meaning.

“It’s called “life,” John. Activities available; just add meaning.”  From A Beautiful Mind

I’ve been spending the last week subbing at the high school I graduated from and I am currently working in an AP Psychology class. One of the benefits (or disadvantages) of subbing is watching the same 50 minutes of a movie 6 times in a row. Since it is a psychology class, it is appropriate that the students watch the incredible movie “A Beautiful Mind”. This movie follows the story of a brilliant man, John Nash, and his battle with Schizophrenia. Sitting through the first 100 minutes of this movie several times now has allowed me to pick up on small moments and lines that wouldn’t have been significant during a first viewing. One scene that I didn’t necessarily pay attention to the first few times struck me while repeatedly listening to the lines that became increasingly familiar throughout the day.

This scene occurs towards the middle of the movie after John has been diagnosed with Schizophrenia and is out of his first round at the mental hospital. He sits at the kitchen table playing with one of his baby son’s toys while his wife, Alicia, puts away the food and dishes from dinner. One of John’s main struggles is that he cannot continue his work in mathematics because of two main reasons: one being that it was all a conspiracy theory in his mind and another because the medicine he takes starts to dull his mind. John did not know how to spend his moments without incorporating what he was gifted at- solving equations. He has to learn how to find meaning in other ways because his ability to carry out his passion was unwillingly stripped from him in this moment. John asks Alicia what he should do with his time and she replied,It’s called “life,” John. Activities available; just add meaning.” He then proceeded to take out the trash.

Alicia’s words got me thinking, how do I make meaning out of activities that I may not be passionate about? How do we tangibly make the ordinary meaningful? I believe this can be done in an infinite amount of ways, it just takes some effort on our part. And as I began to ponder what ordinary moments I can derive meaning from, I realized they abounded, it was just whether or not I decided to recognize them. From the head nod of the student who finally understood a question on a work sheet to having a conversation with a new friend about our love for a traditional Ethiopian meal, I realized that these are the moments that matter. These are the kinds of moments that remind me that what I do and what I say affects other people, therefore they are meaningful. From donating clothes to taking out the trash to choosing where to buy our food, it is the culmination of these moments that we can choose to make matter if we choose to do it with intentionality. Life is a rhythm of activities, some we have the privilege of choosing and some that are bestowed upon us because we’re human and live in a flawed world. And it is what we choose to do with these activities that matters. We can choose to complain, scoff, and dismiss the little moments we may or may not want or we can choose to make meaning from them in whatever form that works.

I invite you to start making meaning from the daily activities, to embrace the natural rhythm and understand that moments deserve intentionality and purpose.

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