I have a question for you.
Who are you when you are naked?
Forget everything you own. Forget your home, your car, your clothes. Forget your computer, your iPad and your TV. Forget your work title and your paycheck and everything you buy with it.
Get naked, really, truly naked.
Now, who are you?
Making a living or making a life?
I’ve been thinking about meaning a lot lately. This morning I was having a conversation on Twitter about the difference between “making a living” and “making a life”.
I see making a living as pure survival. You take that job because it pays the rent, not because it’s something you believe in or that suits your values. It’s getting the paycheck to buy things to fill the emptiness left in you after spending 40 hours a week doing something valueless.
When you’re making a life, you’re working with purpose, either because you use your money towards a meaningful goal, or because what you do, in itself, is purposeful. When you’re making a life, you get up every morning with a sense that your day will have value, will make a difference.
What are you doing right now? Are you making a living, or making a life?
Imagine that you had enough money to keep a roof over your head, to eat decently (but not luxuriously) and enough clothes to keep you warm throughout the year (but nothing fancy). You have a bed, and a table, and maybe a couch. No computer, no television, no car, maybe a landline phone or a cheap pay-as-you-go cell phone. You can answer to your basic living needs without hardship, but you have no luxuries.
Maybe you work to get this money, or maybe you don’t. But you don’t have enough of it to get more than what you already have. You can’t expand, but you can maintain.
Where do you find value now? How do you give meaning to your life? Does your personal meaning derive from the things you own (in which case you can hardly imagine your life in this state) or can you easily imagine happiness in a maintenance diet?
Sometimes we surround ourselves with things because we’re afraid of the vulnerability of nakedness. Our beautiful clothes hide the fact that we hate our bodies. Our obsession with expensive things covers our feelings of worthlessness. Our quest for status masks our lack of purpose.
Let us go back to my first question, then: when divested of all your things, who are you?