I argued before that asking “What is the meaning of life?” is useless, because every answered question brings up another one. And so I suggested than instead of looking for ultimate meaning, one should figure out his personal meaning.
The way to do this is to look honestly at your felt desires, identify the ones that really matter. And then you should often look up your past, the inner child, and determine the important things. The ones that have persisted over time; These are the important felt desires.
But your important felt desires also have a cause, which in turn has its causes. Desires are conditioned on infinite number of other things, small and big things, all sorts of complicated things. Or as the Buddha puts it, all things are conditioned.
Perhaps the Buddhist assumption is pushing it too far; Perhaps there is some essence to things. However, the true root of all thins is so far away from the thing you love, the actual felt desire, that it plays small role in your life. Decide not to ask about the cause of the cause. Because you know that kind of questioning is no good. You just accept and recognize what exists.
The traditional Buddhist view is to become detached from your desires, dispassionate. In that philosophy desires play no particular role, they are just one of the many hindrances in this world. I can’t advise on this. But according to Tantric Buddhism, total detachment is not the goal, but rather detachment from the negative side of desires and craving. Tibetan Buddhism says that desires can be used for good.
For me desires and passions matter. Many great discoveries and works of art were produced by passionate people. Some of them ended up in ways tragic and painful, it is true, and they were not free of suffering. Vincent Van Gogh certainly wasn't. They chose to accept some suffering, to some extend, for their own sake and the compassion for others.
It is true that desires are without essence, they are changeable. At any time your important motivations could falter, for some cause unknown, and difficult to explain. But if you have examined what’s really important to you, what has been important in your history, what that inner child is whispering, then chances are good. Statistical probability is on your side.
Based on this knowledge you make choices; And choices are more or less binding. It is not enough to just discover your important desire, you make deliberate choices about them, you decide what you want. These choices are what becomes your definition; Choices are your essence in a world that inherently lacks essence.
The human mind is restricted to a narrow space between two extremes. On one side, there is childish simplicity, oblivion; On the other side, infinite complexity, chaos. You establish yourself, your meaning and definition into that narrow space between the two. This is where thinking life exists. All else belongs to the unthinking and dead world.
What things do you want to bring about? It is not sufficient to have some vague ideas about your desires. You must decide which ones you embrace, which ones are lesser and can be ignored. And it is the choice that binds you, that creates you, not the desire.
Once you have decided who you are, you work to strengthen yourself. The road ahead of you requires meaningful action. Meaningful action is action that enforces, establishes, empowers yourself and your definition of meaning; Action that fosters your true nature; Action that removes distraction, and crushes adversity.
Look at a stone boulder covered by moss, you know it will continue to be the same stone for thousands of years. This persistence in time makes us at peace. But that’s not how living things are. We change. It is wise to take control of that change, and with every effort direct it in a good way.
It is not the root cause that you are passionate about. It is the thing itself. All things can be traced by causation, and this leads nowhere. The more you trace the cause, the more you become fake.
Asking about the cause of things is natural curiosity. And it is good that sometimes greater desires are discovered by this process. Yet some “causes” don't have strength, no passion, and what matters is the more specific, narrow, personal thing.
The idea that all things are without essence is the “doctrine of emptiness” in Buddhism. Zen pushes the idea further, saying there is no difference between nirvana and this world. Nirvana is here and now, for the skillful mind who can see it, it is “purified perception.” It is good to keep an open eye.
Is it true that “all things are without essence”? Examine that if you need convincing and decide for yourself. Trace the “roots” of your desires, see how they become irrelevant. It is more useful to focus on the thing you feel directly.
Desires have no essence, and you are shaped by desires. In that way, you have no essence. What you have is personality, expressed by the force of your nature. In the choice of endorsing your own nature, regardless of any faults, you endorse the only thing that truly exists.
You stand proud defender of something in this world, a force of creation, of destruction, of exploration, of curiosity, of ambition, of cruelty, of mercy, of kindness, of persistence, of changeability, of intelligence, of stupidity, of bigotry, of brutality, of sloppiness, of neatness, of elegance, of beauty, of ugliness. You are the ambassador of that thing. It is you that matters. The universe itself is blind and deaf.
All forces of this universe ultimately merge into one single thing, the root of all things; Do you dare to look into that place?