Skip to main content

The Act of Living as the Meaning of Life

“There is only one meaning of life: the act of living it,” wrote German psychologist and social theorist Erich Fromm in 1941.[1]

Some find meaning in their work, in travel, in writing, in loving, in obeying a religion, in creating babies—all of which are different acts of living. The meaning of life (a noun) is in the process of living (a verb).

This points to a fundamental shift from that of a static goal, to a dynamic experience.

In this view one does not put off the rewards of life, for example, gearing one’s life toward retirement, as when one reaches that place it will ultimately be empty.

Nor does one live life only for the moment. If it were, many of us would be drunkards, or obese. If one is so narrow visioned to only care about the fickle “now”, why would we exercise, wear sunscreen, study, make babies, or invest time to any form of creative endevour?

It’s easy to get caught up in some some long term goal, so busy watching the clock and working working working, that we forget to enjoy the process.

It’s also easy to get so caught up in the “now” that years pass and you have nothing to show for it.

The act of living involves a both the successive moments of “now”, and the consequential moments of “later”. Happiness, it seems to me, comes from a healthy medium between pleasure and sacrifice—some experienced now, and some in the years to come.

The meaning of life (noun) is in the living (verb), not in some ultimate end. While we live on a swords edge been our past and future, act of living is more than a series of moments. It is what we do with those moments, and the mark they make on others, that really counts.


[1] Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom; (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1969). p. 261.

[2] By Frank Gosebruch (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Is Heaven Everlasting or Eternal?

‘Heaven is not eternal, it’s just everlasting,’ says Joseph Campbell.

‘I don’t follow that,’ Bill Moyers replied.

‘Heaven and hell are described as forever. Heaven is of unending time. It is not eternal. Eternal is beyond time.  The concept of time shuts out eternity.’[1]

Joseph Campbell is a comparative mythologist, the great mind behind The Hero’s Journey, among his many achievements.

The first time I read this quote I thought Campbell was saying that heaven is a place or state of being that we can experience in the world today. Such an experience may be in the present moment, and each moment in time can be seen to last forever if viewed from outside of time.

But the more I think about these words, the more unsure I am of what they really mean.

If you have a magical “heavenly” moment where time seems to stand still, is this moment not outside of time, and hence an eternal moment?

The few times I’ve experienced such moments it feels as if nothing exists outside of that everlasting occasion. In my memory I can revisit that moment at any time. Yet to feel as if time has frozen, makes me think such a moment is outside of time, and hence eternal. I’m confused.

In my recent post on panentheism I described my “belief in God” but not in a supernatural spooky God of punishment and reward. It seems to me such a conception of God originated in immature minds, institutionalized to motivate behaviours that the powerful desired from the masses. A panentheistic (all-in-God) understanding of the relationship between humans and their universe is based on what is, that is, interpreting meaning out of the great mystery and magic that exists in the natural process of evolution and consciousness of being.

This returns me to Campbell’s thoughts on heaven.

I don’t believe in heaven or hell as a physical place where one’s individual soul transcends or descends to when their body croaks. I do, however, believe in heaven and hell, as states of mind-body-soul in the world today. I have experienced and witnessed both these states at different times of my life. These moments are everlasting – they will exist forever inside time. But they are not eternal. They are not a place outside of time, where I will go after I die.

I think there’s a trace of the eternal in every moment, and a trace of the moments in the eternal. But this is all but a guess. Whether one is absorbed back into all that is, inside time, or disappears into the eternal, I suppose is something we’ll just have to wait to find out.


[1] Campbell, Joseph (1988). The Power of Myth – Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers. New York: Doubleday. p. 280.

Parkinson’s Law: Using Time to Your Advantage

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” This is known as “Parkinson’s Law”[1]. I’ve been testing it out and so far it does seem true.

I’m working more jobs than I ever have before: 4.5 days a week between two jobs, plus a part-time research degree, and working with an editor on my novel. And now I a new deadline for my research: 35,000 words by June.

I’m six months into a MPhil that my supervisor is encouraging I upgrade to a PhD and get a scholarship so that I can work less money-jobs and achieve more with my writing. I’m all for this, but 35,000 words? By June?? Not that words are generally a problem (as any regular readers of this blog would attest to this) still when I consider doing this as well as working so many other jobs, I start to freak out.

“Am I overdoing it?” I asked my dad on the weekend. “Am I going to give myself a nervous breakdown?”

He laughed. “As long as you also put a little time to maintain your health – go for your walks and do your pilates – you’ll be fine.” He reminded me of all the people that work full-time and do uni full-time. “It’s possible to do it all, and you will look back and ask yourself: How did I do it? But you do. You just get it done.”

That was when I remembered Parkinson’s Law.

I think it’s true: whatever deadlines you set for a task, that’s how long the task will take.

If I set myself the task of 35,000 words by June, I will do it. I know I will.

One month in to this crazy schedule I’m surprised to say that it is going rather well. Even with buying a kombi, doing a weekend away, and having it break down, to add to the craziness that is currently my life. I think the trick is not to think – just DO.

My mind has started to approach the world differently. This situation is forcing me to live fully in each moment.

I’ve had moments where I think I’m going to send myself crazy – but they only come when I am thinking about everything I’m doing. If I look at my week as a whole, at where I am using my time, I feel overwhelmed.

But if I live in the present, always focused on doing rather than thinking about doing, I am happy and extraordinarily productive.

On that note, it’s time for a walk.

[1] Parkinson’s Law is an adage first articulated by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in his humorous essay published in The Economist in 1955. Wikipedia.