Reasoning towards a meaningful life, part 7: Being Me

Two more stops remain in my thinking exercise to shut up the feelings of unworthiness for once and for all. Today I meant to think about being me and what would truly give me a feel of worth, now that I have identified the white noise coming from other people’s values, my habits and faulty assumptions.

Unfortunately I’m having a cold and have trouble thinking clearly. A nice attempt to self sabotage. Also, I mislaid the used envelope on which I scribbled the keywords. Sabotage attempt nr 2.

So I’ll just write down some of the things that belong in this part. Later on I’ll try to make it into a coherent thought.

part 7: BEING ME

About what makes me feel worthy. Do not think about what is practical or what my daily limitations are, those are for part 8. Now I look at what makes me sing, what makes me happy (intellectually and otherwise)


I like an intellectual adventure. Thinking my way through something. It’s that sublimation thing I talked about.








I didn’t use an old envelope, I used my green owls notebook! I even showed you a picture of it!  Duh.

I remember where I left that!


right, here we go:

  • working on a fascination makes me feel good. Useful. Worthy.
  • I need a visible endresult to feel good. The work needs to be concluded (not just be abandonded) and it needs to be visible. Perhaps aknowledged by others too.
  • a new fascination will always pop up
  • when there’s a bit of time between concluding of one fascination and the beginning of another I can easily start to feel worthless

What? That’s all I wrote? I thought so much more! There’s other things I want to say here. About what kind of fascinations, what kind of results. About being with friends. Even a brilliant piece about pretending I only have 3 months to live (as you do when  you get a cold) and what nugget it brought up. But I’m too muddled right now to remember coherently!

I’m going to leave this here, as a starting point to build upon.

it had to do with blockprinting…working in my loft… producing a calender… I don’t remember! Aaaagh!

 pic by Powerpay


Reasoning towards a meaningful life, part 6: having a heart

Having a heart is typical human. Compassion, love, delight, joy are important things. Emotions are important things. They probably should have a say when evaluating the worth of the life one leads.

 pic by Benis Arapovic

It is our heart that allows us to get ecstatic. I lack the right word in English for what I want to describe here, the Dutch word is “vervoering”. It is when you get swept off your feet. Experience something greater than yourself. It’s a good thing, an totally enjoyable thing. It has nothing of the sharpness that can come with the English word “ecstasy”.

The experience of being “in vervoering” can be prompted by a love experience, by your child, by your partner, by sex, by dancing, by religion, by a group experience. But also by a quiet, harmonious experience like as seeing a little child comforting its brother who has just bumped his head.

 pic by Jenben24

To be able to be swept off ones feet might be one of the most important things in a human life.

I also suspect that biologically it connects with the delight of sublime experiences I described in the previous part: having a brain.

Experiencing being swept of your feet cannot be judged with the brain. Or with moral values. It is outside the realm of things I use to conclude I’m useless in life.

Experiencing this heart-thing or trying to relive the experience can easily evolve into perversion. Just like striving for sublimation to excite the brain can evolve in all kinds of addictions and mass delusions about what makes life valuable. Perverted excitement of the heart results in being overwhelmed by the emotions so much that you completely lose yourself and get truly rattled by that experience. It will make you feel desperate. Adrift.

Tempering the experience and being careful to never getting to the stage of excitement is no good either. You cage yourself. You hold back. You do not experience life to the fullest.

Getting swept of your feet is one experience that is powerfully clear in its message: “I am alive!”

No argument then. Experiencing the heart is one of the things that makes life worth living.


Being “in vervoering”, being swept of your feet, is something everybody needs to experience in life, at least once. It is one of the things that makes life worthy.

pic by Fernando Audibert

This is part 6 in a series in which I think myself towards a meaningful life. So I don’t feel worthless anymore.

1. being in existence
2. being human
3. being judgemental
4. having values
5. having a brain
6. having a heart
7. being me
8. being perfectionist or just admitting you can’t count

Reasoning towards a meaningful life, part 5: having a brain

To summarize the previous posts: feeling of worth can only come when I judge myself based on me being human and having human values. The human values are fluid and not clear cut. When judging myself I have to take make room for the validity of emotional standards and my unhealthy habit of comparing and judging all the time (on false premisses).

