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The Meaning of Life

The most difficult thing in life is
finding something worth living for.
The second most difficult thing is
knowing when you've found it......

by Jamie Andreas

Okay, let's be light hearted for once. Let's not talk about some heavy subject. Let's pick something more down to earth and fun. How about the meaning of life?

Yes, the meaning of life, and the purpose of our lives. Teen-agers (that group of people who are most likely to begin to play the guitar) love to think about this. Since they are about to embark on that part of life called "being an adult", they like to question whether there is anything about it that makes it worth the bother.

A 17 year old student once put it to me very poignantly. He said, "When I look at the world, and I see what most of the adults I know are doing with their lives, and how they feel about their jobs, it is not very inspiring. I listen to people tell me I should play the game, and work hard to get good grades, so I can get a good job and all that. It all seems to have about as much meaning as going in to the library and memorizing the entire card catalog! What for? What's the point?"

And I said to him "You are exactly right. There is no point. There is no meaning to life."

And I firmly believe that.

I am going to make two points now. One, there is no meaning to life; you must create the meaning of life, and most especially, your life. And two, there most definitely is a purpose to life, and especially to your life, but you must discover it. These two ideas work together. Once you find your purpose, you will be able to see the "meaning" of your life.

What does the word "meaning" mean? People are always asking what is the meaning of life, what is the meaning of death, what is the meaning of me losing my job, losing my hair, etc, etc. Well, you see the point is, there is no answer to the question because it is the wrong question. Only a person who doesn't know what the word meaning means will ask that question.

Meaning means "to recognize a significance beyond the thing itself, or in other words, "to point to something beyond itself" And the recognition of that significance, seeing how anything you look at points to something beyond itself, is a creative act on the part of every individual, and it is also the responsibility of every individual.

When a little boy, Adam Walsh, was abducted and brutally murdered in Florida years ago, his father of course was devastated, and must have agonized over the "meaning" of such a horrible thing happening. He must have asked "why did this happen", which is what we say when we want to know the meaning of something. To his great credit, he answered the question himself. He created the meaning; he gave this horrible event meaning by recognizing a significance to it that went beyond the thing itself. He did this by devoting his life and energy to combating crime, and eventually ended up hosting "America's Most Wanted". He took his pain and expanded it outward, helping untold numbers of people by doing so. In his creative and courageous act of giving this tragedy meaning, he also saved himself from being destroyed by the pain.

This is an extreme example to make a point. If we do not perform our responsibility of creating the meaning of our lives, and all the events that make up our lives, we will pay a price, in fact the ultimate price, a meaningless life! The meaning of our lives will always involve the discovery of how our lives connect with all that is around us, especially other people. It will always involve making our lives be of benefit to other people.

When I am teaching someone, I see the lesson as much more than a guitar lesson. I see that I am helping to determine what kind of life this person will have. I am in a position to help determine whether this person will have a happy life. If they include playing music into their lives, they will have something very valuable and powerful in their lives. It may save them from bad health or depression later on, because they can go to the healing power of music whenever they want. It will reach out from their lives to all the lives of the people they touch. Because I see it this way, it gives meaning to what I am doing.

Meaning must be created, but Purpose must be discovered. The discovery of our purpose is a great thing in our lives. It is also essential, because only through the discovery of our purpose can we be happy, which is what everyone is ultimately seeking.

Think of it this way. Everything that exists, taken together, is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Every thing that exists, including every person, is like a piece of that puzzle. Each piece is absolutely unique; there is no other piece exactly like it. Each person, each piece, will fit in to the puzzle in a special, unique way. In order for the entire picture to exist, each piece must, of course, fit in exactly where and how it is designed to fit in. However, human beings are the only "pieces' of the puzzle that can actually decide not to "fit in", and make their contribution to the whole picture. Human beings can actually decide to remain separate and apart from the "big picture". Discovering, and most importantly, accepting, how you "fit in" is the discovery of your purpose, your reason for being here.

The entire picture, which depends on us, for it's appearance, is usually called God, or Reality. This picture is always calling all it's pieces to come together, to fit in to the unique place it was created for. When we look at the pieces of the Reality Puzzle we call Nature, we see that each of the piece plays their part "naturally". But when it comes to us human being types, we have this nasty little thing called "free will", which usually comes out as "free won't!"

However, when a person responds to the call, and fit's in to their special position, that is called finding your purpose. That is also call fulfillment or happiness. It is also called finding the meaning of life, your life, because you have found a significance beyond yourself, a significance to your life that goes beyond your individual life. You have discovered "why" you are "you". You have discovered how the "piece" that you are helps the whole picture to emerge.

But how come so few people seem to be able to discover their purpose? How come so many people hate their jobs, and just grin and bear it every day? I have thought about this a lot, since people who know me have always told me I am so lucky because I have always had a strong purpose to my life.

The reason is fear. Fear is the unwillingness to "be with" the rest of the puzzle. We are afraid to see how special we are, because since there is no other piece of the puzzle exactly like us, we will then, in a very real sense, be all alone. That is why most children, and adults, spend most of their time making sure they are like everybody else, thinking the same thoughts, believing the same things, and essentially doing the same things. It provides great safety. The price of this safety is your true personhood. You will be a fake person. You will never listen to your own inner voices that want to tell you who you are and what your purpose is.

