Thursday, September 17, 2009

Can We Really Create Meaning?

A well-known graphic designer asked two interesting questions on a list serve I am on. He asked, "What do you personally do that creates meaning in your life and work?" and "What habits do you cultivate?" I was about to answer, when I realized I had to think about those questions a lot more.

In one way, it is very easy for me to answer those questions. If I take them to mean that there are habits I have that move me towards my personal and career goals.

For instance, I read a lot. But not just anything. I choose books that get me to think deeply and more meaningfully in areas of my life that matter. There is a saying, "Great books lead to great minds." I try to read those things that ignite my spiritual side, and my understanding of God and life. I read books that help me evaluate my thoughts, my judgments, and my life's direction. I read books that inspire me emotionally. I read books that shape me as a designer.

I rarely read books just for entertainment, except the occasional graphic design or illustration annual. And even then it serves the purpose to grow as a designer.

But then I examined the question more, and discovered it has an interesting assumption embedded in it. What does it mean to "create meaning?" I don't feel I create meaning. Rather, I discover it. It is something that I either search for, or find. I also must choose to accept it and orient myself around it.

In other words, I discover what I am good at, what is my responsibility to do, who I am responsible for, and who I am responsible to. Then I do those things that fulfill those responsibilities either by using my abilities, preparing for them, or as a result of where and when I exist.

It really isn't that deep. It's just that I see that there is meaning that is objective, not just subjective. True, we attach meaning to things that have no intrinsic meaning, and we interpret meaning based on all sorts of subjective personal experiences. But, I discovered that there is something more compelling to give my life toward than what I can conjure up.

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