The Meaning of Life is 47

January 31, 2013

night-thunder-storm-lightningToday someone told me they admired my altruistic dedication to working with people living with chronic illness. I laughed and replied that there is nothing altruistic about it. I am a selfish creature. We all are.

My desire to help others and be of service is real and true. But when I delve down to the core motivation for this, I am primarily driven by my own need to feel that my suffering has been meaningful. That I haven’t been sick on and off for 16 years without reason or purpose. If I can take what I’ve learned and use it to help others, then I am rescued from the existential terror that we suffer just because we are alive, and that there is no reason for it.

So if I have helped you in any way, it is with deep gratitude that I thank you for helping me just as much, if not more, in return. I am not selfless, I am selfish. I want my life to mean something. And because I am selfish, I also want your life to mean something.

Has your illness helped draw you closer to what matters most to you?

There’s gotta be a reason for our suffering. Otherwise, it’s just too much to bear. But the cool thing is, we get to decide what that meaning is.

Lightning Never Strikes the Same Place Twice

When I was a senior in high school, I took a class with the best teacher I’ve ever had. His name was Mr. Nucio. He had been struck by lightning twice. Do you know what the odds of that are? 1 in 360 billion. In other words, not very likely.

Which makes me think he was a special fella. And in fact, he was indeed a very profound man. I think all that electricity shooting through his system really worked in his favor.

On the first day of class, he announced that the meaning of life was “47.” The entire year’s learning was built around this mystery. How was the number 47 the meaning of life? On the last day of class, after a year’s worth of build-up, he announced what the elusive meaning of “47” was. He said, “That’s the meaning of life for me. 47.”

“But what does it mean?!” we all asked, aghast that he would not give us the answer to the meaning of life, after all that.

“None of your business,” he said. “That’s my meaning. Go find your own.”

And with that, the bell rang.

So today I ask you, what is your 47? What’s the meaning of your life? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Yay! I’m back to blogging after an unintended several-week hiatus. I was one of the many unfortunate peeps across the country battling the flu epidemic. It knocked me down for a solid week and a half, and then, on the heels of all that fever and coughing and sniffling, I started graduate school with a five-day intensive colloquium in Arizona.

I haven’t been in school since 1998, so the transition back into academia as an adult, single mama with MS has sent me running back into bed to hide under the covers and stew in my overwhelm at least once a day for the past two weeks. But fortunately, I always recover and scrounge up the courage to face the books again when my cat, his perfectly calm, zen-like nature, looks at me with those big, unblinking eyes, as if to say, “What’s all the fuss about, Karen? You got this.” And so it is. I got this.

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8 Responses to The Meaning of Life is 47

  1. Mary Kay on February 1, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    So glad you are back and on a new and wonderful adventure!

    What is my 47? What’s the meaning of my life? Hahaa the answer changes often. At one point it was to be the best at all I could accomplish in one short day. From the moment my eyes opened and my feet hit the floor to the moment my head hit the pillow. Now I look with deeper meaning, patience and the love of simple things, bright colors and sunny days! It helps that my children are grown and life is not as busy.

    Journeys are never finished the same with learning. So onward and upward to you! No doubt in my mind you got this!!!


    • Karen on February 4, 2013 at 6:44 pm

      thank you for sharing that, mary kay. 🙂 i think many people would relate to what you’ve said. and of course i tremendously appreciate your support!

  2. Tivo on February 1, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    Hey K,

    Meaning and not just any meaning but rather fabulous, wonderous connected and legacy inspired meaning. The road, path and practice of equisite meaning is the journey that informs the journey of being alive and becoming as alive as one can be.

    I would say you are the embodied living example of learning, learning and beyond learning into living what you have learned and learning in an on-going way. The traditional learning institution is an easy structure given your learning orientation, your writer’s capacity and your skills, magic and leadership role.

    Have fun and stretch the learning of the institution, your colleagues and the world.



    • Karen on February 4, 2013 at 6:46 pm

      thank you tivo! you are a bundle of positive energy, inspiration and support. if i could only figure out how to mass produce you and package you i’d be rich!

  3. miranda on January 31, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    go ahead and breathe in that sense of meaning. feel it. know it. you are helping me.

    • Karen on January 31, 2013 at 10:26 pm

      thank you miranda. 🙂

  4. Chris Johnson on January 31, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Thanks Karen! I’ve missed your blogs and I’m sure others have too! No worries, but I was beginning to wonder. Good luck with your Schooling; I know how it is – I too returned to college after a 20 year break and with job, etc, it was too much. I passed my course, but had to stop. Hang in there; I’m sure it will be worth it in the end. We never stop learning even when we don’t try, so my one course helped me tremendously. 47? I think I’m just beginning to find mine and I’m 53. It’s cool. MS – thanks to you and Ann and my own Nutritionalist, Naturapath(sp) I don’t consider myself as having MS anymore. It’s wonderful. I try to help others as much as they let me and have finally learned how and when to back off when I realize to them I’m a kook and their faith is completely in Westernized Medicine and not what Nature or GOD, wherever you land on that one, put here for us is enough.
    Keep Blogging(when you have time) and know sincerely and with all candor that it is appreciated.

    • Karen on January 31, 2013 at 10:28 pm

      thank you chris. i always appreciate your input. 🙂

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