Pondering the meaning of life is a luxury

Some philosophers, like Nietzsche, believe that life has no meaning in itself, but that one has to construct it. I generally agree with this. But I feel one has to be in a position of privilege to contemplate the question: How can I create meaning?

I arrived at this point of view after watching a scene from a Spanish film. The movie is called Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados (Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed) and is set in the 1960s.

A teacher, who is a Beatles enthusiast, is driving across Spain to a location where John Lennon is supposedly shooting a film. The teacher is desperate to meet his hero. I believe he has quit his job to make the trek. During his travels, on separate pit stops, he meets two adolescents in their late teens; they are hitchhiking their way to another life because their current ones don’t fit.

As these three misfits drive towards their destination, they come across a boy, around the age of 10, who’s begging by the roadside. This boy’s clothes are tattered and he is skin and bones. Suddenly, the teacher has an epiphany. You can see it on his face. It says: I know what this boy needs. He needs a soccer ball, because that’s what all boys want, don’t they? And I bet this boy doesn’t have one because he has no money.

So the teacher gets out of his car, opens his boot and pulls out a soccer ball. He hands it to the boy. The boy takes the ball, looks at it and at once his face droops downwards. What his expression cries out is: Sir, I can’t eat this ball. Can I have some money for food, please? I’m begging you.”

To me, this scene doesn’t merely strike a chord but bangs on a drum, emanating a long-lasting vibration: when one is so poor that all they can think about is where their next meal is coming from, then there is no space to contemplate anything – like playing a game of soccer just for fun – let alone the meaning of life.

Luckily, most of us in the western world are not in this situation. Not only are my basic human needs met – food, shelter, warmth, clean water – but also I have more than I could ever need. This means that my brain is free to contemplate life, since it doesn’t need to concern itself with my primal survival.

But with all this extra space, my mind can easily go down the rabbit hole of wanting more. And more. Of thinking that my life is not enough.

The scene from the Spanish film serves as an important reminder: that to be able to meditate upon my mere existence and whether I’m doing it justice is an indulgence. Because it means I’m doing ok. More than ok. It’s a reminder to move forward from a space of gratitude for all that I have – not what I lack.

The importance of noting your little successes

Yesterday I was deep in conversation with a friend. Let’s call him Art.

For the past 10 years, Art had lived and worked overseas, where he had created a name for himself and his indie performances. But a few months ago, he moved back to Australia to help his ailing dad.

Art is in his 40s. He had used up all his savings to invest in his projects, and now this unforeseen return home put him financially in the red.

Because he couldn’t afford outings or accommodation, Art found himself housebound and living with his parents – people who weren’t supportive of his work, and made his life difficult in the past for not conforming to their ideals of success.

But one of the main blows for Art was his projects also suffered, since he didn’t have his creative networks within reach to collaborate with, or his trusty fans to perform to.

Art was teetering on a dangerous edge, mentally.

“If I didn’t do anything about it,” he pronounced, “I knew I’d find myself spiralling into a dark, deep depression.”

Looking at At’s smiling face, I asked, “So, how did you turn things around?”

“By focusing on making each day a success and writing down every little triumph I had,” he replied.

Art doesn’t recall how he got the idea, but he says it’s what  made him get out of his funk.

By focusing on and writing down his daily, run-of-the-mill achievements, he felt worthy. Worthy enough to create, live, be who he is.

What did Art’s successes look like? “Writing,” he had recounted. “Sometimes painting, cooking, and taking a walk. The key was jotting it down.”

Art went on to get a casual job in a café – so he can afford life’s little luxuries, like enjoying a cup of coffee and eating out with a friend occasionally. He also creates his art every single day.

Hearing my friend’s story, I realised that anyone – even if their circumstances aren’t that dire – could benefit from writing down their successes daily. They don’t have to be grandiose ones either. Think caring for someone, vacuuming, fitting in some exercise, calling a friend. Heck, some days it could just be getting out of bed and having a shower.

So yesterday, at the end of the day, I took a leaf out of Art’s book and wrote down my small wins of the day:

Doing 25 minutes of yoga at home, using my favourite app.

My three-hour deep-and-meaningful chat with Art, over coffee and a nutritious bowl of goodness, all of which fed my soul.

Taking my dogs to the park, even when I was tired and didn’t feel like it (looking at their happy faces as they ran around aimlessly made me feel glad that I did).

Changing the template of my blog for a fresh start, now that the plan was to write more in 2018.

Cooking the lamb skewers we had for dinner to perfection – not chewy at all!

Reading a few pages of The Happiness Project – I have read it a couple of times, and it makes for a motivating read at the beginning of a new year.

It  was gratifying experience. It’s the little stuff, daily, that matters, that makes a life, I realised. Thank you, Art, for this invaluable life lesson.


Life is full of little victories if you choose to see them. And by writing them down, you get a boost. A pat on the back. Something we all need from time to time to keep on keeping on.

I’ll be writing my daily successes in a journal for the next few weeks to see how it makes me feel. Want to try it, too?

Lesh x

A picture paints a thousand words…that you cannot see

This is a photo of me at Bisti beach, on the idyllic Greek island of Hydra.

What is it saying to you? That I’m happy? That I’m having the time of my life, frolicking in the turquoise-blue waters of the Aegean Sea? That I can afford an extravagant holiday on the other side of the world?

Maybe. Maybe not.

You don’t truly know.

But let me tell you. What it’s not saying is that I found the water utterly freezing. That I only dipped in for a few seconds because I thought it’d be a shame – and a waste of money – not to get salty seawater on my skin, having flown over multiple time zones.

It’s not saying that I wasn’t enjoying myself (the smile even fools me). That I felt lonely, even amongst people – people who were kind, but whom I couldn’t connect with. That I wished I were home with my loved ones.

Sure photos evoke feelings – but they’re your feelings of your perception of a micro moment in time.

That’s how we easily delude ourselves when we see others’ photos, as we scroll down our social media feeds. It’s how comparison sets in.

Even if we know that we can never see what’s actually going on.

It’s easy to look at people and make quick judgements about them, their present and their past, but you’d be amazed at the pain and tears a single smile hides. What a person shows to the world is only one tiny facet of the iceberg hidden from sight. And more often than not, it’s lined with cracks and scars that go all the way to the foundation of their soul.  ~ Unknown

Like the hairline cracks appearing in a relationship of a newly wed couple while honeymooning in Paris, who are slowly coming to realise the difference between romantic love and the love that’s required to sustain a marriage.

Like the anxiousness and sadness of a person out on the town, drinking cocktails with a group of friends she’s outgrown… because what she really wants is to be at home reading a book on the couch, but fears she’ll miss out or be lonely if she doesn’t play by social norms.

Like the gruelling days/months/years of hard work, failure and sacrifice behind a start-up that is now become a successful business, or of someone who’s lost 20 kilos and is now running marathons.

Like the self-doubt of a woman donning size 2 lululemon active wear, eating an acai bowl while in a pretzel-shaped yoga pose.

So, stop comparing yourself to someone else’s life – one that you’ve made up in your head.

Get offline to live your real life – every messy bit of it.