3 Possible Sources of the Meaning of Life – Proust (Part 2)

In continuation of last week’s post:

…In his novel “In Search of Lost Time,” Marcel Proust searches for the sources of true happiness. He explores wealth and love, but those pleasures fade. Finally, he discovers art and its capacity to restore life to new glory, taking pleasure in simple things. Using the lens of art, he finds appreciation in existence…

Let’s take a closer look at why money and love are not fulfilling sources of one’s happiness. I will use the terms happiness and fulfillment synonymously in this article.

Money has instrumental value, meaning that its worth is based on its usefulness. Money in itself does not bring us fulfillment. It is only the vessel to “happiness.” We can use money to buy luxuries like a convertible mustang or experiences like tickets to Outside Lands. And though we may be convinced the results of money bridges us to things that will make us happy, what would be without such a bridge? If the money bridge burns, are we forever separated from happiness? No.

Love has subjective value, meaning its worth is based on someone’s desire for it (e.g. watching the Michigan game, alcohol, or relationships). I grappled with this one for a while. What about romantic love with a soulmate? What about unconditional love between a mother and a child? Neither of these are the source of fulfillment? For this entry, I will focus on romantic relationships as they tend to evoke intense emotions thus more confusion in their fate on the road to fulfillment.

Love shared with another person is one of the most mysteriously incredible experiences we can have in a lifetime. Sometimes love works out. Sometimes love doesn’t. What if you realize that you and your partner have grown in different directions at different rates? Or that you two were only meant to be in each other’s lives for an isolated passing of time? What if you recognize the relationship is not healthy? You are presented with a choice: to stay in the relationship or to end it.

If you stay, nothing will change. Fine, stay in your comfort zone. Is this fair to you or your partner? To be stalling each other’s fulfillment and perpetually faking contentment? By the way, your comfort zone isn’t necessarily a safe place.

If you end it, life will change. Brace yourself. You are beginning a journey of self exploration, a journey to fulfillment by taking this first step of courage. Trust that you have the capacity to make decisions that are good for you. Does breaking up with someone mean that you are breaking up with your happiness? No, but you may feel sadness for some time after. Hey, welcome to territory outside of your comfort zone. 

For anyone who is doubting their relationship, I beg of you to evaluate your happiness and whether or not it is being compromised. You owe it to yourself to be treated with respect. Since mustering the courage to begin my own journey, I have felt an overwhelming feeling of fullness…Why? 

Courage and creativity have a complementary relationship with each other. Here is where art fulfills its role.

Art has intrinsic value, meaning that its worth is based on its inherently virtuous properties. Seeing intrinsic value in the everyday allows for a new perspective through the lens of childlike eyes. This inspires an undertone of excitement as you rediscover the everyday as a child does. Though painful it is to watch your money wasted or to tell someone you love that you need to separate for each other’s soundness, you control your perspective on this pain. Is this the end of the world or a catalyst for profound personal growth? Cry about it, welcome the feeling of pain as it scrapes the walls of your heart with blades of a knife. If you don’t welcome it, well, it’s coming anyway. Then take a moment to realize, you’d never thought about the inside walls of your heart until such pain had you? Look closely at those walls! Hang up some photos of all the people who have been here, maybe string some lights. Use a creative lens to see how beautiful it is. This is art allowing you to see the depth of emotion as a discovery within yourself. Money and love are great, but substantial meaning of either can only be found through art.

In conclusion, we return to Proust’s conception of happiness. While you are no longer driving that convertible mustang or no longer in love with that person, you saw those as road signs on your way to happiness. You will find fulfillment in recognizing your own strength and creativity, surely leaning into family/friends along the way – seeing how important that they are to you (thank you to Tiana, Lily, and Mom, my soundboards for this post and to Casey for introducing me to Proust). Ultimately, you will find fulfillment in altering your perspective on existence as an entity comprised of challenges. Once you are courageous AND creative enough to face them, life becomes astounding.


Welcome to my thoughts. This is how I sound. https://soundcloud.com/jennabaz

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