A Meaningful Life vs. Collecting Experiences

The above title seems a contradiction. Many would argue that living is collecting experiences, but I don’t believe that to be true. While some may collect experiences, I don’t necessarily think that’s what life is about. Experiences are certainly a part of life, and they should enrich it, or at least teach a lesson. But experiences aren’t trophies or material goods, they’re ephemeral, they’re here and they’re gone – collecting them is futile.

            First, a definition: collecting experiences refers to when a person merely does things to do them, to have done them, to say they’ve done them. That’s different from having an experience, savoring it, and learning from it. I’m not sure if social media gave birth to experience collecting, but I’m certain it made the practice worse. Essentially, to collect experiences is to miss the substance of the experience, the takeaway – it’s to blow past the lessons learned and move onto the next thing, but of course not before telling everyone what you did.

            Social media has made us a bunch of experience-seeking missiles – we barrel towards our target, hit it, and it’s over, we’re gone. I equate it to waiting your whole life to see a play at the famous Globe theatre, and leaving at intermission because you understood the basic idea of it. I’m not sure it’s an explicitly American thing to do, but it feels like it. To do things simply to say you did them, or simply to get photographs of it, is not the most enriching way to live a life.

            An experience, a real one, no matter the size, is something that can stick with you forever. That is, if you’re open to it. I’m not sure the kind of person to merely collect experiences is interested in things that live with you forever. I worry about the future of a world where our goals are so superficial. We want to be seen doing things, we want people to know we did something, we want to be impressive. The trouble with that is we’re seeking something impossible. You don’t merely become impressive or worldly by just doing things just to do them. Meaning, while seemingly out of fashion, is the core of experience. Why do something if it will mean nothing?

            To collect experiences is to merely do things, the equivalent of throwing paint at a canvas. It occasionally yields a good result, but there wasn’t much to it. I want to live in a world where people do what lights up their soul, not what will boost their Instagram “likes.” That’s sad, and that certainly isn’t living. Do things you really want to do, things that call to you. Have a passion, have a sense of purpose. Merely doing things to say you’ve done them is missing the point, you don’t learn much of anything. Ironically enough, those who collect experiences are the same people who love to brag and explain things they only tangentially understand. Go figure.

            Live to change, don’t live to post.

Published by Christopher Goodlof

Writer, Visual Artist, Musician

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