Now I want to look at that typical human asset, the brain, and how having one can give meaning to ones life.

 pic by ArtM

Having intellect is typical human.

No wait, I mean this the other way around since I do not assume other creatures to be void of intellect: “leading a meaningful life as a human involves the brain.”

Our intellect allows us to appreciate the finer things in life. The more complex things. The various connections a subject has to other subjects. To be more clear, I’m thinking here of the intellectual pleasure we can derive from art, literature, opera, fine bone china, architecture, urban coffee culture, fashion, mathematics, cinema, chess, politics, teenage fashion et cetera. All the things that are more than just things.

pic by Martin Walls

This indulging of the intellectual pleasure, this high flying of the mind, can go o extremes and become ugly and sickening. For example urban culture and office politics can easily migrate to rat race and adrenal pushing. Caffeïne addiction. Judging an extrovert lifestyle superior to an introvert one.

Leading an up beat life is exhillerating and fun but it is not good when it goes too extreme. This lifestyle is nonetheless glorified and presented as normal in adverts, sporting events, media circusses and American tv-series such as US Scandal (which I love to watch. But it’s too adrenal, the people are too witty and life goes too fast.)

There’s nothing wrong with high speed entertainment. There’s nothing wrong with an extrovert lifestyle.

There’s something wrong when we get addicted to it, when we take it to extremes and when there’s a group delusion that this kind of lifestyle is very worthy and to be desired.

 pic by Mark Normand

Returning to the joys of having a brain.

Things that delight the brain (or make us delight in having a brain) al seem to be more than the thing presented. Architecture is more than a building. Chess is more than a game.

This is called sublimation. And I think that enjoying something sublime is a biological thing. Certainly not logical. Even though it starts and ends with the brain and the brain alone.

 pic by Macin Smolinski

Animals know sublimation too. Sea gull chicks tap the red spot on the bill of their parents to make them regurgitate food. When presented with a lollipop stick with a red dot on them, they’ll tap on it. If presented with a stick with a bigger red dot on it, they tap it harder. When presented with a stick with the biggest red dot on it they’ve ever seen and unthinkable for any seagull they blow their little minds, will ignore their parents and will tap that big red dot. They experience sublimation. (see footnote)

Humans can do the same. I suspect big round breasts do something like that for men, even if they are bigger than breasts they’ve ever seen and are unthinkable for any human.

A more harmonious sublimal pleasure can be derived from the fields of culture I gave some examples of. I think it is important for a human being to have this in her life. I think it will make life meaningful. = CONCLUSION

Having said so I realize this pleasure is private, intern, solo. Let me think about that some more.

This is part 5 in a series in which I think myself towards a meaningful life. So I don’t feel worthless anymore.

1. being in existence
2. being human
3. being judgemental
4. having values
5. having a brain
6. having a heart
7. being me
8. being perfectionist or just admitting you can’t count

 pic by Serkan Ozcan


The seagull experiment was done by Nobel Prize winning biologist Nico Tinbergen. He didn’t use bare lollipop sticks but sticks with the shape of a sea gull head glued to it. He used different coloured dots on different parts of the silhouette. The interpretation of the experiments and research needs a bit more nuancing than I’ve presented it above.

I still suspect animals are capable of sublimation. I know the human animal is.

Reasoning towards a meaningful life, part 4: Values

This is part 4 in a 5 part exercise to reason myself out of leading a worthless life.

In this part I’ll look at the values and morals we bring to the table when comparing and judging the world and ourselves. In a simple view I’d say our values are the things we base our views and judgements on. The measuring tape we apply. I want to know if these values make sense. I have a feeling they are not very consciously installed.

pic by Michaela Kobyakov

Most values on which we base our opinions (of ourselves) are influenced by:

  • group ideas
  • habits
  • examples
  • the way you were raised

pic by Marcus Österberg


Psychologists and Social Scientists have written plenty enough books about how our personal morals are shaped and influenced by the group in which we exist. Being it a circle of family, a circle of friends, a religion circle or people you identify with over the internet or television shows.

