The Meaning of Life
- By: Jeffrey Donahey
Do you have a great hunger to know the meaning of your life or just life in general? When I was younger I would go to the library or book store almost every day looking for a book that would tell me what life was really about, what was true and what was false. I eventually gave up because there did not seem to be an answer. Each new book seemed to contradict whatever was in the last book I had read or even itself.
I then decided maybe I could just figure it out for myself. I made up thought experiments. Here is a sample: Suppose you were selected by God to fix all the problems on earth. But God didn’t give you any power to physically force or coerce people to do your bidding. They all have free will to choose what they want to do. How could I get people to change or just do anything that was better than what they were currently doing? This did not help because I had no way of knowing whether what I thought was right or wrong. Meanwhile I was not able to run my own life in a sensible way. I gave up.
I tried to do things that interested me along with the mundane routines of day to day living. That kept my mind occupied with other thoughts. My mantra became the meaning of life is found by living it not by thinking about what it all means.
But I was not enjoying life. This affected my health. I was on a downward spiral. My body was getting weaker and weaker. I came across a book that said people needed a reason to live or a will to live, if they did not have it they would die. It might take a while but without something to live for they could not sustain themselves. I told my mother about this and showed her the place in the book that illustrated the downward slope to death. I said this was what was happening to me. Of course my mother did not believe this at all. She said that could not be true, just look at how I had such a good life.
By most standards I was very well off. I had a good paying job, lots of vacation days, no debt, good health and a high level of physical fitness so I could enjoy riding my bicycles long distances at high speeds. But mentally and emotionally I was very depressed.
One day I was talking to the librarian, when someone returned some physiology books. I started thumbing through one of them and found out that I had the classic sleep pattern of a person with depression. Eventually after several failed relationships and long periods of extreme sadness I had a psychiatric evaluation. Acute Depression was the diagnosis. Drugs were prescribed, but I did not like the side effects. I stopped taking the drugs because they did not seem to work besides the nausea and dizziness.
The diagnosis caused the depression to lift for a while. Just knowing what was wrong or having a label to put on it was a relief. But the depression came back. Food seemed to be the only thing the really mattered because it sustained life. But food was not able to slake the ever present hunger I felt deep down inside.
I remember asking for help. The answer I got was what you are not going to find what you are searching for in the refrigerator. It turned out that diet was a very important contributor to my depression. Now, having been on a special diet to avoid foods that do not keep my mind and body healthy, I am once again asking what is the meaning of life but from a different perspective.
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Jeffrey Donahey is a teacher at a Michigan community college and he got his current job while pursuing his hobby of making steel tube framed bicycles. He loves the outdoors and has spent many enjoyable hours riding the different bicycles that he has made. He also likes hiking in the Rocky Mountains, skiing, ballroom dancing, and Salsa dancing and he has danced in several dancing showcases. He is a man of many talents and has a wide variety of interests.