I am now taking life advice from anime:
Yesterday morning, I was listening to an audiobook (Acceptance by Jeff Vandermeer), and the author said something about “purpose”. I wasn’t taking notes and have no idea what the actual words were, but it put the idea of having a purpose to life in my head.
I recognized that among the other holes in my life, I do not have a definitive purpose for my life: why I do what I do, or, more importantly, why I would do the things I think I want to do. This is possibly because simply getting through a day in decent shape is so fricking difficult. Consult your Maslow pyramid.
Which does not address depression very well (I just googled Maslow’s hierarchy and depression; I have a lot of reading to do), but purpose and meaning exist in the top-most level, and I am a long ways from even thinking about that. But I don’t think his hierarchy is linear; I don’t think it can be. Or need be. There are plenty of people in poor safety conditions who nonetheless have both esteen and self-actualization nailed down.
In fact, I do not think I can even say the bottom level, for me, will be solid enough to depend on if I am not creating the conditions for self-actualization as I also try to make my life more secure on those fundamental levels. One of Maslow’s main points is that people who lack food or shelter or who find themselves living in threatenting conditions will find it difficult to even think about “higher” endeavors. “I need food” is more fundamental than “Why am I here”.
Back to anime.
Sword Art Online is not the greatest, nor the worst, anime, although it sure does seem to sort people out along those lines. I find Kirito (above) to be an okay guy who somehow always finds a way to surpass his own limits; he’s got built-in cheats, otherwise the story wouldn’t work. His girlfriend, Asuna, on the other hand, just happens to be the greatest sword-wielder in the many different virtual universes.
Which really pisses off a lot of anime fan boys.
But that’s a critique of the anime, and not my point at all.
“The intent that emerges from the heart. ‘Meaning’.”
I have so many great ideas and possible projects that I get nowhere on; it’s my specialité (to quote Wallace and Grommit). I have come to recognize how my depression and various anxieties have undermined me over the years (more precisely, my ignorance of my depression and how it functions in my life); however, up to this point, I’ve just assumed “get healthy and the obstacles will start to be removed”.
I ought to know better than that.
I’ve been getting to understand my mental health issues more deeply this year, and yet little has changed in how I am able to pursue goals. What the two things I heard yesterday tell me – the emergence of the words “purpose” and “meaning” – is that my healing cannot be some free-floating thing, something indistinct and unrecognizable. How will I know I am “better”? What is the standard for accepting that I have become mentally healthy?
What I can do is figure out some of the whys: Why I want to write. Why I want to create podcasts and videos. Why I want to be involved in politics. Why I get up each morning.
Why I care about what I care about.
I am not sure what “the heart” is but I know this: I do not know mine. I have little idea of what is emerging from my heart as I crawl through my days.
I do not know why I bother to try. Or to live.
I am living without meaning. I am living without intention.
If you call that living.