Excesses are peer pressure, collective blind spots, censure, masse hysteria and people who do not pick up on values: the psychopaths. But we’ll leave the excesses for the scientists, I want to think about the normal, soft-spoken values all of us got and keep getting from the groups of people we interact with.

Group values we internalize are about social behaviour, decency, bodily presentation, whether leadership is desired, whether personal sacrifices are desired, should we be obedient, which things we should be outraged about, which things in life are desirable and many more.

pic by Scasha

Of course a group has a different goal than an individual. Perhaps its values should be examined and judged before embracing them as our own?

Ah, but since values are such a muddled bunch, it is hard to distinguish were your own moral values centre around and which one are based on the group you’ve been hanging out with.
Perhaps this is not a problem after all. We are group animals after all. Perhaps we can rely on group values to be of some good for individuals too.

pic by Danagouws

One thing to do help us distinguishing some between group values and personal morals is comparing different groups. When you travel to another country it is very easy to pick up on the difference in “value flavour”.
For example: the Dutch are very much about efficiency. We will try to optimalise any production process. We’re also a trading country for centuries and we’re quite practical when it comes to marrying morals with profit. Outbursts, flamboyance and patriotism is not in our blood.
Norway, on the other hand, values family time highly. Women are equal to men and this shows in society. They love to spend time outdoors. There are
Norsk people get tired quickly when dealing with Dutch people trying to set up business in Norway. They are so pushy! They take no time to live, to obey the subtle pleasantries of human interaction. The Dutch get frustrated with the Norwegians, everything is so slow and fluid! No solid information is given, no initiaries.
A good example how departure from different values makes for different “flavour”.

pic by Arancia

Another example is how as a culture the USA views and values workers in retail and food industry. They are servers. They are servants. They are there to serve you. You can talk down to them. You are the costumer.
In the Netherlands, and also in France, it is different. People working in shops and cafe’s are the hosts of that venue. You are a guest. As a guest you are expected to be polite. You greet the server upon entering. You thank them when they hand you something. Even though you bring money you are dependent on the server and it’s a joint collaboration to get you the product/experience you desire. You are not better than the person helping you.

Traveling and talking to people from other countries and other social groups is good way to examine the values one takes from their own country and their own groups. Do I want to be a down to earth, efficient Dutch woman? Do I want to embrace the love for tv shows about singing? Do I want to join in the conviction society is crumbling down and we are no longer safe in our own homes?

Groups can have some specific and quirky ideas about life and what makes a valuable life.


We are also creatures of habit. We’re lazy beings, mostly. Once your values are established and you use them to judge yourselves and others, it’s far easier to keep reusing them than it is to re-evaluate them once in a while.

I’ve got a life to live, I’m busy as it is, get away from me!
pic by Piotr Bizior

Re-evalution of ones morals and values feels like another chore to jot down on the old to-do list…

hmm. A new habit can be installed though. Without examining the values in dept. So that’s half the chore then. Doable. Especially when it’s wrapped in another new habit that is installed, such as judging less.


pic by Marinela Prodan

We pick up plenty values from other people. Being it aunts who like to dress up or famous people.
In my society examples are presented through the media a lot. I have to keep in mind media filter and colour every story to serve their own media goals.
I also have to keep in mind that any other person I look at in order to learn from, I’m looking from the outside. From the outside, exemplary people often look coherent. Consistent.
I have no clue about their inner torrents and multiplicity. I should remind myself that these people too have rich inner lives and are not as clear cut internally as they appear on the outside. I should not expect myself to be.

Famous people and media also help to shift values and morals. We all know examples of media stories where suddenly it is ok to say something about other people, to voice (or even have) an opinion that was unthinkable 20 years ago.
An opinion about Muslims. Homosexuals. Women providing home lives. Evolutionists. Surgeons. Cyclists. Squirrels.
We should not take those opinions and run with them. We should not get caught up in the crazy of today. We should not be quick to adapt our values based on the news.

