Though we stumble upon moments when our lives cohere and suddenly all the our experiences make sense, and these moments often feel as if we’ve discovered an empirical reality that was there all along, the truth is that these moments are moments of our own story-telling, moments we have made.
There are facts, and then there are the stories we tell around the facts. (See debates concerning climate change.) The stories constitute the meaning we give to facts. When events occur, we often wonder why, searching for the meaning of our job loss, our marriage breakup, our estrangement from people once dear to us, our loss of loved ones due to the tragedies of war, sickness, and death. We often wonder in much the same way when we are visited by good fortune. What is the meaning of this promotion, this new baby, this new moment of falling in love? We seek to understand causation, and in seeing correlation, a story suggests itself, and we accept it as a truth we’ve discovered, as opposed to one we’ve made.
We ask for these meanings as if they are not ours to write, as if they are prescribed in God’s book somewhere, and we only discover them after long journeys. And, in truth, most of the moments when meaning is crystal clear feel just like this, as if we are not writing these meanings, but that they are writing us.
And I’m not sure of this, but there are hints in this thought that point toward the meaning of life itself, perhaps illuminating something of what God is up to. What if it’s all about the meaning we make? What points me that way is this: the meanings we assign to the facts and events and phenomena of our lives become powerful stories that change history and generations. These stories and meanings are agents of transformation.
Meaning will not be found. It must be made.