It would appear that through much of history only the rare person ever stopped and asked why we exist? Probably for most, the job of survival was so demanding there simply wasn’t time to ask questions. For others, unquestioned commitment to family or king or religious system appeared to fill the vacuum. Yet the question Why? has ever lurked in the shadows, refusing to leave. The conscious or unconscious issue of meaning has driven every person who ever lived. Few of us have stopped to realize the dramatic effect the last two hundred years of the industrial (and more recently, electronic and genetic) revolution continue to have on man and his struggle with meaning. It has given multitudes the time and means to discover entirely new counterfeit reasons for living . . . For some . . . the continuing revolution itself represents meaning in life . . . For others, this revolution has stolen the only meaning left to them the challenge simply to survive. David C. Needham Alive For The First Time
I think Needham is correct. In fact, I believe that’s why adventure races, survival television and even CrossFit are so popular. It allows people to tap into that primal search for meaning through struggle. People define themselves as CrossFitter, powerlifter, bodybuilder. Why we paint ourselves and scream ourselves hoarse at the antics of grown men ramming their helmets against each other on artificial grass. Delving deeper, this reality of our Western culture may be why we are so resistant to changing occupations. Realistically, we know that progress means some occupations become obsolete; when was the last time you visited a cooper to get barrels or had your wagon wheel replaced. For that matter, when was the last time you saw an ad for a telephone switchboard operator?
But for the people in the occupation that’s on the way out, or the team that hasn’t won in years or the exercise method that is being questioned; this represents a stab at the heart of how they’ve defined their life’s meaning. You can offer me a new way to make a living, lose weight or entertain myself; but you can’t destroy my image of who I am and what my life means. And if you try, I will get violently angry.
I guess this means we should seek to define ourselves in terms of something that is permanent and never-changing. Something eternal. But where would we find something like that?