulating source of a true thinker’s passion.

“While it’s the forum of knowledge to speak, it’s the duty and privilege of wisdom to listen. Listening demonstrates respect and shows you value the other person’s ideas.

“People do many things to persuade others to think as they do. Some even go to great extremes to put down opposing opinions. But you haven’t converted people because you’ve silenced them. Louis, the greatest deception men suffer is belief in their own opinions. People believe they are thinking when they’re really only rearranging their prejudices.”

Our true individuality can only be fulfilled when we challenge our habitual ways of thinking. If we continue encouraging and educating only the intellect in our schools, we will inevitably create a purely instrumental conceptions of life where all human activity will be valued as a means to an end, never for itself.”

“When we maintain a steady attention to our thoughts and feelings, we see they are not a permanent part of us. By examining our feelings and emotions without judgment, we can better control them rather than being driven by them. Real growth occurs when you realize you are not the voice of the mind – you are the one who hears it. Much of what the voice says is meaningless. Reality shows most things that happen in our lives are out of our control. The real cause of problems is not life itself. It’s the commotion in our minds that really causes our problems.”

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Beliefs and Consciousness

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Smedley's parents panicked when the school counselor told them he was 'highly interactive'

Our beliefs help us organize the world in ways that give us meaning. They provide us with a basic sense of who we are. They can also better connect us with experiences that transcend our normal ways of knowing which can provide hope and inspiration in tough times. It is hard to know which perspective is best. At any given moment in time, life can appear to make sense or appear without meaning. But when we view life over a stretch of time, it seems to reveal itself as an entity existing in time and space having a purpose and tending in a certain direction. Transformation is a fundamental shift in perspective, something most are not willing to undertake.

Your mind is your predicament. You are in a prison of your own making. Do not think your thoughts are not important. Your thoughts are making you what you are every second of every day. Sometimes disillusionment is the best thing that can happen because it reveals what does not have real meaning.

Don’t let pride get in the way of learning. My father frequently says ‘life is just a day in the classroom.’ If human life represents a potential learning process, our world certainly provides a wide range of opportunities for numerous levels of consciousness to develop. Our thoughts make us who we are by virtue of the thoughts we encourage. I’ve observed if you make people think they are thinking, they’ll appreciate your efforts. But if you really force them to think, they’ll probably become disgruntled. People seem to like it when people appear to think just like they do. The mind is a master weaver that creates both the inner fabric of our character and the outer garment of circumstance. It is our choice whether we weave these thoughts and circumstances into ignorance and pain or turn them into enlightenment and happiness. All that we achieve is the direct result of our thoughts.

Differences challenge assumptions. We inhabit consciousness but don’t own it. Consciousness is our source of self-cognition and is separate and independent of reason. Through reason man observes himself, but only through consciousness does he know himself. Man is significant because he’s a part of the universe that can ask the question, ‘What is my significance?’ Maybe our significance is humbled because we appear insignificant in the grand scheme of things. We exist generally ignoring the fact we’re aware of our true insignificance. Mankind is unavoidably self-aggrandizing.

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Ideas, Thoughts and Choice

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Introducing the fully interactive super deluxe multi-media Microsoft Lounger.

I believe the way you define yourself greatly determines how you will delineate your purpose in life.  Great minds have purpose, most only have wishes.  Clearly defining your purpose energizes your life evoking passion and motivation.  A purpose is not a goal.  It can never be reached or finished; it’s a direction.  It’s something you discover for yourself, inside of yourself.  Your purpose (or many purposes) is continuously addressed throughout your life.  When you ponder, ‘Why do you exist?’ you open your mind to the great unknown.  And in doing this, you bring meaning to your existence and find a unity that’s pervasive.

One great idea can change the world.  Think of the impact Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have had by envisioning personal computing.  Wondering and questioning are the first steps towards discovery.  Three principles connect ideas.  The first is ‘resemblance’ where something resembles something else from our past.  The second is a ‘continuous connection’ where they are actually linked together and the third is ‘cause and effect.’  Creativity or inspiration may transcend these principles, but perception, thinking, doubting, believing, reasoning, knowing, and willing are all grounded in these three simple principles.  Imagination is built on knowledge.

What we call ‘thought’ is predominately the response of our memory.  Our thought process is an iterative repetition of some sensory input involving a combination or reorganization of data in some new way.  Within this framework, mind and matter are ultimately inseparable.  The strange thing is there is no known way of confining thought.  It’s impossible to know where a thought begins or ends.  It may be we are tapping into an energy field or thought field that isn’t restricted to any particular place, person, time or dimension.  Maybe that’s why quantum physics deals in probabilities.

Whatever we allow to occupy our mind tends to be magnified in our lives.  While we can’t control every thought that pops into our heads, we can control what we focus on.  If we believe life is a good thing and has value, then life has meaning for us individually.  We attach value because it is appreciated either by our feelings, thoughts or overall consciousness. But the interesting thing is it’s possible to live a full and meaningful life without ever pondering life’s meaning.  Sometimes there are big differences between what we really believe, what we think we ought to believe and what we want to believe.  Our actions demonstrate what we really believe or value.  Frequent thoughts of kindness, optimism and good will are food for your good health, joy and success.  Ongoing thoughts that are fearful, critical or selfish are fuel for unhappiness, sickness and failure.  This is where we test the winds of humanity’s compassion.    I don’t think suffering’s the point of living.  It’s merely the background or context where we can explore love’s power over illness and death.  Life’s meaning may simply be our angle of vision. The quality of our habitual thinking makes or damages our lives.  Beliefs which leave no room for doubt are simply superstitions.  It is not so much a particular thought; good or bad, but the general quality or tone of thinking that determines our fate.

