The Answers to All the Great Mysteries Are Found in the Laundry
Let's be honest with ourselves for a moment. No one likes doing laundry.
Having clean clothes has some value but the act of doing laundry seems repetitive and unending, a pile of Sisyphean rocks to roll up the hill only to do it again over and over. Laundry is the punishment the gods have handed down to those who have finally moved out of mom and dad's basement and declared some semblance of adulthood.
Yet within the simple task of gathering up your smelly socks and the pair of jeans with the ketchup stain near the crotch and hopefully using that Tide Pod for its intended use is the all important, elusive Meaning of Life.
First (and I apologize for posing questions this early in the morning that make your mind want to stab me in the eye) to ascertain what the Meaning of Life is, we need to figure out what Meaning is.
Humans attach meaning to everything. We can't help it. We created religion to explain the meaning behind rain, for chrissakes. Throw out the image of a woman crying and then an image of a phone and we will create a meaningful narrative out of it like dogs lick their balls. Meaning is an arbitrary construct like race or political affiliation. One hundred people can witness the exact same event and derive one hundred different meanings from it.
Manufacturing meaning in the chaos of a world hellbent on our demise is a survival instinct.
Our cerebellums truck in two different types of meaning:
Cause/Effect Meaning: You smash yourself in the soft squishies, you feel pain in said squishies. You tell your friend her ass is fat, your friend pops you in the squishies. You do X, and with reliable certainty, Y will result. Y usually being some sort of pain in your lower regions.
Cause/Effect Meaning is essential for pragmatic survival. Basing your predictive reasoning on the semi-consistent results from doing things is the only reason we know in our best brain cells that gun control works and arguing on the internet is pointless.
Better/Worse Meaning: Pizza is better than no pizza. Having money is better than being broke. Relaxing is better than stressing out. Better/Worse meaning is all about our assessment of what is and is not of value in our lives. It is also the source of discriminating judgment and comes from our emotional responses.
We need both types — the first to be able to avoid an untimely death due to a constant misunderstanding of gravity, fire, and that whole fork in an electrical socket conundrum; the second to navigate the social mores of society and avoid having your only companion be a volleyball with a bloody handprint on it.
Meaning is evolution's way of motivating us into action. We find great meaning in something and we will go to great lengths for it. Wars only work if there's a meaningful reason for it which is why we try to compare every minor authoritarian to Hitler and elevate the type of smartphone we have to defining our status in the Grand High School of Life.
Find meaning and you act. Find no meaning and you stagnate on your couch, moaning about the existential hopelessness of it all until you suddenly find meaning in the sea that eating is better than starving. Then you get up off your ass and make a fucking Hot Pocket.
Finding meaning is a skill. Like juggling or being a cat whisperer, it is a skill that needs to be practiced or that indentation of your pajama-covered seat on the couch becomes irresistable.
How does one practice the discovery of meaning?
1. Crack the Codes
Learning new things about the world is kind of a universal good. Finding problems to solve and then overcoming those problems with trial and error solutions kind of forces learning and creates gateways to solving other problems. Sure, it's nice to have the death of one's parents and subsequent wealth to become the World's Greatest Detective but not necessary.
What's truly fun about this is that you approach things as a scientist, using your rational mind to address everything under the sun. Like a crossword puzzle, your solving it doesn't change the world but it does change you and we're talking about you finding the meaning out of your drab existence, so why not?
From how to unclog your sink to ending the rank rule of revisionist Republicans, life is filled with problems to solve.
2. Be a Collaborator
Going the route of the misanthrope is freeing but not fulfilling. Find people in the world and engage. Share stuff with them. Help them. Assist someone move that indented couch or take care of their plants. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or stand around on a street corner, waiting to help blind people cross. Whatever. Participate in the real with actual people.
3. Avoid the Grand Scheme Approach
Make a million dollars.
Become the best athlete in a sport.
Find your soul mate.
Sounds good but once you attain any measure of this, where's the meaning? Part of the fun in searching for the answers to the Great Mysteries is the searching. Once you have all of the answers, it's time to cash in your chips and go to dirt town.
The adage is to be the change you'd like to see, right? Trying to change everyone else is fruitless. Changing yourself is difficult enough so keep those motivational goals realistic and specific. Like simply getting your laundry done.
It needs to be done. Someone has to do it. Why not go do that thing that needs to be done? The rewards are immediate — fresh smelling boxer shorts, free of that sweaty ass smell. And there's great meaning in that no complete task if you look at it from a certain angle.