F+A+R=M: Meaning is the WHY, the sense we make of the world, especially our role in it.
On the farm, meaning is akin to the harvest, when we reap the fruit of our efforts.
There is no meaning to life except the meaning man gives to his life by the unfolding of his powers.–Erich Fromm
Meaning is harvested (not found). It:
- comes from within—and in turn expands—our spaces
- utilizes our authentic gifts and talents
- rewards our responsible actions
Our aim here is individual and personalized to construct a life of meaning, not uncovering some abstract, universal meaning of life, which we’ll leave to the theologians and astrophysicists.Even simply within our own lives, finding THE meaning is something few of us ever accomplish. Rather we get meaning from various aspects of our lives; often we see it first from the smaller parts.Similarly, we over-invest time, effort and other resources trying to glean meaning from the actions of others (e.g. what did he mean by that? what is she thinking?) and under-invest in examining our own actions for the meaning within.
An essential harvest-time activity is separating the grain from the chaff, the inedible husks or casing. This process is called winnowing, so we use it to make sense of the fruit of our own actions.
False meaning includes money, power, sex, status and such. While they can certainly have ‘positive utility’ and often accompany something larger and meaningful like an accomplishment or a relationship, they can distract us from our ultimate goals.So only fame and fortune that expands our spaces, comes from our natural talents and responsible actions counts. So, unearned wealth (inheritance, lottery, etc.)
Transitory meaning done right, such as part of the stages of freedom, authenticity and responsibility can lead to ultimate meaning; cultivating good habits, serving, leading, learning –particularly that which builds understanding, self improvement and knowledge, but again these are not ends in themselves.
“Man is a being in search of meaning.” –Plato
Ultimate meaning provides answers to the questions we ask in the previous three stages and it directs our actions in the next growing season of our lives. It informs what spaces we should create, who we are/can become, and what abilities to respond we should develop. Like any harvest, done well it provides a surplus that can be put to various uses. It can:
- provide us fulfillment that rewards our past actions and encourages future such work
- be stored away and saved for leaner times in the future
- be sold, traded and even given to others, for poverty of meaning is rampant. Others may follow our lead in our enterprises
- endow the seeds to put back into the next growing season of our lives and work
“MEANING” versus “PURPOSE”
The terms “meaning” and “purpose” are commonly used interchangeably. There is a difference: while meaning is equated with the harvest (a harvest), purpose is the sum of all harvests, year after year, and the product of our reinvestment of those harvests into fields, seeds, and tending. It’s the farm itself as an enduring, long-term enterprise: an enterprise of the self.