The question about the meaning of our lives constantly lurks underneath everything we do in life, and we distract ourselves in myriad ways in order to avoid this very question.
Around a century ago and earlier, we had much clearer lives. We knew that we had our homes, our parents, our villages and our towns. Our spouse was most often someone nearby, and we knew that our children would grow up where we lived. In general, our lives were clear, well defined and simple, almost animal-like. We did not encounter much uncertainty or insecurity.
Today, on a psychological level, we are torn apart with questions about the universe, life, our own psychology and behavior. Our lives have become turbulent, filled with uncertainty and insecurity, and inner turmoil is running rampant.
Our era is forcing us to understand what we never encountered in the past: the overall picture of the world. And we will find no rest until we realize, understand, connect with, and perhaps even control the whole picture of the world at least to some extent.
Since we avoid facing the question about the meaning of our lives head on—”Why are we alive?” “What are we doing here?”—due to the uncertainty and insecurity it makes us feel, then we do anything possible to distract ourselves from it and its connected negative sensations.
Distractions take on a number of forms: drugs, work, shopping, food, art, music, entertainment, browsing the Internet, going on vacations, traveling the world, sports, engaging in hobbies of all kinds, building and making things—whatever we can possibly do in order to escape from the prison of our world.
Everything we do acts as an antidepressant of sorts. It is all an escape from life’s most fundamental question: “What is the meaning of life?” If we have no answer to it, then we engage in anything we deem as important. Distractions save us from this question and its connected uncertainty and insecurity.
Nevertheless, however, the question about the meaning of life haunts us. It smacks us from behind in all kinds of situations until we will wake up and start actively inquiring about it. Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam) writes about this process in the beginning of his article “Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot.”
Indeed, if we set our hearts to answer but one very famous question, I am certain that all these questions and doubts will vanish from the horizon, and you will look unto their place to find them gone. This indignant question is a question that the whole world asks, namely, “What is the meaning of life?” In other words, these numbered years of our life that cost us so heavily, and the numerous pains and torments that we suffer for them, to complete them to the fullest, who is it who enjoys them? Or even more precisely, whom do I delight?
It is indeed true that historians have grown weary contemplating it, and particularly in our generation. No one even wishes to consider it. Yet the question stands as bitterly and as vehemently as ever. Sometimes it meets us uninvited, pecks at our minds and humiliates us to the ground before we find the famous ploy of flowing mindlessly in the currents of life as always.
While we might be able to temporarily distract ourselves from asking about the meaning of our lives, that very question will continually chase us until we start facing it. We will have to figure it out. It is not in vain that it surfaces in every person. When it arises, we either successfully forget about it through the many distractions that we have created for ourselves, or we face it and seek its resolution.
If we start facing the question about the meaning of life, questioning why we do, think and feel everything that we do, think and feel, then every moment of our lives will become filled with a higher meaning.
Based on the video “Why We Distract Ourselves from Life’s Most Important Question” with Kabbalist Dr. Michael Laitman and Semion Vinokur. Written/edited by students of Kabbalist Dr. Michael Laitman.
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