And you know, for many people that may be okay. They don't mind if they are like everybody else, if they think the same things as everyone else, believe the same things as everyone else, and speak and act like everyone else. They don't mind buying their lives "off the rack". I hear about people all the time going out and "trying on" different religions, seeing which one seems to fit best, or which one makes them look good, rather than developing their own ideas and thoughts about life, God, and Reality.

That may be okay if your goal in life is to be a "normal" person. But it is not okay if your goal is to be a musician, or any type of creative artist. An artist must have something unique to say, something all their own, or they are just "reproductions", which in artistic terms, means they are nothing. How do we find our purpose? The correct path to finding your purpose is having the courage to "follow your Bliss" as the great Joseph Campbell has said. It is to be sensitive, extremely sensitive, to what turns you on the most, and then to move in that direction. This is accomplished by using two things: intuition, and emotion.

Intuition makes us move in a particular direction, toward our place in the puzzle. Emotion tells us it feels good to be there. When you find your place, it feels good. If you are open to your feelings, nobody has to tell you this is the right place for you. It is an inner knowing.

But we are not raised to be in touch with what we are feeling, in fact, we are usually taught to be ashamed of what we are feeling, to feel guilty about it. The first thing I taught my son, at about age two or three was this: always know what you are feeling. Never run from what you are feeling, no matter what it is. I told him he was allowed to be mad at me; he was allowed to hate me if he wanted to. If he felt that way, it's okay, we'll talk about it. I believe that being given this permission, learning to live in intimate communion with your feelings, your emotional life, is the single most powerful defense against creating an unhappy life.

As my son got older, I told him "I don't care what you do, just find something you love, and do it with your whole self." People are always asking him "Do you play the guitar"? They are surprised to find out that he doesn't. He is here to fulfill his purpose, not mine.

For many people, because they cannot feel their feelings completely and powerfully, they cannot find their purpose, the place where they were made to fit in. In fact, there are usually people around to discourage them from doing so. When I began to play the guitar at age fourteen, I started to practice all the time, without thinking about it. It felt good, real good. In fact, it felt absolutely necessary. I never felt I had a choice. But there certainly were people around telling me I shouldn't be planning to do that with my life. You see, they wanted me to serve their purposes, not mine.

Not everyone is called to be a musician, writer, or any of the things we usually think of as being creative and artistic. And yet, everyone IS called to be an artist, and to be creative. Whoever you are, you are required to make a contribution to this world, and to your fellow beings. Your own happiness and fulfillment depends upon it. And whoever you are, and whatever you do, there is a unique way that contribution can be made. You must find it, and you must accept it.

To discover your purpose, is to be all alone. Paradoxically, it is also to be one with everything else, in a way only you can be. This is how everyone SHOULD be, it is how the artist MUST be.

Guitar players often reach a point where they are very confused about what they should do, what style they should learn, which book of a thousand chords and a million scales will bring them to that great state of ultimate guitar mastery and fulfillment. The answer is to feel your way to your purpose. Move toward what feels good. B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, all have used nothing but the five notes of a minor pentatonic scale their whole lives! It is all they need for what they want to say.

Maybe you need to learn to read music, maybe you don't. Maybe you need to know many chord inversions and scales, maybe you don't. It depends on what you want to say with your music. And what you want to say depends on how you feel. How do you feel?

Maybe you are frustrated and confused when you think about this. That is good. Frustration is a push on the back, to get you moving, so you will look around and make discoveries. Make sure you use it that way. Don't stay in one place, or the push on the back will knock you over!

The rule for the artist, for the musician, must be "if it feels good, do it". Following your feeling is how that feeling becomes "solidified" into a piece of music, so that it can be communicated and felt by someone else. Bad music is made by people who don't actually feel their feelings. They may not know it, but their music has no meaning, and no purpose.

Have you found something worth living for? Is it waiting to be recognized? - A site aimed at showing players how to reach their next level of playing ability, no matter what level they are currently at. This is done by teaching how to practice to get results, by using the principles of correct practice for guitar. It is also the perfect start for beginners, because it shows how to begin learning the guitar without getting all of the usual bad habits.

Other lessons and articles by Jamie

Why Are So Many Guitarists Masochists? - Discover Your Discomfort!
Changing Chords - Having a little trouble with those "easy" chords?
The Secret of Speed: Finding the Incredible Lightness
What Should I Practice?
Your growth as a guitarist: vertical or horizontal?
Your Hand is Your Band: The Importance of Fingering
Review is Required!
Teaching By Travel Brochure
Natural Talent
On Memorizing - Part One
On Memorizing - Part Two
Changing Bad Habits - Part One
Changing Bad Habits - Part Two
Aggressive Practicing
Thinking: What A Concept!
Conductor's Mind
Stage Fright Part 1
Stage Fright Part 2
Stage Fright Part 3
Teachers Lounge
Becoming a guitar teacher
Lost In Time
Climb Every Mountain
Making it
Becoming the music
Scales, who needs them? Why and What For, Anyway?!
Pulling Up The Slack: Mining Your Potential
Can I Teach Guitar?
Bricks & Mortar
The Inner Master
The Alone Place
The Meaning of Life
My personal work habits
How to nail a solo
Removing The Barriers To Musical Expression
AC/DC - Back in Black
Metallica's "One"
What Is Real Practice On Guitar?
The Learning Curve of Various Styles of Guitar

Copyright 2000 by Jamie Andreas. All rights Reserved.

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