Maybe we’re buying nonessentials because we’re looking for something we’ve lost. Maybe we’re overeating because we’re trying to fill a void. Maybe we don’t have an opioid crisis so much as we have a crisis of meaning. — The Minimalists
The Minimalists wrote a short entry yesterday on the Crisis of Meaning. Susan and I have been thinking about the topic of meaning, and the causes of our cultural discontent quite a bit the last few weeks. We’re always contemplating our individual purposes, and the meaning of what we’re attempting to do with Dirty Good Co., but lately we’ve been having conversations amongst ourselves and with others on reasons we as a society are more depressed, anxious, and unfulfilled. As a culture, we self medicate with food, substances, mileage or media, but these distractions bypass the root of our malaise. Our addictions and maladies are symptoms of a greater underlying problem. That problem lies in lack of purpose or confusion around our existential meaning. The majority of “fixes” we impose on ourselves breed more problems by inserting an eternal loop of expectations and judgements.
Religion and philosophy attempt to address our need for meaning and purpose but can often widen the gap of where we are and where we need to be through strict guidelines and oft impossible role models to emulate. Adoption of diets, training programs, and wellness paradigms backfire adding to our discontent because they don’t adjust for our tireless ability to fail. If there’s a way to fail, humans find it. We bake in failure so we can sell another option for success. At every turn our culture beckons us to fail with confusing messages and repetitive temptations. People who drink look like they have so many friends, living in a van appears a remedy for consumerism, baked goods are professed to be healthy if gluten free or paleo, and Starbucks advises us to “Find Your Happy” by way of an afternoon “foam crowned” drink. None of these messages hold truths, yet we believe, or hope to believe, them because we’re looking to fill the void within.
Susan and myself are guilty of filling voids with food, omission of food, and unreasonable volumes of training mileage. We are each getting better at not falling into our patterns of dealing with discontent, but in no way are we cured. There isn’t a cure. We can only develop awareness and self compassion. We’re better at both because we’re more intentional with our habits and choices. We throw around words such as “deliberate” and “vitality” because they trigger us to pause and consider our choices. If we live deliberately perhaps we’re more conscious of our food choices, our work options, and rather than training through injuries we simply enjoy hikes on high desert trails. When I pause to ask myself, “does this choice add to my vitality,” I become better at distancing myself from emotional triggers that create poor decisions.
Perhaps we all struggle more than we should because, as The Minimalists point out in their post, we often create solutions for poor habits by implementing programs of exclusion. Diets are primarily framed around excluding certain foods. Abstaining creates more struggle and tension, often followed by judgements. We need to approach life with an inclusion mindset. I’m not suggesting we embrace our addictions or justify eating the cookie with my coffee. I do suggest we create nutritional programs listing only the good things we should eat, rather than focus on what to omit. A slip is acceptable; at least we’re not walking around all day focused on a list of items we can’t have. As well, we should develop training programs that detail what is acceptable to do when injured or dealing with chronic fatigue issues, rather than ruminating on the runs or workouts we can’t do.
In summary, we need to foster habits which replace unhealthy actions with those that are positive and cultivate vitality. We need to clear ourselves of distractions so we might feel the void more vividly. Purpose and meaning come to those who seek with vigor, then listen.