Is it TV and Shopping? Or was the geeky professor of quantum physics right when he told my church that the meaning of life is actually "Friendship" and "Creativity"?
When I first heard Dr. Casey Blood succinctly summarize the answer to life's big question, I knew he was on to something. But in the ensuing years I've come to realize that friendship and creativity aren't just the meaning of life, they're the core of all human joy and struggle.
We're put on this planet to learn how to connect with each other and to use our talents to create something wonderful. Our deepest desire is to be cherished on this Earth and to make a contribution that outlasts our stay on it. Yet our darkest fear is that it won't happen in the way that we want it to.
While friendship and creativity may seem like relatively simple things, the full conceptual context of their meaning is actually huge.
True friendship isn't just mindless water cooler chatter; it 's about love, acceptance and unconditional support. And creativity isn't limited to the annoying mime artist pestering you at the street fair; it's the core of any meaningful contribution.
Whether you're a painter, publicist or parent, your life's work is your legacy and every single task provides you with an opportunity to create. And whether you do it with your hands, your mind or your heart, creativity ultimately expands when you have help.
Yet that's where the conflict comes in.
Our biggest perceived challenge in accomplishing our life's work is all those other crazy humans out there trying to do same thing. They plague us with their unrelenting demands, they don't love us the way we'd like, and they insist on bringing their own quirks and ideas into every situation.
Ahh, if only they would see things our way, then we could really make things right.
Who hasn't found themselves thinking, "This project would go quicker if so and so weren't involved"? I can't tell you how many times I've been convinced our household would run more smoothly if only my husband would adhere to my edicts!
Alas, such is the nature of the human ego. Our souls want to be part of something bigger than our selves, but our ego keeps telling us that all those other people are standing in our way.
Enter the cheap, no-work, pop culture solutions: TV and shopping. We can create, we can connect and we don't have to put up with real people.
Want to experience the satisfaction of pulling together something fabulous? Forget toiling over a community garden or cranking out a multi-department project. One click of the mouse and you can surround yourself with artsy furniture or fabulous footwear today.
Craving some witty repartee? Ditch your family with their boring woes. Get TIVO and the "Friends" down at the coffee shop re-run 24/7. Invest in a big screen and Jennifer Aniston is nearly life-size (or as life-size as a size 2 ever gets).
The beauty and the curse of television is that it satisfies our desire for intimacy with no emotional work or responsibility on our part. And consumerism feeds off our need for creative outlet.
I'm no Earth Mother. I've got a closet full of shoes and I can recite the words to every "Brady Bunch" episode since Mike and Carol got married. But I also know that the meaning we crave can't be found in pop culture solutions.
Discovering your true purpose isn't always easy. It takes intention and discipline to turn away from the quick fixes being marketed to the masses. And it takes patience to make an emotional investment in the people around you.
But TV and shopping aren't cheap substitutes for the real thing. They're expensive ones, and you deserve the real deal.
Friendship and Creativity. It's really that simple. And it's really that hard.
Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of "Forget Perfect" and "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear.