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Old 01-03-2006, 03:09 PM   #1
Barry Cooper
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This falls squarely in the mental training category. I post on a couple of different sites, and chose this one because I feel like I'll get honest answers.

Question: what does meaningful activity feel like? Does it feel different from non-meaningful activity, at the time (i.e. versus years afterward)?

Obviously, meaning is specific to the individual. I'm curious what people have to say. Not directly relevant to CrossFit, but hopefully folks will humor me. I think it's a good question.
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Old 01-03-2006, 04:17 PM   #2
Graham Hayes
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Tiring, but not in a mundane way.
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Old 01-03-2006, 06:12 PM   #3
David Wood
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Uh . . . define "meaningful"?
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Old 01-03-2006, 10:01 PM   #4
Eugene R. Allen
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Meaning - ful in Barry's application here appears to be a priori as regards the clarity with which it is applied. Certainly he is asking what sensory input distinguishes activity which has meaning for the actor from that which does not. It is not the action itself that is at the heart of this issue but rather the method by which this action is to be evaluated that we must review.

Worth, value, that which is good is not necessarily that which you enjoy or that which makes you happy. Meaningful in the Barry sense has a larger Big T Truth consideration in that it needs to comport with and contribute to the greater good in a larger sense than simply that which pleases the actor.

I don't view entertainment (TV, movies, video games) as a meaningful activity for example because it does not have any sort of lasting developmental good but is rather something that does little more than pass the time and uselessly occupy the mind. Those things that sharpen the mind, strengthen the body, energize the soul and rejuvinate the spirit I will call meaningful. Although I would not go so far as to say those things that do not satisfy this set of requirements are a waste of time, they are not, in my view meaningful.

Socrates let us know that the unexamined life is not worth living. If you read Dan Millman's book "The Way of the Peaceful Warrior" perhaps you remember the part where Socrates (a different one) had Dan sit on a rock until he came up with something meaningful. It took him a few tries but eventually he came up with "There are no ordinary moments." Examine your life, put meaning into everything you do and then all your activity will be meaningful and thus not require this secondary examination.
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Old 01-03-2006, 10:28 PM   #5
Russ Greene
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Well said, Eugene. The Way of the Peaceful Warrior is an excellent book. I would add to what you said that it is beneficial to learn to enjoy the painful but meaningful things as opposed to merely performing them as a means to an end. We tend to get more out of that which we enjoy rather than tolerate.
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Old 01-04-2006, 06:25 AM   #6
Tony Young
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Meaning is what you bring to an activity. Anything can be meaningful (or meaningless) if done with thought and, dare I say it, a spiritual consideration. If action is helpful or "meaningful" to others it's because of the focus those others bring to it. Even entertainment can be meaningful if it's infused by the actor with thoughtfulness and purpose. Some things may be more obviously and easily realized as "meaningful" - saving a life, writing a great book, producing anything profound - but can also be rendered meaningless if not realized on a spiritual level.

To answer your question, Barry, ...I'm not sure what it feels like. I know it feels different, meaningful from meaningless, but how each feels I'm at a loss to describe. As hard as could I try I'm certainly not at the level that I can infuse meaning into everyting I do. Occasionally, I'll notice meaning in a past action that at the time I considered meaningless.

Too much thinking, too early. Great question.
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Old 01-04-2006, 11:09 AM   #7
Barry Cooper
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I had intended to post this one for some time. The other one just occurred to me. I'm actually not being more philosophical than usual, just being publicly what I usually am privately.

All of us need, on some level, to answer the question "what is worth doing?". I would never say one answer is better than another, up to a point (what Hitler did, for example, was definitely not worth doing; I call that relative relativism).

I'm just thinking, if I'm doing work which is essentially meaningless, to me, but supporting kids financially, which is meaningful, then logically the work itself is meaningful, but it doesn't feel that way. Does that matter, or is it irrelevant?

I think about the troops on D-Day. They likely felt like they were doing something meaningful. It seems likely that some of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan feel like they are doing meaningful work, and some don't. Does the "meaning content" of the work there depend on the ultimate outcome, or does it depend on what we are TRYING to do, the spirit we are bringing to the task? [Note: I'm not trying to comment politically; the question would apply regardless of political beliefs]. Can activity be meaningful even if it does not achieve its' goal?

It may sound like I'm taking counsel from my fears. I'm not. I'm just trying to answer some basic questions for myself, and I've learned that putting these types of questions out in the open, in public forums, frequently helps me answer them.

I know this is a fitness website, but I feel like there are some good, decent people here, of a high intellectual caliber, and we all face the same demons, whether we acknowlege them or not.

I liked that "there are no ordinary moments." I'm not sure, at this point, how to put meaning into everything I do, though.

I guess one thing I try and do is grow a little personally every day.

I've just been in a strange mood for a couple of days. I'm not depressed, just perhaps unusually reflective. I apologize if these posts are a bit TOO far off the beaten path.
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Old 01-04-2006, 12:44 PM   #8
Douglas Chapman
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Fran gives you all the meaning you need! :proud:
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Old 01-04-2006, 04:29 PM   #9
Eric Moffit
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i love this stuff.

first of all, as i was reading through the posts (especially Eugene's), i realized meaningful activities are usually ones that are largely valued on a reasonable level (in contrast to sensual). for example, the soldier on D-Day knows Hitler is a bad man doing bad things, that the invasion is part of the plan to stop him, and that he plays a small though essential part in it (like voting in a democracy). now contrast that to someone doing drugs...he does them to feel a certain way and the only reasoning involved is 'if i put this inside me, i have this feeling.' the action is directed by the pleasure principle, whereas the soldier's action seems to be directed by something far greater than the pleasure principle...actually, now that i think about it, maybe there is a bit of the pleasure principle involved with the soldier. not sensual pleasure, but something deeper. almost like Socrates (or was it Plato) who said everyone desires happiness though some dont know the way or get caught up in 'smaller' happinesses.

anyway, i think meaningfullness is based heavily on reason.
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Old 01-04-2006, 05:34 PM   #10
Hollis Petri
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Great stuff
Some of my favorite moments are running in the woods all alone when i remember to be in the moment enjoying the 'now' and not thinking about how quickly I'm running or anything else. That seems meaningful to me though I'm not doing anything for the greater good. Is that meaningful? On the other end is the saying below which I have up on my wall:

George Bernard Shaw - A Splendid Torch
This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no "brief candle" for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.


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