Search for Meaning

To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness, / But life without meaning is the torture / Of restlessness and vague desire– / It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid. – Edgar Lee Masters

Long ago my mother taught me to seek knowledge and understanding in life, “Get an education. They can never take that away from you.” My grandfather (a decorated WWI soldier, survived poison gas during the war, coal miner, sharecropper) died when my mom was around ten years old. A little boy in town had spinal meningitis and no one wanted to drive him to the hospital. My grandfather volunteered, and subsequently caught the terrible disease and died. My sweet mother had to go to work in a laundry washing and ironing shirts to help support her family. She never returned to school but was one of the wisest people I have ever known. She read every day. When I finished a class in college, I gave mom my textbooks. When she died, we found hundreds of books under her bed. She slept atop immeasurable riches. She was the one who set the fire in my soul to seek knowledge. Learning has always been my spirit-wealth. As L. Frank Baum said, “No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire.”

One should never stop learning. The other day I learned the word Geosmin. Geosmin is the natural chemical that is responsible for earthy, musty smells, the earthy taste of tubers, and part of the strong scent in the air after a rainfall in dry weather, or when soil is disturbed. This smell is a deeply rooted part of our animal nature – the nose can sense geosmin down to five parts per trillionth. And so the scent must relate directly to our survival as a species, in the distant past. Even with all the intellectual capital created in human history, humans remain animals and not automatons. But no matter the intellectual knowledge one possesses, that knowledge stagnates unless it can bring meaning to one’s life. Otherwise knowledge is no different than a library of unread books. The scent after it rains is also called Petrichor from the Greek petra – stone and ichor – blood of the gods. Here is a high speed video from MIT showing how petrichor develops during a rain.

We must abandon completely the notion of blaming the past for any kind of situation we’re in and reverse our thinking and see that the past always flows back form the present. That now is the creative point of life. Alan Watts This quote from the great thinker caught my attention while researching. All the experience and knowledge gathered over time is being reinterpreted by NOW. Now is the transitory particle around which meaning and understanding coalesce into pearls of wisdom. These gemstones of wisdom bring meaning to life. And the search for meaning drives humanity ever forward towards the aesthetic wealth of balance and beauty.

Each of person walks their own path. No one can duplicate the path of another. Learning from others however lets the mind cast backwards into the past in order to dredge meaning from the sands of time. Armed with meaning one can move forwards with some degree of certainty. This process creates an artful approach to living one’s life. Wisdom comes from approaching life with renewed enthusiasm instead of. As Pablo Picasso said, It takes a very long time to become young. Learn broadly. Live Fully.

Published by cewheeler

Writer/Artist:12 years in China – univ. lecturer: writing,poetry,culture; editor – magazine/newspaper & actor. 40 years students of the Tao. Traveler. Father. Read my books at:

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