Finding Meaning

Evenshine asked me how it is I find meaning, as I don’t believe in God.  She has been incredibly respectful of our differing beliefs, so here is my answer.

I find meaning in giving a pear to a homeless man standing in the rain off the 405 exit ramp.

I don’t give a shit and a half about handbags.

I find meaning in walking instead of driving whenever possible.

I would be a terrible witness in a hit and run since I can’t tell a Lexus from a Yugo.  Although, after this much time at our preschool, I know from Escalades, as long as they are black.

I find meaning in donating my breastmilk.

Not so much in sunglasses.  Seriously, what’s with the Dolce & Gabano?

I find meaning in my community helping my family through a crisis.

I like designer clothes as much as the next girl, but I know that the slogan “For All Mankind” does not endow Seven jeans with social significance.

 I believe in people.

I enjoy a fancy restaurant, but I try not to confuse it with meaningful interaction with my partner.

I find meaning in Benjamin’s excitement every time his brother comes come.  Especially when Zach hugs him instead of hitting him over the head.

Meaning for me is in the mundane.  I don’t believe in God, but I believe in the power of daily acts and the importance of respecting our environment and caring for our fellow creatures.  I am not a great person, and I know that my practice falls far below my ideals.  But, I try to make sure that each day I do something more meaningful than simply consume.

How do you find meaning?

25 responses to “Finding Meaning

  1. I find meaning in life in spending time with my family, enjoying each other’s company. Nothing is as important as being with the people you love.

  2. Oddball here.. but I find meaning in ideas, growth, evolution and change. I find meaning in discovery.


  3. Beautiful. 🙂
    I find meaning in my family. I find meaning in nature. I find meaning in helping others. And I do find meaning in God.

    I was going to ask you how it is that you have a rabbi but you don’t believe in God. Does the rabbi know that? 😉 Anyway, I wanted to ask (I think I just did) but didn’t want to sound disrespectful in any way. I am just curious.
    But you know what they say about curiousity. And my name is Kat. Hmmm.

    Lovely post. 🙂

  4. You’ve pretty well expressed exactly how I find meaning, Emily. Your “meaning in the mundane” paragraph especially.

    I guess I’d also add that I find meaning in art, music and science.

  5. For me, it’s much the same. Family and friends.

    I find great meaning in nature. I’m a huge fan of Peter Mayer, a folk singer, who writes beautifully poetic lyrics about the meaning in nature. My current favorite is a song called God is a River. It’s about a man searching for a rock to cling to in life for security but finding that God is a river instead – a wild raging rapid, a deep narrow passage, and a peaceful sandy shore. The lesson is you have to just go with it. I love that.

    I also find meaning in my church. I feel blessed that all these things weaved together for me.

  6. I don’t understand how one finds “meaning” in a belief in “god.” I don’t intend to be disrespectful to anyone or their belief system, I honestly don’t understand how believing in god or an afterlife makes life on earth any more or less “meaningful.”

    I find purpose and meaning in being charitable, in empathy with those less fortunate, in the love I feel for my wife and family, in doing the right and moral thing (and do NOT get me started on the idea that morality derives from religion). I find purpose in attempting to convince others of the rightness of a particular cause (such as gay marriage, reproductive rights, government assistance to the less fortunate or in banning any form of torture by the US government).

    I find meaning in moments: laughter with my wife, making love, the joy of competition, completion of a difficult task, solving a thorny problem, seeing beauty in every day life.

    I believe that life must be lived to the fullest because I don’t believe in any form of afterlife.

    The every day awe I feel when I take the time to see the world around me is astounding. The achievements of humankind, the incredible complexity of life, the enormity of the world and the universe around me. There is meaning everywhere that has utterly nothing to do with god.

    I’m unsure how attributing the wonder of nature to an all powerful being when there is more meaning and wonder the incredible elegance of evolution or the laws of physics.

  7. I don’t believe in God either and I pretty much agree with everything you said. And just to let you know, I found far more meaning in you donating you breastmilk than I have ever found in anything I have ever heard in a church.

  8. We have different reasons, but we find meaning in the same things.

    This is why you have so many Christian friends.

