Finding and Strengthening Meaning During the Pandemic
The pandemic has caused a lot of soul-searching and deep questions on the meaning of life. The biggest one is whether people can find deeper meaning in their lives through COVID-19, but they are also asking why things like this happen. Let's address these questions in this post:
Why do bad things happen?
For “good” things (i.e. things you want) to exist, “bad” things (i.e., things you don’t want) also have to exist. The reason is that, as Shakespeare wrote, nothing is inherently good or bad, but thinking makes it so. COVID-19 might seem like an indisputable “bad” thing, but what if it killed the next Hitler? What if it saved millions of lives because of the catastrophes it averted? Then, it might be considered a good thing with unfortunate, devastating collateral damage. Fires can hurt you or cook your food, mold can irritate your lungs or break down rotten food to fertilize soil, and bacteria can infect you or help you digest food in your intestines. Similarly, for growth to occur, there has to be something you don’t have that, if you grow, you will have in the future. That’s how growth works. If you had everything, you couldn’t grow. You could never have a new idea, a new solution, or a new experience.
What is deeper meaning?
Deeper meaning either refers to solidifying or strengthening the meaning you’ve already established or finding “greater” meaning—i.e., meaning that’s greater than yourself. We'll discuss both in the following answer.
How can I find deeper meaning through COVID-19?
There are a few ways to find or strengthen your meaning during the pandemic:
- The contrast between your current state and your desired future state triggers desire – If you want financial growth, you want $1,000,000 more than you want $5. The reason is that the contrast between your current wealth and your wealth plus $1,000,000 is so much more, thus making the higher value more desirable. One way to generate contrast is to increase your desired future state. The other is to have a worse current state. COVID-19 is a prime example of this: people are dying, and you have to stay inside to slow the spread of the virus. Your ability to do what you want in life is severely inhibited. That inhibition is generating a strong desire to be with other people, to live life to the fullest, and to GO OUT! In that sense, this event is fueling our desires for when it’s over to do things we were putting off or taking for granted before. You already had those desires, but they “deepen” when they are either taken away from you or you are at a high risk of losing everything.
- This is an opportunity to support the cause of humanity vs. yourself – “Greater” purpose usually means a purpose beyond yourself. When all of humanity is banding together to address a crisis, staying home isn’t just a selfish act but rather what’s good for yourself and others. If you volunteer, donate, make masks, deliver products safely to the elderly, get the vaccine, or anything else that helps us get through this event, your purpose is exponentially greater than just focusing on your day-to-day wants and needs.
- This is an opportunity to focus on things you usually put off – Many people have projects at home, time they didn’t have to spend with family, or some deep soul-searching that they wanted to do but could never find the time for. Many people can (and will) use this time to focus on things that daily out-and-about life normally prevents you from focusing on. While many people will look at what they can’t do and build desire for those activities, others might see this as an opportunity to build desire for things they wanted to do and now can with stay-at-home orders and shutdowns.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to find that deeper meaning in life through this event. Can you help other people and find greater purpose through this event? Can you build desire to do the things you always wanted to do when this is over? Can you do the things you never had time to do inside by yourself now while you have the opportunity? If you can do those things, then you can find deeper or greater meaning through the pandemic—or anywhere for that matter.