My last article about the origin of the universe raised a lot of interesting questions from readers. One, in particular, caught my attention. A reader who goes by the name of Joseph wrote, among other things:
“The meaning and purpose of life comes from you … I do believe that if life or existence is about anything, it is about … evolvement. Whatever meaning or purpose you give to your life, as long as it allows you to evolve as a human being, then I believe you are in harmony with life.”
Joseph finished by asking my thoughts about what he had written. The short answer is that I believe his comments were very insightful. People have been asking about the meaning of life from time immemorial, but since we know very little about our origins (i.e., if you set aside theories — big bang, evolution, etc. — and focus on fact). More important, from a first-cause point of view, we know absolutely nothing about why we’re here.
That being the case, instead of constantly reaching for the stars (again, the closest star is more than 25 trillion miles away!), we would be much better off focusing on what’s inside our own heads. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about life, it’s that thoughts really are things.
Thoughts are, in fact, the forerunners of our actions. Depending upon the nature of your thoughts, they lead you to either good or bad decisions … good or bad actions … good or bad people … and good or bad situations.
Who determines whether a decision is good or bad? You.
Who determines whether an action is good or bad? You.
Who determines whether a person is good or bad? You.
Who determines whether a situation is good or bad? You.
That’s right — you are the sole judge and jury when it comes to determining whether something is good or bad as it pertains to your own life. Obviously, this is not a popular position to take, but manmade laws and institutionalized mores regarding what is right … or fair … or just … or moral have proven to be very poor guidelines for exemplary behavior. In fact, freedom-loving people could make a strong case that many, if not most, of such laws and mores are in direct contrast to their code of ethics.
I should add that when I say you should determine your own code of behavior, it goes without saying that that does not give you a license to impinge on the rights of your fellow man. But other than this natural-law caveat, in a world saturated with what one is tempted to describe as “evil,” it’s up to you to be the guardian of your most sacred asset — your mind.
So, yes, I agree with Joseph’s observation. Perhaps the most meaningful life you can live — a life in which purity and self-satisfaction prevail — is to focus on your own evolution. I began doing this many years ago when I decided that what I wanted more than anything else was to constantly strive to be a better husband, a better father, a better son, and a better friend.
For many years now, I’ve tried not to worry too much about what others think. What is far more important to me is how I feel about myself. Overall, I believe that I’ve done pretty well in the above areas, but I admit that I have still fallen far short of where I would like to be.
So I constantly question myself about my shortcomings, and I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the most important things you can do to maximize your personal evolution is to not allow the bad actions of others to distract you — and, in extreme actions, dominate your thoughts.
When it comes to human interaction, I’ve been more fortunate than most, because over the past four decades I have, on the whole, been treated extremely well — not only by the thousands of readers who have sent me letters and emails thanking me for making valuable contributions to their lives, but by an untold number of people who have said similar things to me in person.
Even so, there are a handful of people who have succeeded in getting under my skin over the years, people whom I believe have had bad intentions. As just one example, I once had some unpleasant business dealings with an attorney (“Marty”) who got a great deal of media attention as a result of his wheeling and dealing in the public-company arena.
I hadn’t seen or heard anything about him in years, when one day I happened to be getting a haircut at the Beverly Hills Hotel and, from out of the blue, my barber said to me, “Did you read what (“Marty”) had to say about you in his new book?” I told him that I didn’t even know he had written a book, and that I had no interest in hearing what he had to say about me or anyone else.
Subsequently, a mutual acquaintance mentioned that Marty had been spreading an outrageous lie about me. Though it annoyed me a great deal at the time, I made a conscious, rationally selfish decision to ignore it. Whether his bad-mouthing of me was based on jealousy, an attempt to piggyback onto my fame, or just plain, old-fashioned malevolence, I have no idea. In any event, I struck Marty completely out of my mind after that.
But a few months ago, a friend happened to mention his name to me in a conversation, and guess what? He told me that Marty had died nearly twenty-five years ago of a very rare, very painful disease.
Let me assure you that I did not feel a sense of happiness when I found out that Marty had long ago come to such an unpleasant ending. Nor did I assume it was a result of bad karma, because that kind of thing is way beyond my moral jurisdiction. However, what did cross my mind was how glad I was that I hadn’t wasted any time thinking about him all these years, because, as it turned out, the guy wasn’t even alive!
The moral for me is that it’s a waste of time to obsess over negative people, negative circumstances, or negative events. It makes much more sense to focus on evolving as a human being. Not evolving as others might want you to evolve — or as some of our institutions might want you to evolve — but evolving in ways that make you feel good about yourself.
Forget about the bad guys (bad guys by your standards) and focus on the kind of healthy thoughts and actions that attract good people into your life. If you make a conscious effort to be the best spouse you can be, the best parent you can be, the best son or daughter you can be, and the best friend you can be, everything else will pretty much fall into place.
As I said in my last article, just throw the bad stuff to the universe. It’s quite capable of handling everything you can send its way. By making this a habit, it will allow you to use your time to nourish the good stuff and strive to perfect those qualities that make you feel good about yourself and thus evolve as a person.
Given that we don’t know why we’re here, the case for personal evolution as a worthwhile purpose in life would seem to have a great deal of merit. Thanks for reminding me, Joseph.