A life that is meaningful, every single day, is rare in this world.
Your life was a gift to you. Make it a gift to the world.
– Elizabeth May, American-born Canadian activist, writer, politician (b.1954 )
What is a meaningful life? What does it mean for a life to be meaningful?
In the final days of your life, as you look back over your many years, will you ask yourself if your life has been meaningful? Likely.
What will be your answer? That depends on what you define as meaningful.
For some people living through the most productive years of their lives, living a meaningful life means having the respect of others. That could mean accumulating as much personal fortune as possible or as many valuable objects as you can. That’s called materialism and it’s prevalent in most large cities today.
This kind of materialism is so common because our industries and education systems teach it. Money rules. He who dies with the most toys wins.The values of needs of industry rule what gets taught in classrooms.
It seems like sheer greed. But it’s more like the leaders of industry indoctrinating their employees in the need to earn progressively greater income, to wear increasingly expensive, fashionable and well tailored clothing, to buy an upscale vehicle each time, to own a house that is bigger than needed, to have a mortgage that would have crushed their parents, to belong to the most exclusive clubs they can.
In turn, the employees teach these values to their own children. The process and value system spread exponentially. Soon everyone in the neighbourhood, the city, all cities in the country believe it. Because “that’s what everyone believes. They all say that.” Comments about the “rat race” go unheeded as whining by losers.
I would like to relate two personal instances to you, from my life. The first has to do with my first wife. We were many years divorced when she was diagnosed with cancer that had metastasized through her body. She spent 15 months at home, alone, thinking about her life.
We separated and divorced because she adopted the feminist propaganda of the day that held that families and husbands prevented women from “reaching their full potential.” Once she left me with our children to raise, she rose from resource teacher to vice principal then to principal within a few years. She was highly respected and recognized in her field, frequently asked to lead special events for teachers, such as college courses.
She made the money. She had the clothes and the car and the house. She never missed a child support payment.
Fifteen months turned out to be a very long time to ruminate over how meaningful her life had been. Especially living alone, with dwindling visits from her own children and her one friend. She had no visits from colleagues who once shared her values. She was no longer of value to them.
She died in hospital, surrounded by medical personnel. But still alone. About six weeks earlier, in a phone conversation, she said “I made some mistakes in my marriage.” She still didn’t get it, that it was “our” marriage. There was no doubt she spent most of her waking hours reviewing her life.
To late to change it then.
Fast forward several years to 2006 when my present wife and I decided to change our place of residence. Knowing we wanted to leave the Canadian province where we lived but not knowing where, we decided to spend the next two years researching and visiting the most likely possibilities.
Using the internet and telephone, we narrowed our first choice quickly to Miramichi, New Brunswick. About all we knew about Miramichi was that it had lots of water (rivers) flowing through it and nearby in the northern New Brunswick hinterlands. And that its people shared the well known friendliness of Canadian Maritimers.
On our first vacation visit to Miramichi, we were pleased by the settings and value of properties we saw, but shocked by the people. Miramichiers were unlike any people we had ever met in Ontario. They seemed to actually care about strangers. When they asked how you were, they waited to hear an answer because it mattered to them.
We decided to take our second vacation visit in 2006 to Miramichi as well. The shock of meeting people remained the same.
We discovered that people were more important to them than money. Though Miramichi is a relatively poor part of Canada in terms of accumulated wealth, the people respect themselves and each other. Even, as we learned, strangers. No one can look bewildered or lost or to have a problem in The Miramichi (as the region is known) without someone stopping to ask if they can help.
Sometimes, as New Brunswick is officially bilingual English/French, the helper could speak little or no English, but it didn’t matter. What mattered was that someone apparently needed assistance. One stranger outside a library advised us to look at a house for sale he thought we might like nearby–he liked it but wouldn’t put an offer on it if we wanted to buy it.
Another overheard my wife ask a clerk in a big store for postcards, which the store didn’t carry and few stores did. The woman searched a store she thought she remembered had postcards, found the store, then waited in the middle of the mall for us to emerge so she could tell us where to find the cards we sought. These were just two small examples of the many offers of help we received.
In 2008 we bought a property outside of Miramichi. Since moving we have learned that Miramichiers and the Miramichi itself make our new home the best place on earth we could have found to live.
There you have two examples, one of a person who believed that money was the most important thing in life and another of people who believe that people are always more important, the most important thing in life.
The people of the Miramichi make every day meaningful. They live happy. They die fulfilled.
If you decide to move to the Miramichi, please leave your values, your prejudices and your materialist preferences behind. If you don’t, you will be lonely here.
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for teachers and parents who want to grow children into adults who can lead fulfilling lives without sacrificing themselves to the masters of industry.
Learn more at http://billallin.com