Struggle and crisis, however painful, can be a rich breeding ground for learning and growth. Like many things of value (for this blog is of value to me, a lifelong would-be writer and thinker), the idea of this blog was conceived during what I consider a spiritual and existential crisis that turned out to be an immense blessing in my life. I now understand that my doubts and troubling questions were necessary labor pains for the transformation I had to undergo in order to arrive at a more mature and satisfying perspective in life. The new answers and insights I gained during this process inspired me to follow through with this blog idea. The blog, therefore, is a by-product of this transformative experience.
Contentment forever out of reach
About two years ago, a lot of my previous struggles came to an end after having spent a good decade of my life dilligently working towards my goals in the face of significant adversity. What had kept me going throughout those years had always been the sense that once I would reach such and such goal, life would become easier and joy would naturally follow. Finally, things seemed to fall into place, including a Master’s degree, my successful immigration to the United States, my own house and land for my many projects, and a job I’m passionate about.
Yet, over time I slowly had to admit to myself that I was not as happy as I expected to be after reaching those milestones. I tried to create new goals, considered pursuing another degree, started volunteering, thought of moving again, – only to realize that I was slowly getting more discouraged with life. I started questioning everything. Disillusioned with life, I matter-of-factly concluded that true contentment would forever be out of reach for me.
Although intellectually I had an idea of where I needed to get, spiritually and emotionally I could not figure out how to actually get there; and, although immersed in worthy activities and not overly unhappy, I was unable to shake my underlying gloom and discontent. Then came a truly cathartic experience that involved coming to a breaking point – fortunately not for long, followed by an even briefer yet intense period of a lot of sharing with others in an atmosphere of love, acceptance and support.
I fully realized that my problem had been spiritual. I had been looking for external things to change when in reality I was the one who needed to change. I came to fully accept and reconcile myself with the normalcy and universality of pain. As odd as that may sound, accepting pain as a permanent guest in life helped me put things into perspective.
I learnt a lot about the value of spirituality and religion and realized that on a fundamental level I had not fully trusted God and His guidance. I had not yet fully made Him the number one priority in my life. With surprising ease, all my discouragement disappeared and gave way to a profound sense of hope, peace, and genuine new excitement about life that I had rarely felt with quite the same intensity. I fully realized that the void I had felt could only be filled by Heavenly Father.
I’m a Mormon
Speaking of Heavenly Father, for anyone who is wondering, the title of this blog is inspired by a scripture from the Book of Mormon:
“Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy.” 2 Nephi 2:25)
As a former atheist and philosophy student, quoting scripture certainly had not always come natural to me. Yet, while still agnostic at heart in some ways, I’m also a convert to Christianity in general and Mormonism in particular. I have discovered immense truth and value in Christianity and I’m an active and faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Maybe due to my background, my approach to the gospel may be a bit nontraditional at times. I often relate better to abstract ideas than to very literal interpretations. Things have to make sense to me intellectually, before I can truly embrace them spiritually. My Mormon identity will no doubt reflect in my posts on occasion, yet this is not a blog about Mormonism. Instead, my main topic is the often so elusive pursuit of joy and contentment.
The unexamined life is not worth living
The focus of this blog is what should be the focus of life. What brings us lasting joy? What is it that makes life truly satisfying and fulfilling? A mere heap of more or less randomly chosen ingredients does not a palatable meal make. The secret of a gourmet recipe lies as much in the selection of ingredients as well as the manner of preparation.
A fulfilling life has to be more than a chance accumulation of experiences that we react to. It requires deliberate and active living. Socrates claimed that the unexamined life is not worth living. Henry David Thoreau wrote that most men live lives of quiet desperation. Certainly, the unexamined life lacks direction, perspective, and purpose. If we stumble around without a map or plan, we are unlikely to arrive at our intended destination, whether our goals are external or inward. If we are unclear about where we are trying to get in the first place, our getting there becomes all but impossible.
For a brief glimpse ahead, my planned upcoming blog posts include topics like:
– emotional completeness
– exploring the value of faith
– life as an experiment
– living tragically vs. living heroically
– the joy of sacrifice
– authenticity and vulnerability
– science of meaning
– moral reminders
… and many more…
Why this blog
I certainly do not proclaim to be a life coach or an expert at joyful living; just a highly imperfect human being with a genuine desire for continuous inner progress and growth: emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. I have many questions, a few vague ideas, and some insights that inspire and excite me. I’m thrilled when I make baby steps in the right direction.
Besides an ever strong need for meaning, over the years I have also developed an increasing desire to leave a positive impact on society. This blog is a means towards these endeavors. I hope for it to encourage me to read, write, and think more clearly, self-reflect, steadily re-examine my course in life, and increase my sense of self and direction. Sharing my reflections publicly should add to my motivation and discipline. And who knows, maybe here and there a reader might stumble across this blog and get inspired in some small way – or leave a comment and inspire me in turn.
Although there will be topics I’m passionate about and that are dear to me, I’m not here to convince you that I’m right. I have no financial interest in this blog. I won’t try to sell you anything – literally or metaphorically speaking. I’m much more interested in a constructive and genuine discussion than in being right. Whether or not you agree with what I write, I welcome feedback and comments, although I will draw the line at disrespect, insults, or obscenity.
Inner growth and joy is what I’m primarily interested in. I’m an intensely private introvert who balks at the thought of publicly sharing personal life issues and thus to an extent making myself visible and vulnerable, which is why at least for now I choose to blog under a pseudonym. I also have social roles that keep me from being able to fully disclose some of my circumstances. Yet, in order to have any value at all, my posts must reflect issues that are relevant to me at a given time. Meaningful exchange of thought requires authenticity, and we cannot be authentic without a degree of vulnerability. It takes courage to let ourselves be vulnerable.
Albert Hubbard wrote, “to avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.” Pursuing absolute safety will lead to total stagnation. I have been conspicuously absent from social media and deleted me Facebook account years ago. Yet, a blog lends itself much more to fostering meaningful interactions, and that is what I crave.