The most significant decision we can make on a day-to-day basis is our choice of attitude on how we want to face the world.  We don’t see things as they are.  We see them as we are.  Therefore we need to guide our focus of consciousness if we want to evolve and discover meaning.

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Think and Relate

Smedley: Hope this is under 3 minutes.

Curious about the meaning of life, Smedley dials 1-900-MEANING and ponders its value.

When I was a child, my father was fond of the expression, ‘think and relate.’  It was how he approached every challenge and every new piece of information he garnered.    He taught me to ponder my circumstances carefully and relate what I knew to solve the problems I faced.  My Dad always maintained an ongoing relativistic perspective.  Years of applying this approach has helped me countless times.

When I was in college, I had a brilliant friend who maintained a straight ‘A’ average in his difficult civil and electrical engineering/astrophysics curriculum.  He came back smiling from a final exam and told me a story that added something quite valuable to my father’s sage advice.  Bob told me about his one question final exam where one of the assumptions given negated the feasibility of the building the engineering project described in the exam.  The A+ answer was simply that the project could not be built.  As expected, most students wrote feverishly for the entire three hours to show everything they knew about the subject, but my confident friend submitted a one line answer.  This story taught me to always question my assumptions.  Your solutions are only as good as the assumptions and observations you make.  Not too surprisingly, what we assume, believe or expect to happen tinges and creates our experience.  If we change our expectations, we can change our experience for most aspects of life.  What we expect over time at our deepest or subconscious levels tends to shape our external reality.  So… ‘thinking and relating’ coupled with challenging my assumptions are two great tools that can help you discover meaning and your purpose.

What is ‘thought?’  As advanced as our science has become, we really don’t know.  We know some-things go on in our brains.  But where and how does thinking really happen?  Today it remains a mystery.  We know a great deal about the electrical, chemical and biochemical reactions furiously going on in our brains.  We traditionally label the combination of these cerebral activities ‘thinking.’  But what if ‘thought’ exists outside of our brains?  Dr. Candace Pert described brain-related functions throughout the body in her seminal work, Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine.  Some very bright people postulated thought could be the fundamental fabric of the universe.  They have also theorized that thought travels instantaneously, that is faster than the speed of light.  Maybe ‘reality’ is a tapping into a very big thought or thoughts.  These ideas intrigue me.

Life has been described as an angle of vision of how we view existence.  We judge and are judged by how we view life.  James Allen said, “All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts.”  Even though we don’t always realize it, we can have immense control over our own thoughts and perceptions.  We alone determine our own attitudes.  Every moment of every day we are in the process of deciding what we want to see, think, and feel.  And when we reflect on it, do we usually find our expectations are generally fulfilled?”

My friend Ralph at the School of Wisdom wrote that destiny was not strictly a matter of chance because also a matter of choice.  I believe our destiny is not something to be waited for; it’s something to be pursued with gusto.  Everyone should take responsibility for being the architects of their own futures, and this begins with the thoughts we entertain.  There is no belief-free existence.  The most powerful thing you can do to change the world is to change your own beliefs.  The necessity to believe something doesn’t justify any belief in particular.

While the meaning of life might ultimately be perceived differently by every person, the meanings we develop can be viewed as fingerprints of our minds built from our individual outlooks and perceptions.  So we must think and relate and constantly challenge our assumptions as we pursue our quest for meaning and purpose.

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Introduction to the Blog

The quest for Meaning and Purpose.

“What is the meaning of life?” This is perhaps the oldest and most significant question ever posed by mankind.  As man explores ontological mysteries, he becomes more personal and asks “What is my purpose in life?” Is our task to impose meaning on being?  Is the meaning to be found in the joy of the journey itself?  These fundamental posers are a natural preamble and constant stimulus for our journey.

Mankind’s best minds have been grappling with these eternal questions and have never found definitive answers. There is a long standing philosophical tradition of answering questions with questions.  The purpose of this blog (and the book I’ve written by the same title) may raise more questions than it attempts to answer, and that is exciting.  The focus of this exploration is not to dispute nihilism.  The primary assumption is there is meaning to life.  Personally, I agree with Albert Einstein who said, “The man who regards life as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost unqualified for life.”

I frequently find myself laughing at the notion of writing anything truly illuminating about these intriguing topics.  My own day to day explorations usually lead me to laugh long and hard at myself.  But somehow, the effort always seems worthwhile.  In fact, the title of this blog and my book were the result of a conversation my brother and sister had with a fellow college schoolmate on a blustery autumn afternoon over twenty five years ago.  One of the true geniuses passing through the hallowed halls of Princeton University at that time was a young man named Russell.  He was sitting under the proverbial “Tree of Wisdom” and was quietly laughing to himself.  When asked what he was laughing at, he casually replied, “I’m laughing at existence.”  And to this day, I am quite sure he was.  Who knows, maybe the purpose of life is to find the humor in it!

I have found the majority of thoughts written on the meaning of life seem to replay through a dozen or so themes.  None of these themes are mutually exclusive.  In fact, most are interrelated and interdependent.  This blog (and my upcoming book) will touch on thoughts from some of the greatest minds throughout antiquity who queried the Big Questions.  Their words are inspirational and thought-provoking.

Thank you for joining me on your journey down the twisting roads of life.  I hope the thoughts shared will stimulate, challenge and expand your awareness.  The paths for seeking truth, wisdom and meaning are for a lifetime of exploration.  I hope this sojourn is a meaningful and enjoyable one for you.  I look forward to sharing your thoughts and insights.

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