I’ve been following Erik Benson’s recentposts about his quest to find a “Big Goal” to work towards. The conversation has been very heavy, which is hardly surprising since we’re talking about The Meaning of Life here 🙂 I recommend you go over and read the discussion for yourself, but I wanted to cross-post my latest “comment” (which seems an inadequate word for it) on Read/Write Web. Here it is:

I think the key word here is “success” and how one can measure it. It seems that we have differing definitions of “success”. Here are the kind of words I would use when determining if my life is successful:

passion
happiness
fulfillment
truth (ie *my* truth)
good
meaning
original
transformation
authentic

All those things cannot be measured, or at least if they are measured are done so *subjectively*. That is, only I can measure them for myself.

Re-reading your original post and the comments, you use words such as:

right/wrong
value
system
achievement
validation
solution
grading
justify/judgment
reputation
trust

Those things are all measurable by people other than yourself. You can also measure them yourself, but your measurement will be an objective one – ie one that other people can validate or prove. Which brings us back to Reputation – this is specifically a measure of value that is dependent on what other people think of you or your work. And that is fine, but it’s not how I want to define success for myself. That’s what I was getting at with the Beethoven example – where I wondered if Beethoven would have been a “success” if he had been ignored by history and thus had no reputation. Beethoven would probably (but only the man himself knows) have regarded his music and his life as a success, because he followed his passion and created works of art such as the 9th Symphony that gave meaning to his life. Even if nobody had ever listened to the 9th Symphony, Beethoven would have succeeded in his personal Big Goal – by the very act of creating it. I do agree with you that if nobody listened to it, it devalues its success somewhat in the real world. But, that’s precisely my point, it only devalues the success of it in *other peoples* eyes.

Don’t get me wrong Erik, I think your Big Goal is very admirable and probably far more healthy than the subjective viewpoint that I am advocating for myself. It’s just that I’m not sure I want to measure my own success from what other people judge my Reputation to be.

I have to add that I don’t think I’ve got life sorted out, by any means. But this is how I see it at the moment. I’m also re-reading Kierkegaard currently, which is informing my viewpoint.