Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

09 October 2017

A thing about meaning

Around the table at dinner, chatting in a corner with two Polish Dominikas, too many languages and I'm so tired and the pad thai was so heavy, it occurs to me: I don't think we're supposed to know what our meaning is.

I mean, it's cool if we do, but our meaning is different for everyone we encounter. Possibly the biggest lie our culture has asked us to swallow is that our lives should be about the pursuit of One Meaning, the Thing that will make work feel like passion and transform sleeplessness into virtue. When we find it, we will know, we will give everything to it and the world will reward us and we will be Fulfilled.

But I keep thinking about Van Gogh, surrounded by paintings no one wanted, my age when he shot himself. He means something. His work means something. He worked so hard to realise his value, to be someone, to matter somewhere, and he does. He will as long as there are humans who exist that appreciate art.

It's just that the value didn't manifest within his lifetime.

We spend so much time trying to make something of ourselves, overworking, letting stress infect our bodies and addle our minds, groping for the Thing that Clicks and Makes it All Matter, wondering what we're doing wrong. We can't even sit still and be calm because what could I be doing instead right now in my ongoing pursuit of purpose?

It's a fucking mill-grinding tragedy. And it's short-sighted, this assumption that your existence requires a market in the passing wink of time that constitutes your life.

Meaning happens in fragments. It's kaleidoscopic: What I mean to my friends, my mother, my business partner, my employees and my dude are all different things, often unrelated. I can't begin to understand the granularities of my value to them—the variables shift as our relationships evolve, and in every passing interaction.

And they should not be expected to have to quantify my value for me; you know when you are nourishing a relationship, you don't need KPIs for that.

How were we bamboozled into believing our meaning is singular, and that we must define it, the better to market it?

Maybe there is a gift in not knowing, in understanding that all that matters, really, is what we do with this moment right now. Sometimes that can mean self-care; we, like the planet, are finite resources. Sometimes that can mean being a good sister. Sometimes that can mean driving people to be better, conveying a message, giving someone a lecture about the importance of recycling, listening. Maybe it's enough to just be here—present, paying attention, seeing somebody.

It is so narrow, such myopic capitalist bullshit, to insist your existence should culminate in some kind of point that, properly realised, results specifically only in material gain for yourself.

You get that, right?