Thursday, August 14, 2008

I Feel Empty

It seems that every human being comes into the world the same way and with three questions etched in his or her subconscious: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? We are restless and adrift until we discover our identity, our purpose and our destiny.

The longing for meaning leads searchers to try many dead end paths. For example, we are often told that the answer lies inward instead of upward. We feel isolation and emptiness because we have not found our true selves. Then popular psychology tells us that our upbringing, societal expectations, religious strictures and personal neuroses conspire to hide the true self beneath layers of distorting masks. We are told that when we strip away the masks and find the authentic self beneath them, our alienation will disappear.

Another widespread approach to fulfillment tells us to look neither upward nor inward but outward. Fill the void in your life with toys, entertainment, prestige, pleasure and achievements. Focus on distractions. Move fast. Stay busy. Party hearty. Do anything, buy anything and try anything to keep from looking into that terrible abyss in the soul. But it doesn’t work.

None of them work long term. Self-assessment and self-realization do not fill the emptiness. While such exercises may have value as a starting point for understanding our needs, we are finite. Our hunger for meaning is greater than our ability to satisfy it. So where can we turn?

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