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How is your existential angst today? I jest… but for many the crisis of the last few years has surfaced a sense of discomfort and anxiety about the meaning of life, as big crises often do. When life goes topsy turvy, people ask themselves questions like:
• What is it all about?
• What is the purpose of my life?
• Do I matter in the great scheme of things?
Yikes! Those are biggies aren’t they. In fact, globally, we are seeing rising levels of stress and mental health issues, especially in young people, and an observation that many people seem to have lost their way. A crisis like a pandemic puts pressure on human fault lines that can cause people to crack under the strain, and we are seeing that in spades.
The sense that we are unimportant, or that nothing we do makes a difference, can create an attitude of nihilism which taken to extremes leads to a desire to destroy things – like shaking one’s fist at the gods. It’s the natural end point of questioning our value without a productive set of answers.
The hopeful point is that we do matter, all of us, but we try and matter in all the wrong places. With social media, there is often an attempt to influence people we don’t know and preferably as many as possible! Especially among young people, the desire to be known and liked by strangers across the world can lead to feelings of emptiness without knowing why.
Perhaps the answer is to try and make a difference closer to home first – with friends, family, neighbours, our communities, our ‘village’. Feeling useful and valuable to the people around us, is a better first step than trying to get strangers to love us, no matter how good that might make us feel in the short-term. Here, right now, you could say something to someone at just the right time that it impacts them in a positive way, do a good turn that validates them or just be there when it matters.
Like many of you, I had a tough childhood (cue tiny violin playing). If I was trying to put a romantic spin on things, I would say that we were ‘nomadic’ during my early childhood years. Honestly though, we were barely surviving in that grim way families do when times are tough. Living a hand-to-mouth existence with no spare cash to talk of, we were one lost dog away from a bad country and western song, and that’s the truth.
However, there was a teacher in my early years at school who took an interest, made me feel I was worth something, encouraged my development and paid attention to the fact my home life wasn’t great. That one teacher made me feel that I mattered, that I wasn’t invisible, and set me on a journey that branched off in a more positive way than if I hadn’t met her. She showed me that the power of one person to make a difference is profound and you can be that person for someone, to anyone and in so doing, create a sense that life has meaning, that you matter, because we all do.
Take care and I wish you good thinking