The hunt for meaning and purpose in life ~ a luminous dream and a hidden vision.

  The hunt for meaning and purpose in life ~ a luminous dream and a hidden vision.


For many, the belief that their life has a meaning is something that keeps them going through the hard times and through setbacks and tragedies. It’s a belief I have long wished to share, and moreover to know and to understand the nature of my own life’s meaning and purpose. The feeling that my life is without either contributes to a large extent to my bouts of severe depression; while I don’t believe it causes it, that fear of being a sort of joke without a punchline is a particularly nasty irritant when I’m already down.

In a discussion with a close friend, the concept was raised and explored that perhaps life is its own meaning, that living it is enough and that for every person to believe they have a special meaning or destiny is a flawed belief. It’s a product to some degree of the New Age movement and of the self-help industry and it may be contributing to discontent and unhappiness.

And yet.

Some of it might have its roots in truth and the distortion of this truth is what is bringing the devastation. Just as not every person is equipped to become a brain surgeon, not every person is destined for something out of the ordinary. It’s our perception of the ordinary that is at fault. We’re obsessed by success and perfection and addicted to higher and higher aspirations, and we judge both ourselves and others on the level we reach, as if it were some sort of hierarchy of achievement. Growing a great crop of raspberries is as great an achievement as any other. Climbing a mountain is no greater than someone making it to work everyday when their illness means it’s a struggle.

We’re funny animals, us humans. At one and the same time we wish to stand out from the crowd but remain within it.

And yet.

That said, I could never bring myself to accept that the meaning of my life might well not be anything ‘special’ or unusual or even terribly interesting. I feel driven, constantly, by a whole host of inner ideas. The fact that these never seem to come to anything however hard I have worked at them has reached a kind of tipping point lately. On Friday I finished writing a novel that has been driving my inner life for the best part of a year. For many that might seem a massive achievement but it didn’t feel like it to me. I felt empty, bereft even, because it’s no longer enough just to write the novels. Over the weekend I’ve felt some odd things going on in the background of my psyche and by the time I got to bed last night, I was feeling desperately anxious without being sure why.

I’ve had serious trouble with sleep for a long while, both getting to sleep and the quality of sleep. I wake feeling exhausted and drained and my head feels so fuzzy and unable to think. My dreams have been mental doodles and nothing more. Now, I believe in dreams, in their value to the mind and to the creative spirit and for almost a year, there’s been very, very little of worth coming through. I write down dreams that strike me as interesting and there’s nothing written for a long while. Last night, I prayed as I sometimes do, to be shown some sort of sign in my dreams, that my life has meaning and a purpose. I think that somewhere in the back of my mind was the feeling that should nothing be forthcoming, then I would let go and step back and accept that my life is not one of any real worth, or purpose and perhaps it was time to forget about the things that have driven me.

At about 2am, I woke from a dream, the kind of luminous dream that has such a grip on the mind and spirit that even now, seven or so hours later, I can still perceive the shining. I’m not going to describe the contents of that dream here, because like many dreams, the power is not in the telling but in the experience that often defies words. I’m also not ready to share what I felt that dream was telling me in any details, partly because that vision is still partially concealed from me and I have a feeling that there is more to be revealed.

Today I feel very odd, as if I have been breathing thin air for months and suddenly, I am back in an oxygen rich environment and my brain is still adjusting to it. I’m not saying I’ve found any answers to my questions. I’m not sure that there are answers, certainly not nice simple ones.

But I might have found enough hope to carry on living and exploring.

8 thoughts on “The hunt for meaning and purpose in life ~ a luminous dream and a hidden vision.

  1. Hope is so very important.

    It’s what gets me through, especially the last couple of years, when not only have my tendencies to depression been tested to the limit, my will to live has been too.

    Having been diagnosed with cancer, and then diabetes as a result of treatment, resulting also in Lymphoedema, and frequent bouts of Cellulitis and even Septecemia, my darkest point came when they told me I was in the first stages of a condition called Retinopathy, a degenerative disease that leads to blindness.

    I am now coming to terms with living with all this and no matter how dark my life gets, I know so long as I have hope to cling to, it will in time get better. I cant be made better, but I can survive.


    • You’ve had and are having a very tough time, Zoe. Hope is vital, possibly more than almost anything.
      My thoughts are with you, and I admire your obviosu courage.


  2. A very interesting post Viv, and a subject which often consumes my thoughts too.

    I’ve always been a paid-up believer in the ‘life has a purpose, and there is something moumental I’m supposed to do’ school of thought too. I would guess it is linked to depression, it has fuelled mine in the past, and I do think there is a cultural element – we are bombarded through the media as a whole, by images and stories of people who are considered to be successful. I find myself looking at other people and thinking ‘why aren’t I successful like them? It’s worse if they’re the same age, and worse again if, god forbid, they are younger than me! I tip into a ‘what’s wrong with me’ spiral.

    A very dear friend, with whom I was having a similar conversation recently, said to me; ‘but look at what you have done. You are a mother, for one thing, and what could be more important than that?’ To which i thought ‘big fat hairy deal.’ (thanks Garfield) But, as you say, we don’t celebrate the small things like growing raspberries. I’ve completed novels, and felt as empty as a discarded cigarette packet turning soggy in the rain.

    Buoyant as I am at the moment though, my current thinking is to never mind purpose in life, the point is to accept one is alive, here on earth, and to consciously live through every moment, good and bad. But I’m brilliant at dispensing advice, and rubbish at following it. And I’m fine until I read about the next rising literary star who isn’t me (and is younger, grrrr) and then it’s off back into the hair-tugging, teeth-gnashing pit of ‘I’m going to die without ever discovering what it is I’m meant to do with my life’. Sigh….


    • I think it’s when you can begin to see that the small things are actually just as vital as the big things that you can live moment by moment and get by.
      I’ve been trying to just let things be whatever they are without trying to change them into something else. It’s a start.


  3. Viv my love, once again it feels as if my psyche has fragmented off and I’m reading myself….though a far more literate, sensitive self. 🙂
    Ah, this really does more than resonate. I so miss my dreaming, my BIG dreams. I so need them. And now, of course, I’m intrigued about yours. But really, that is not of import, what IS of huge import is that it has come. There is movement. There is a quickening, a greening… I am so so glad.


    • I can asssure you Jane that you are you and I am I! And more literate and sensitive? You do me honour!
      There is indeed movement. There is indeed change internally, of sorts. Whether anything external changes too is another matter but something for another day.


  4. I’ve often thought about this thing ‘the courage to live an ordinary life’. There are certain people in my life who have been content to live a modest existence, spending time with family and friends, keeping their home neat, volunteering to help others etc. Satisfaction in the ordinary things. We creative types have always a ‘nagging feeling’ of a gap between what we are and what we want to do and what is. It may just be the energy within, a swirling subconscious that makes us pace. I have suffered with depression over the years but not to the same extent lately. Having to focus outside of myself on the children has helped me and also my successes in dealing with the sometimes significant challenges of that, a regular outlet of writing has helped, exercise, and knowing that I’m trying to act decently towards others. I have lost my (originally strong) religious faith since I was young but I still belief in the miracle of the world itself, it’s intrinsic beauties and bounties, alongside it’s unsawoury and heartbreaking elements. Until I wrote I never knew what I wanted ‘to do’. For me Dreams deal with my concerns, the mind tries to regulate and assuage, they try to make things right. I accept the light and the dark in the spun sphere, I know things will pass and that I can hold two opposing thoughts about the same thing given my mood. For me the meaning isn’t me but my relationship with the world.


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