Tag Archives: meaning of life

What The English Patient reminded me about life…and death

11 Jun

I’ve just finished watching The English Patient and am a blubbering mess. I’m not talking a tiny tear gliding down my cheek. No, I was wailing. Howling. I believe ‘Why do people have to diiiiiiiie?,’ was what I sobbed as the credits rolled.

Three hours earlier, I was happy. Rain was lashing the windows as wind whipped around the cabin. Glass of wine in hand, I thought a romantic movie was just the ticket for a long afternoon in front of the fire.

Of course, I knew that a movie about the war was bound to involve death. But it wasn’t the senseless deaths that disturbed me. It was when the little nurse (played by Juliette Binoche) broke down, wondering why everyone who ever loved her died. Thinking she was a bad omen.

It was when the nurse filled the syringe with half a dozen doses of morphine and cried as she realised what she was about to do. Release a man to meet his lover.

Even then, I was simply sniffing.

But then the nurse read the poem Kristin’s character had written:

“We die. We die rich with lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we’ve entered and swum up like rivers. Fears we’ve hidden in – like this wretched cave. I want all this marked on my body. Where the real countries are. Not boundaries drawn on maps with the names of powerful men. I know you’ll come carry me out to the Palace of Winds. That’s what I’ve wanted: to walk in such a place with you. With friends, on an earth without maps.”

And then I wailed. Heaved with tears and sadness. It was a sweet sentiment, sure, but how I hate to be reminded of death!

I know we all have to die and farewell our friends, our loves, life. But how I wish we could live forever.

Then again…Ralph’s character was ready to meet his death. He had heard his lover’s final words. There was nothing left for him in this world. He wished to be free from his body, so he could walk with her in the Palace of Winds. Eternally.

So perhaps that’s the meaning of life. To find meaning. To find a reason to live…and then a reason to die.

When we’ve given our all, when we’ve poured out our heart, life awaits somewhere else. Of course, some of us don’t have the chance to prepare. Life is whisked away and our loved ones are left behind to make sense of it all. So all we can do is leave our mark on each day and, when we head off to bed, know that we gave that day our best shot.

Now excuse me while I top up my glass of red and switch on The Hangover. I need a giggle!

The pursuit of happiness continues…

2 Mar

This post continues on from part 1 of my Happiness & Its Causes musings…

As the Happiness & Its Causes conference rolled on, a common theme seemed to emerge: The time is now for our nations, and all of us living within them, to focus on wellbeing as a measure of our prosperity.

Mark Williamson, the director of Action for Happiness (a movement which began in the UK in April 2011 and already has 20,000+ members) said, ‘We’re getting richer, but we’re not any happier. We are obsessed with our wealth and not our wellbeing.’

Did you know that in the UK, the Prime Minister is driving a shift from thinking about wealth to focusing on wellbeing? In fact, the UK is apparently now leading the pack in the way it measures its citizens’ levels of happiness. There is a focus on GWB (General Well Being), not just GDP. How wonderful is that! And it’s not all fluff – it’s finally the realisation that happiness equals prosperity, which equals growth. Happy people are happy workers. Happy workers are more productive. Thus, the nation flourishes.

As Mark spoke, a series of posters flashed up on the screen. One that stood out to me was, ‘The meaning of life is a life of meaning.’ I love that! My meaning in this life is to live a life that is meaningful. 

Dr Seligman would later ask in a panel discussion, ‘Imagine your grandchildren are writing your obituary. What would they say about how you contributed to this world?’ This is how you find your meaning. Live according to your meaning, your mission, and you will be happy by default.


Another theme that today’s experts all seemed to agree on was the old adage that your thoughts become who you are. You become what you think about. Change your thoughts and you can change your life. Yes, it’s something which is sprouted by self-help gurus across the world. But there’s a reason for that – it is so darn true!

In the panel discussion, Langer said, ‘If you believe something will happen, you set yourself up to achieve it. You will grasp the things that will help you reach that goal and avoid things that will prevent it from happening.’ She cited study after study that showed that when you shift your mindset, you can influence your health. One such study involved a group of chambermaids who didn’t believe that, despite the fact they moved about all day changing beds etc, they did any actual exercise. You would think that people who bend and clean and lift and generally move about all day would be healthier than sedentary people. Not so! However, once these chambermaids were asked to believe that their work was exercise, they lost weight, lowered their blood pressure and even looked younger! That, my friends, is the power of the mind. Change your mind, change your life!

Half an hour for each speaker really hasn’t been long enough to really dip deep into the happiness field. But I hope my posts have helped you think about happiness and wellbeing in a new way, the same way the conference has shifted my thinking. Google the speakers I’ve mentioned, and you’ll find a wealth of information on how to be happier and live your life with love, zest and meaning.

If there’s one thing that has stirred me today, it’s this (and this is my own interpretation):

Forget trying to ‘be happy’. Instead, live with love, integrity, humility, gratitude and always, ALWAYS, help the person next to you. Happiness comes from helping. And that is how we can heal the world.

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