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Life Lessons? No, They Don’t Exist, Out There.


No, you did not read that wrong. Yes, I may be out of my mind. Before you move on to find something interesting to waste your time online, let me explain. What comes to your mind when you think of a life lesson? An incident, big or small, that has had such an impact on you that you now have a new perspective on something. But what if I told you that the event had nothing to do with you changing your perspective? What if I told you it was the dramatic storyteller in you that made you view things differently?

Let me tell you a story. A few years back, I had a buddy who had a very difficult time making up her mind. Even for things as trivial as coffee, she waited for the stars to align. She always wanted a sign. She was an amazing storyteller and an even greater poet. She had this drive in her to make every event that happened around her into a story. She had to make sense of everything. So whenever someone asks her about why she does a certain thing the way she does it, she will probably have a story to tell. She believed that everything happened for a reason.

Was she right? Does everything around you make sense? For her it does. If she believes that, it is true for her. I don't believe in that, and thus it does not hold true for me. Truth is a very subjective matter and we all have our truths. What we make of the world around us, what we see around us, what we choose to believe are all our truths. It may not be the same for the person standing right next to you or the person who might stand at the same spot right after you.

How does this all negate the existence of life lessons you ask? It's all in your mind, your psyche, to be specific. When you see an event (from here on we would use the term “event” to represent the life-altering incident) there are a lot of emotions that go through your mind. When the said event poses a contradiction to your existing belief system, that's where a “life lesson” happens. A fight happens. Your psyche and the newfound piece of information. You search your best to find explanations as to why you have your existing beliefs. You have to work hard because you have to explain your stance to your worst enemy, yourself. If you win this argument the event would be as insignificant as those software license agreements that you have said yes to. But, if you are unable to explain yourself, if your stand seems weak and you accept the information that was knocking on your door, voila! You just had a life lesson.

What about art? Doesn't it have the capacity to give you a proper life lesson? It does. But as one of the greatest literary theorist and philosophers of recent times, Roland Barthes, in his essay ‘ The Death of the Author’, wrote;

“... linguistically, the author is never anything more than the man who writes, just as I is no more than the man who says I…”

It means that it is the reader that give meaning to a text. The text, which can be a movie, story, poetry or whatever other form of art, is just a string of words or frames in a certain order. Its meaning is what you perceive.

All this was a life lesson for me. One of the best I've had. You might be wondering what the event was. I was quietly having my coffee while I overheard a guy motivating his friend. He used all these examples that seemed mundane to me. It was just everyday stuff. It got me thinking, are the things that motivate some of us so mundane to others? Aren't they? It's all about how you view things, how you perceive and understand what happens around you. You might disagree, you might have a different truth, a different view on all this, and that's the beauty of human existence, its open to interpretation.