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At the age of ten life seems simple, it's all about running jumping and climbing trees. By eighteen you have discovered the opposite sex, alcohol and nightclubs. By twenty five you are your own person, confident and full of life. Suddenly you hit thirty. You find yourself questioning your choices from the years that have past, feeling slightly left on the shelf, wondering where your life is heading, juggling family and friends and faced with ever aging parents. You are not alone, welcome to 30 years and countinga sideways look at life in your thirties.

So just what is the meaning of life?

"There has to be more to life than this?" I asked my friend Bill the other day who in turned replied "No this is pretty much it". That then in two sentences is the world summed up. A desire to find more met by the realisation that there is nothing more. But is this true, is life really just an endless precession of repeating days played out to the tune of material desire? There has to be something more doesn't there? Let me explain.

What is the meaning of  life is a question which we all explore at some point in our lives. It is not a new question but rather one which greater thinkers than I have pondered over for centuries and still not reached a meaningful answer. Some people of course turn to religion for answers but personally I just think that is lazy. People are of course welcome to believe what they want but answering the question of the meaning of life by creating some sort of supernatural being to explain it seems like a cop out to me. It is however one which people are more comfortable accepting than the possibility that there is no big master plan and in truth our lives are just a meaningless fraction of second in the relentless march of time. We are born, we live, we dies, we rot. That's it. There is no meaning other than what we decide to do with the time that is given to us.

Of course the amount of time in question is somewhat of a lottery. Certainly eating well and exercising regularly can extend your life but it won't stop you getting hit by a bus crossing the road one morning or being struck by lightning or not seeing that other car at a junction as you pull out. Death can come at any time and when you least expect it. We all like to think that we will live to a ripe old age but in reality the odds are pretty much stacked against it. For example the odds of dying from heart disease are 1-in-5, cancer 1-in-7, a motor vehicle accident 1-in-100, a fatal fall 1-in-246, an accidental injury 1-in-36 and so on and so on. To put this in perspective the odds of bowling a perfect 300 game is 1-in-11,500, getting a hole in one in golf 1-in-5,000, that a first marriage will survive without separation or divorce for 15 years 1-in-1.3, striking it rich on the Antiques Roadshow 1-in-60,000. My point being that we are never really more than a stones throw away from death at any one time.

I actually have first hand experience of just how death can strike at any time. My Aunt was in her mid twenties, eat well, exercised regularly and seemed to all to be a picture of health. One night she went to bed and just died in her sleep. And the cause of it? There was no cause, she died of what is know as Sudden Death Syndrome which is a blanket medical term where the body just dies for no apparent reason. In children it is known commonly as Cot Death but the same thing can happen to you at anytime as an adult without any warning signs or apparent reason. Your body just drops dead. My point here in relaying this family tragedy is that even the simple act of going to sleep could be the last thing you do. Death does not just happen in dramatic circumstance such as motorway pileups or by peaceful means such as the elderly passing in their sleep in nursing homes.  It happens at anytime in any place. We often say that you should treat every day as your last but in reality it is pretty true and only a very few of us will die of natural causes in our old age. In conclusion our time on this planet is short, very short and can be snatched from us at a moments notice so what do we do with this little chance we get?

This is of course the question that has been resounding around my head for the past year or so. From what I can see life seems to go something like this for most people; Get up, get dressed, go to work to earn money, come home from work, eat dinner, spend the evening watching TV to see what we can buy with the money we have earned, go to bed, repeat for about forty years. Everyone I know hates their job, all my friends moan and complain about what they do for a living. I have never met anyone who gets up in the morning and rushes off to work with the excitement of a child running down stairs on Christmas morning. Instead everyone bitches and moans and curses the end of the weekend when they have to return to work. The only happy people I do know are the ones who don't work. If our time is so short and if any day in question could really be our last day on earth why do we waste it doing things we hate?

In truth we work to live but what exactly is living? For some people it is all about owning shiny stuff or saving it all up for a rainy day. You can't however take it with you though so I don't really see the point? No one throughout history is remember for all the shit they owned and instead people are remembered for the things they do or created. In fact most famous artists, novelists, composers and alike all lived very poor lives and only became recognised after their death. We are defined by the life we live not the crap we own or the size of the house you live in. Given the choice would you rather die surrounded by lots of friends who love you in a run down shack or alone in a huge mansion? I know what my choice would be and you don't get lots of  friends who love you by saving money or buying shiny stuff. You get them by going out, experiencing life, having adventures and being open to the world around you. Money is made round to go round as they say and is no use to you sat in a bank.

I have been rich (well kinda, earning above the national average at least) and it did nothing for me. I don't really care about having a nice house filled with lots of shiny things. In fact I really don't see the whole fascination in this country with owning a house. It is not the norm in many other countries around the world  and I can only figure that it is really a left over of the class system here in UK and a symbol of status. I mean really what is the point of sinking huge sums of money into bricks and mortar? You can't take it with you when you die, buying a house is the second most stressful thing you can do in your life (getting married is the first apparently) and to be honest wouldn't you rather people said of you after you died "wow what a life they had" rather than "well at least they had a nice house".

This of course might all sound a bit idealised but last year I went to Scotland and visited a tiny little community in the middle of nowhere. It had a pub, a post office, a little shop and a row of about ten houses. That was it, no HD televisions, no 50MB broadband, no IMAX cinemas, no nightclubs, no.....well you get the idea. In fact on the day we were leaving a new washing machine arrived for the local school by boat and half the village turned up to see it. The whole area was cut off, basic and simple but yet these were some of the most happy, out going, friendly and contented people I have ever met. Their lives were not about who owned what and where they lived but instead it was about community, about getting out and doing things, meeting new people and embracing them into their own community and family.

So what is the meaning of life? I don't have the exact answer but I am pretty sure there is more to it than having nice stuff and living in a big house. Think back to your childhood, think about your family and friends. I bet when you were at your happiest was not when you got a particular toy but rather an experience or an event, an afternoon on the beach, a sunny day playing on a swing, running through the park or some other such experience. Why is it we grow up and forget that? We become so concerned with what society says we can and can not do that we lose sight of the what is truly important and fun in our lives. We worry more about tomorrow than we do about today. Tomorrow might never come just like it was for my aunt but today is here and now so why not make the most of it. I could spend my life stuck in a job I hate and saving for stuff I don't really need but what is the point? There has to be more to it than this doesn't there?

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