Alan Alda and the Meaning of Life

So I listened to Alan Alda’s podcast today with renowned physicist Brian Greene and he threw me into a sort of existential crisis. Greene projects that we are all sacs of particles who, because math and science rule, have no free will—at least at the molecular level. His reasoning was sound but falls apart at the macroscopic level, where he concedes free will might play a role. He continues by saying free will is possible in our search for meaning to life, which, he conjectures, is not universal. There is no 42. Love does not rule all. Meaning in life is a purely individual pursuit and it is up to us to stop searching “out there” and look within for meaning.

Well fuck, I thought to myself. At first blush on the inside I’m nothing more than a foulmouthed, dumpy clutterbug who likes cupcakes just a bit too much for society’s taste. Somehow I manage to reinvent myself with self-help books and motivational apps every five years, while still staying. Exactly. The. Same. It’s frustrating because I fall into the “someday” trap when thinking about goals and aspirations. I’ll finish my novel…someday. I’ll change out my shutters (and clean my house and finish my laundry and…)…someday. I’ll lose fifty pounds…someday. I’ll pay off my debt…you guessed it…someday.

All this introspection has me thinking about whether the outside matches the inside. And if so, is the meaning of my life as fucked up and disorganized as one would surmise when glancing at the “math” of my life. I would like to propose that it’s the “somedays” that actually refocus me onto the “todays” that define my life. Today I was a rock for my struggling daughter. Today I helped a physicist better communicate their research. Today I mopped up water in my basement from the torrential downpour that hit last night. These “todays” mean I am living in the present and am there for those who need me. Some may see it as just getting by, but being present in the here and now is the closest I can get to creating permanence in this lifetime. And I wonder if perhaps the true meaning of my life is all these todays put together so I can look back on a life well lived…someday.

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