Emotion is a word that seems to be jumping up at me all over the place. So many life coaches and other enlightened beings around me seem to be saying that emotions are at the centre of everything we do. I have even heard it said that, beside our instinct to survive, “the only thing we as humans seek is emotion.” I wonder: is it, though? If all we sought was emotion, would we not all live on drugs, jump out of airplanes, cut ourselves? Though emotion is key to a full human existence, I am convinced that so is meaning. The Monty Pythons certainly knew it.
And I agree. I have felt the absence of meaning through and through. What was it that drove me crazy and killed me of a slow death while I was doing uninteresting day jobs? The salary was good, the work conditions as well, no one was mean – though sometimes condescending. What killed me was not the lack of emotion (I have always had enough to go around) but the absence of meaning. Each day blending into the next, each suggestion for a positive change having to go through the wheels of the decision-making machine and often disappearing on its way to the top.
An existence is not worth living where there is no meaning. We can all take it for a while because we sometimes have to. But deadlines are necessary. We need expiry dates for contracts that make us miserable. Seeing the finish line is what helps us go on during those meaningless phases. And after come the fireworks, the trumpets and the glory of being in charge of one’s life again. The money there is often scarce, the mistakes are ours to own, but the shackles are off. The meaningless phases thus have this purpose alone: to make us see the beauty of the penniless phases that follow. And vice-versa. Oh, the joy of a salary after years of “freedom” counting your coins to buy milk!
And so, though I will admit that emotion can often makes our lives worthwhile, I am convinced that finding meaning in our daily labour does too. But to come to this conclusion, one must dare to seek and face challenges, both in the personal and professional spheres. Whereas I have often met people whose professional selves knew no fear in their quest for the truth, while their personal selves repeatedly stopped and turned back when finding walls on their path to the immense diversity of human experience. These are the very walls I have never been able to resist climbing over or even breaking through. For the human soul, its beauty and ugliness, its extremes and all that lies in between, is what fascinates me. It frightens and attracts me equally. And in that sea of creatures and emotions, light and darkness, I believe that we all strive to find meaning.
Perhaps this means that I carry in me the “Contradictory Nature of the Germanic Soul” that Luchino Visconti saw in Romy Schneider.
(Title taken from Monty Python’s song “The Meaning of Life”)