Perhaps it is a consequence of middle age, but more and more of my friends are pondering the meaning of life. To be fair, the terrible economy is also a causal factor, as far too many of my friends have lost jobs or fear losing them shortly.
I have friends who are atheists. I have friends who are agnostic. I have friends who are both committed and causal Christians, Jews, Hindus and Muslims. I find, however, that the questions are very much the same. What is the purpose to my life? Am I loved? Do I love others? Does my life matter? Can I be happy?
Today, I was reminded of words of wisdom from Mother Teresa. As we approach the second most important Christian holiday, Christmas, we find that one of the key lessons from Advent is the discovery and pursuit of JOY. First and foremost, I should clarify that joy is not pleasure. Pleasure is sensory-based. Joy is spiritual.
Due to the fact that I graduated from Kenyon, and majored in the history of ideas or philosophy, most of my friends tend to have a bias towards intellectual exploration of happiness and the meaning of life. I find a large number of people depressed. They have an emptiness in their lives. And interestingly, the more they focus upon themselves the harder it is for them to be happy. The more they look inward, the farther they seem to be from getting to an answer.
Mother Teresa had some thoughts on this. She said that JOY should be understood as Jesus, Others, Yourself. Mother Teresa said that by reading, reflecting and implementing the Word as revealed by Jesus, people would find happiness. She also said that when one is in doubt, or sad, or troubled, then focus upon helping Others. It was this act of self-denial and focus upon giving support and care and love to Others that makes everyone more Christ-like. Now comes the interesting part -- like nature, God does abhors a vacuum. When you give of yourself to Others, then God fills the void left behind, and You feel happier. You feel content. You lose the feelings of disappointment and loss and sadness.