  9. Wow. I think today I’ll be replying in comments.
    WendyElissa – absolutely
    Chani — I find intellectual satisfaction in those things. But I am forever in danger of sacrificing human connection for rational thought, so for me it is very important to look elsewhere.
    Kat — Well, I am friends with his wife and he knows about my blog 🙂
    Alejna — oh, yes!
    Amy – and that is why our planet deserves such respect.
    Jen — thank you
    Stephanie — Well, also because you and I are twins separated at brith
    Chris — I have a longish reply I’ll put in comments soon.

  10. I found meaning when I left my church of birth because I discovered confidence in my own moral compass, in personally derived values that were based on experience and reason and empathy rather than dictated by someone else. I found I did moral things because I felt that they were right not out of fear or guilt or because I had a check list of duties that had to be fulfilled. I found that I could use my empathy to try to interact with others in the way that was best for them and leave behind judgment or obligation.

    All of these things have given my life more meaning. I consider myself an atheist with a willingness to accept the existence of a god – if understanding of that god adds meaning and does not violate my hard-one, deeply held beliefs.

  11. Pingback: I Believe « Mommyhood and Life

  12. I posted about this on my blog, since my comment turned into a novel.

  13. I believe in God, and I believe that he gave me talents, abilities, senses, that I can use in any way I choose.

    However, I think finding meaning can be different from belief, because I find meaning in using what God has blessed me with to be a positive force in the lives of the people around me.

  14. I do believe in God, although I don’t follow any particular religion or anything like that. But I hate when some people feel like people who don’t believe in God can’t have meaning in life, or that real love and kindness can’t exist without God. To me, maybe people who DON’T believe in God are able to find an even DEEPER meaning of life sometimes, because when they do something kind their kindness is pure, whereas sometimes other people are doing things mostly to impress God.
    (Yeah I know some people will be mad at me for saying that. I’m not saying EVERYONE who believes in God does kind things to impress God… but I think MANY people do!)

  15. this is why i love you.

  16. I find meaning with the people I love, and with my work. It’s always the small, non-glossy moments that have the big impact, I find.

  17. You’re a much more charitable person than I am. I find such a question insulting. People who don’t believe in God lead meaningless lives?

    Like you, I find meaning in the mundane. Life is hard, but also, inexplicably beautiful if we just open our eyes.

    I honestly haven’t decided about God. I waffle. But I do know he’s not an essential component of contentment and satisfaction.

  18. Hmmm…
    I think that if someone has found such richness and joy in believing in God, to wish it for another person is very generous. Evenshine’s question is not insulting because the way I see it is that she finds meaning that way and honestly wants to know about the way someone who does not believe finds meaning. God is powerful in her life and it must be very difficult to imagine that — without that powerful force — there can be that richness. So she asks so that she can be more open to other people.

    Although I don’t believe, I think Stephanie hit the nail on the head — we may have different reasons, but we end up in the same place.

  19. Family. Childrean and their innocence. Your post was well written.

  20. Nicely put. As always.

  21. I don’t think there is any difficulty in finding meaning without God. Many others here have put it so well. Love, helpfulness, compassion, beauty all give life purpose. For some people God gives life meaning by in terms of faith in a broader design: that even if they don’t see the design or understand it, there is some bigger purpose that makes bearable the unlovely, unfair, stupid choices that humans make and the natural tragedies of earthquakes, floods, etc. For me, God or the divine Light (the quiet voice inside as the Quakers put it) is what makes bearable the hugeness of suffering in the world because the light is the place where I can rest from it.

  22. you really are amazing.

  23. You know…most of the (globally accepted as potentially credible) people who claimed to speak for God (if he exists) would have summed up what is meaningful very very close to how you did. For example, Jesus in Matthew 25 – breastmilk to those who need it, food to those who are hungry, prioritizing people and community over possessions and selfish aims…

    I so often wish we (believers in God) hadn’t lost the forest for the trees. Just think how much we could do if those who did believe, and those who did not believe, and regardless of how or which we believe, could come together around these things.

    Fantastic post as always.

  24. I find meaning in pretty much the same things as you but putting it into my words I’d say that I find meaning in doing good and in the love for my children and the amazing love coming from my children towards me.

  25. I don’t know what I believe in as far as the god thing goes. I’ll buy the higher power aspect, but I don’t buy one specific faith’s story as to who/what that higher power is.

    As for where I find meaning, it’s pretty much in the simple stuff. Family, friends, animals, great food and wine, music, beautiful gardens and helping people who truly need it, even if all you can do is make them laugh.