How can I find inner meaning?
Before setting out to gain a better understanding of where you are in the world and why, it is necessary to understand the value you are to yourself. Discovering what you mean to yourself is not a difficult process, but it can be a new way of thinking for many people. You should begin by asking questions, such as, do I mean anything to myself, and if I do, what? This process is advanced by first organizing your thoughts, by separating types of meaning, that is, the value that you place on yourself, and the value your environment has placed on you up to this point in your life. Philosopher Scott Soames believed there were two basic assumptions that could be made about ‘Meaning’.1
- There are some things that can be known, and these things that can be known are related to those who know them.
- What is known can be true or false.
Therefore, something known can have meaning for someone, and the thing that is known can be descriptive or misleading. This is a power of the human mind to identify what it knows, determine the extent of what it knows, and then judge that knowledge to be true or false. You have this ability to discern what you know about yourself, and not only determine whether it is true or false from your perspective, but to determine what that knowledge means to you. This valuation and ownership of self-knowledge is a first step in finding your true, whole self in relation to a valid understanding of what you know about yourself, and by determining what you mean to yourself.
Biologist Edward O. Wilson attempted to define the meaning of Meaning by asking such questions as whether humanity has a special disposition, or role in the universe.2 On the other extreme, he asked whether humanity had meaning on an individual, personal level. To build upon these questions it seems logical to assume that the determination of an individual’s meaning, and their meaning to ‘others,’ has a precursory role in determining humanity’s meaning as a collective species in and for the universe. Meaning is determined on an individual level with the intent to discover what it means to be free in the universe as a thinking person and as a relational species, with and for others, that reflects our individuality.
As a first stage, finding personal meaning is an incremental movement in the direction of becoming more aware of our world and our place in it. To clarify this approach, meaning can be divided into successive categories, leading to a more mature assessment of self in relation to self. We begin with what we have, our body and a thinking mind. Personal meaning is composed of determining answers to the following questions:
- The ‘sense’ of self: Who am I, and why?
- Wholeness or disconnectedness: Where am I, and am I alone?
1Soames, S. (2010) What is Meaning? Princeton: Princeton University Press.
2Wilson, O. E. (2014) The Meaning of Human Existence. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation.