For many, meaning is a critical component of a good life. We want to feel that we matter and that we are connected in some way to something greater or bigger than we are. I've run across two pieces recently that speak to this, one in the course of commenting on how the social structure and role of government in the developed world is and must change, the second in a piece on global warming. Here they are, with links. The pieces are well worth your time, but the quotes can stand on their own:
"Many Americans became (and remain) stuff-rich and meaning-poor. Many people classified as “poor” in American society have an historically unprecedented abundance of consumer goods—anything, essentially, that a Fordist factory here or abroad can turn out. But far too many Americans still have lives that are poor in meaning, in part because the blue social model separates production and consumption in ways that are ultimately dehumanizing and demeaning. A rich and rewarding human life neither comes from nor depends on consumption, even lots of consumption; it comes from producing goods and services of value through the integration of technique with a vision of social and personal meaning. Being fully human is about doing good work that means something."
Walter Russell Mead, "The Once and Future Liberalism"
The second piece is an account of a lecture by Lord Christopher Monckton on the issue of global warming at Union College, Schenectady, NY. After the lecture, in response to a query by the writer of the piece concerning an event during the lection, Lord Monckton is quoted as saying:
“We shall lose the West unless we can restore the use of reason to pre-eminence in our institutions of what was once learning. It was the age of reason that built the West and made it prosperous and free. The age of reason gave you your great Constitution of liberty. It is the power of reason, the second of the three great powers of the soul in Christian theology, that marks our species out from the rest of the visible creation, and makes us closest to the image and likeness of our Creator. I cannot stand by and let the forces of darkness drive us unprotesting into a new Dark Age.”
I take two points from these passages:
1. Connect with your bigger meaning, your purpose, in pursuing your efforts. Remind yourself (and others) of what it means to you occasionally.
2. Remember that many (not all, but many) with whom you disagree about policies may share many of your values and commitments to bigger purposes. This can be a foundation for disagreement without becoming disagreeable, and sometimes it can help open the door for new ways to move forward together.
Picture: "aisles" by Max Nathan, http://www.flickr.com/photos/_imax/4342135232/sizes/l/in/photostream/