Whether we realize it or not, most of us are on a quest to find meaning. We begin to realize it as we get older. The things we care about begin to change. We no longer care to be in the middle of everything that goes on. We no longer care about the latest and greatest. We just want depth. We want substance. We want things with meaning and things that matter. And we want to experience those things with other people.
Meaningful things are harder to find these days. I grew up in a time when we had far fewer options, about everything. There were fewer people that you knew. Social media didn’t allow you to connect (albeit in a very shallow manner) with thousands of people. You were stuck with the people you encountered during your daily routine.
There were far fewer entertainment options. You could go to a local sporting event. You could find a place to fish. There were kids in the community to play with, so basketball and wiffle ball games were common. The local cinema showed one movie at a time; you could find a twin cinema if you were willing to drive a bit. But that was about it.
Your shopping choices were limited to local stores or a periodic trip out-of-town. Your learning was limited to news, to the books in your local library, or to magazine subscriptions.
Your understanding of the world was limited to television shows, pictures in books or magazines, or family vacations.
But, despite our limited options, things seemed more meaningful because you were connected to the tangible world. You learned about the world because you read about it in a book that you held in your hands, whose pages you turned, and whose cover you smelled. Your entertainment involved other people that you saw and heard, people that you looked in the eye, people that you laughed with and that got on your nerves, people that you saw day after day and with whom you built connections.
There was no digital world to live in. You could withdraw, but you still had to withdraw to the tangible world, a world of sights, sounds, smells, and other people. Withdrawing in those days was harder and much less fun that it is today. Today one can withdraw and live in a digital world of their own creation, one with the people, the idea, and the entertainments of their choosing. Anything can be virtually had. And that’s a bad thing.
It’s bad because we are not made to live digitally. We are tangible creatures made to live in a tangible world in relationship with other tangible creatures. It’s in our wiring to see, smell, touch, and experience nature and our fellow man. Those are the things that provide meaning to our souls. Living in isolation creates a loneliness that causes severe damage. Living in the digital realm does the same, because it simply masks the isolation without remedying the loneliness.
So get outside. Research is pretty clear at this point that nature makes us happier and more at peace. Walk in the woods and look at the trees and grasses that grow there. Figure out what they are. See their shape and their patterns. Touch them. Smell them. Better yet, bring some friends.
Talk a walk down a city block. Feel the sun on your face. Feel the wind at your back. Notice the designs on the buildings. Think about the work that someone put into it. Think about the craftsman who spent a day, a week, or a month cutting the stone, pouring his heart and soul into getting it just right. Appreciate the beauty that was created by someone’s hands.
Write a note to someone. Don’t use a computer. Get a piece of paper, stationery is even better, and write a note to someone by hand. Write it in cursive. Sign your name to it.
Call your friends regularly. Don’t text them all the time. Let them hear your voice and listen to theirs. Texting is more convenient for you both – and far less meaningful. Talking is a relationship builder; texting . . . not so much.
Make friendships a priority. Get together with friends regularly. Insist on it. Schedule it or it won’t happen. It is better for your children if you miss a few ballgames or performances because you’re spending time with other men. Your relationships with other men will make you a better man, husband, and father. Attending 100% of your child’s events will not. Yeah, I know you hate to miss their events. Me too. So don’t miss many. But don’t let your children stand in the way of having good friendships. That’s not best for your family. If it’s been a few weeks since you did something with your friend(s), it’s been too long. Call right now and schedule a time for coffee, drinks, a workout, fishing, shooting, a work project, or even watching their kid’s ballgame. Do things together.
Schedule down time and social time. You need both. Make time to be away from other people, time where you’re simply alone with your thoughts and reflections. These are the times the form your self-concept and where you get to know yourself. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted. Make regular solitude a part of your schedule.
Drive the back road. Notice the beauty. Find novelty in the mundane. The digital age was supposed to slow things down for us. Instead, it has sped everything up. It has put a premium on efficiency. Efficiency is great, but it is a poor master. Our souls were not made to find the fastest, easiest, and most convenient way to do everything. Take your time. Breathe deep. Refuse to allow life to speed you up.
I’m not suggesting an avoidance of technology, but we must make it our servant instead of our master. We cannot go with the flow, because the flow will lead us into a digital existence where our connections to our world and each other are superficial at best. Use technology to create income, to spread a message, to shed light on worthy information and events, then put it away. Live your life in the real world with real people. That’s where you’ll find meaning.
We’ve tried the digital life. It leads to isolation, anxiety, depression, radicalization, racial/political/religious divides, mass shootings, and suicide. We need to find meaning. Stop arguing with people on social media about politics. Get outside with your friends and neighbors and do something productive. You’ll be a happier man, and the world will be a better place. This is the man’s life.
Because men everywhere need encouragement and direction, our message needs to be spread far and wide. I’d really appreciate it if you’d use the buttons below to share this article on social media. Together, we can help men find a better life experience. When men thrive, families and communities thrive. I hope you’ll join me. Godspeed.