Here’s a beautiful story I stumbled on the social media:
An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.”
The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s needs. The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?” The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, takes siestas with my wife, Maria, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”
The American scoffed. “I have an MBA from Harvard, and I can help you,”’ he said. “You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, and eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middle-man, you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening up your own cannery. You could control the product, processing, and distribution,” he said. “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles, and eventually to New York, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But how long will this all take?” To which the American replied, “Oh, 15 to 20 years or so.” “But what then?” asked the Mexican.
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO, and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions!”
“Millions – then what?” the Mexican asked further.
The American said, “Then you could retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you could sleep late, fish aa little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play guitar with your amigos.” END OF STORY.
It can be gleaned, from the point-of-view of the Mexican fisherman, life’s meaning is simple (unless you want it to be complicated): “Working just enough and spending time with the people he loved most.” Life for the Mexican fisherman is NOT striving hard or chasing for the big things but simply living his dream.
Profoundly true, indeed. Because life’s meaning is simply living what we’re happy about. Because finding meaning in life is being content and happy with what we have in the present moment.
In sum, psychologists Frank Martela and Michael Steger (The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2016) define “meaning of life” according to three elements:
- Coherence: how events fit together, or understanding that things in life happen for a reason – and, for Christians, “according to the intelligent or coherent plan of God.”
- Purpose: the existence of goals and aims, or believing that we are alive in order to do something. From a Christian perspective, the overarching purpose is to “love and serve God and other people.”
- Significance: life’s inherent value, or the sense that life matters. Again, for us Christians, “life is significant because God loves us.”
And, let me add: Responsibility and Enjoyment (or satisfaction).
We, ourselves, alone are responsible for deciding what kind of life we want to live, and what makes a significant and worthy life goal.
Lastly, we can enjoy a deep sense of significance and satisfaction only when we have exercised our responsibility for self-determination and pursue our cherished life goal.
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