We all need a life that has some kind of meaning and purpose. And we all outsource the job of creating that meaning and purpose differently. You can find what you need in religion. You can find it in your work, your nation, or other forms of cultural programming.
The human condition is confused because we’ve been outsourcing the hard job of generating meaning and purpose for our lives to our own egos and inner narrators. It’s too much work.
When we do this, every decision, thought and experience is painfully analyzed.
“I’m doing X because it will mean Y for me and align with Z belief, which I derived from A self-analysis and experience; this will eventually lead to B outcome and C sub-outcome, generating D memories and E emotions, fulfilling my short-term goal F and long-term goal G.”
If you’re always thinking about your identity, you’re not living your own life; instead, you’ve chosen to live the life of your own secretary and biographer. You’re living a meta-abstraction of your life, as you watch and plan and critique from above.
There are other options. You could choose to outsource the job of meaning and purpose to your “intuition.” This is when your behavior runs ahead of your inner narrator, and you don’t wait for the latter to catch up. You’re writing your own book, but you can’t fully know why you’re writing what you’re writing.
You’re the author and the main character of this book, so you can’t spend all your time analyzing the book or thinking about how it might end. Because then all you’d be reading about is a character who’s stopped to contemplate their own existence.
Here’s an alternative way to think about “intuition.’’ It’s having the right answer with only a sense of the question. Why do you think Jeopardy contestants are always a little unsure of themselves? When they buzz in, they already have the answer — now, they need to trust their ability to find the matching question. That process of matching answers and questions depends on intuition. Intuition is an invisible algorithm that’s constantly running inside of you. You could slow it down because you don’t understand it. Or, you could get out of its way.
Intuition is having something valuable in the palm of your hand and not yet knowing why it’s valuable. The half-life of intuition can be very long; sometimes it takes a while before the right questions start radiating from the answers. But once they do, your intuitions will finally have “meaning” that you can understand.
I’ve thought about outsourcing the job of creating meaning and purpose for my life to religion. I’ve also considered outsourcing it to different goals, people, events. They all asked for too much compromise.
So, I’m left with intuitions. A life-long puzzle!