This is a strong well of values from which you have taken many. It’s a good idea to shed some of them. To dilute all of them.
As a child it was probably easier to handle life by seeing things in black and white. As an adult you know the world isn’t like that. It’s a complex world. There are no clear cut truths. This is nothing to be worried about, complexity is not more difficult to handle than simplicity.
It’s just more nuanced. And a great source of beauty.

Values are taken from many sources outside of us. Groups, other individuals and child hood habits. It’s a good idea to be more mellow, to ease up. Both on the values and on the sources you took them from.

pic by Belovodchenko Anton

This is part 4 in a 5 part thinking exercise. Here are the other parts:

1. being in existence
2. being human
3. being judgemental
4. having values
5. having a brain
6. having a heart
7. being me
8. being perfectionist or just admitting you can’t count

Reasoning towards a meaningful life, part 3: Judging

So: feeling valuable in/at life can only be based on human perspectives.
These perspectives are not primarily logical or clear headed. This doesn’t make them invalid. Au contraire.

Now I’m wondering:

How does the mere act of judging influence the judgements I cast on myself?

As humans we are taught to judge all the time. We compare compare compare. We attach values at all the components involved. We do it in a split second too. It seems we can hardly use our eyes without comparing and attaching values.

(perhaps seeing IS the act of comparing? without comparing we cannot see?)
(- when a tree snow falls in the forest and there’s nothing left to see, am I then blind?)
(- there you are then. Now enough with the philosophies, go get some results!)

We compare things.


And then we rank them. We rank options. People. Accomplishments. Fruit. Days.

It seems we cannot go a minute without comparing and ranking things.
It may very well be that this knack for judging is impairing the appreciation of the meaningfulness of our own life.

Our comparing and consequentally judging of apples things is influenced by:

  • our habits in comparing and judging
  • our upbringing
  • our skills in comparing and judging
  • our premisses

But all of these are subjective…

And therefor possibly flawed. Probably flawed!

All of these aspects can (need) be examined and tuned or changed before any good judging of the meaningfulness of ones life can commence.

This exercise would weed out the unarticulated notion that I am worthless. If my life is indeed meaningless then I will at least be able to put into words why I think this to be true.

But without examining the way I judge it will never be more than a strong feeling that I am useless. Just a snap shot decision that I am. Possibly just out of habit and faulty premisses imposed upon me as a child.

I should examine these four points. How they operate for me personally.

Right here, on this blog, and right now, after only one cup of morning tea, I am not prepared to do this. But I may make myself a second cup and grab my notebook to do some thinking off line…


Before passing judgement it’s a good idea to have a closer look at ones habit, values, skills and premisses used in judging. They are probably not very sound ones.

This is part 3 in a 5 part thinking exercise:

1. being in existence
2. being human
3. being judgemental
4. having values
5. having a brain
6. having a heart
7. being me
8. being perfectionist or just admitting you can’t count

pic credits: apples by Tibor Fazakas, taking a bit by Gary Scott

reasoning towards a meaningful life, part 2: Being Human

Feeling worthless for a long time now I’ve set up a reasoning to find my way to a meaningfull life. This is part 2, is there meaning to be found in BEING HUMAN?

pic by Gözde Otman

I’m a human. (Oh go on, let’s just assume so. Squabble squabble SNORE!)

Implications of being human are, amongst others, that I have a body, that I know other humans, that I have intellect, that I have feelings, that I’ve learned to make decisions, that I have language. All these things have consequences for how I value life and how I value my own life. I’ll look at some of them in detail in future parts (5: intellect; 6: feelings)

For now I want to focus on how being a human influences asserting value to something.

A human has a brain. This gives him the chance to predict the future, especially the consequences of his own actions while still in the stage of contemplating which action to take. His predictions colour the value he attaches to his array of possible actions. It may easily cripple his decision making, having him linger in indecisiveness.
This ability to think ahead also gives him an inkling of how his day is going to go, his week, his year. This yields expectations. Expectations are compared to the actual day/week/year. This is a danger zone, full of judgements and disappointment.

pic by Elvis Santana

A human has feelings. Feelings are a formidable force in life. They may give value and meaning to a life in a way that cannot be grasped by the brain.
Feelings give a human a connection to those that are affected by his actions and by his life/existence. This also makes the feedback he gets from those around him pretty powerful.
We should all be skilled in experiencing feelings, in not being afraid of them. Not feeling prompted to act upon them either. Just feel them. I suspect they attach value to a life…

A human is a group animal. This gives all kinds of intertwined messages and feelings on which we try to base standards with which we measure ourselves and others (more explored in part 4).
Apart from this, being a group animal gives us another non-rational set of standards to appoint meaning to our lives. We need interaction with other humans, we are biologically programmed that way. Each to her own degree (hello introverts, you are doing fine).
This means that having a good time with friends (or peers) has something to do with worth. I don’t have a clear idea how but that’s because I’m trying to understand all this with my brain. This is not a brain thing, this is biological thing. A valuable thing, making life meaningful.

A human is an eye-animal. This too is a biological thing. We lóve beauty. A nice pattern. Colours. Horizons, rainbows, patterned animals.

pic by Miguel Ugalde

I don’t know (yet) what this means for leading a valuable life. I just know it would be something a scientist researching us would notice.

A human is a playful animal. This too is in our bones. What does this mean for leading a meaningful life? I don’t know yet… It may just give a tool with which to handle living more easily.

There are other traits that go with human being. I’m sure they too have implications for how we value (our own) life. But these are the ones that came to mind instantly.

When determining how to value ones own life it is important to acknowledge our biological characteristics. Some of them invite to attach meaning without relying on intellectual values. For example: feeling good in the company of others or when enjoying a view or playing is good for you. Time spend with friends is time well spend. It is a valuable way of spending time in your life, even if it does not yield visible results.

Also: because you are human your system of standards is muddled. And illogical.

pic by Chris Greene, from Norway

This is part 2 in a 5 part exercise to reason myself out of leading a worthless life:

1. being in existence
2. being human
3. being judgemental
4. having values
5. having a brain
6. having a heart
7. being me
8. being perfectionist or just admitting you can’t count

the post where I admit how utterly worthless I know I am is this one

reasoning towards a meaningful life, part 1: Existing

So I tried to reason myself to the meaning of (my) life. Because I’m tired of feeling useless and worthless. Here we go.

this thinking will consists of 5 parts:
1. being in existence
2. being human
3. being judgemental
4. having values
5. having a brain
6. having a heart
7. being me
8. being perfectionist or just admitting you can’t count

Is there meaning to be found in being in existence?

I exist.
(let’s just assume this, okay? I really don’t have the patience for abstract squabbles about the definition of “I” or the merits of observation vs. truth or about the shortcomings of language. SNORE!)

Animals exist. Plants exist. Molecules exist. Mountains exist. I can look at their existence and extrapolate things I notice about the meaning of their existences onto mine.

pic by Sherrie Smith

When I look at the world, at life, as a whole I find that all and everything is of equal value.
I cannot value a human more than a bug on any other bias than that I am a human myself. (this makes that I dó value a human more than a bug but if I just step besides myself for a moment there’s no logical foundation to do so.)

When I look at life I see things just happening. Molecules collide, bacteria die, animals try and pass the day in a undisturbed slumber. There doesn’t seem to be a plan or a big goal in their lives. Nor intention. Nor malice. Things just happen. And if something else or someone else gets caught up in it then that is by chance.

Sex drives, young emerge.
Enzymes fiddle, critical mass is reached.

When looking through the eyes of scientists there’s a lot to be marveled over in this world. Physicists, Chemists, Biologists, Zooölogists. They give wonderful insight in the world around us. There is so much delicacy in systems and workings in the world around us. Robustness too! Amazing co-existences. Awesome adaptations. There’s a lot to be wondered!

pic by ilker

But a set of standards to value life is not to be found when examining existence.
Science gives knowledge and insights and a chance to build a wild house of cards in your mind. But it doesn’t say when a life is meaningful.

Any value or worth of (my) life can only be determined based on (me) being a human.

pic by Thad Zajdowicz