Edit Desk: I know the meaning of life, not satire


I believe the meaning of life is to radically love others.

That’s an opinion for you, right?

This doesn’t require religion or spirituality, but it’s easy to start there — “love thy neighbor.”

Radical love can sound scary. Does it mean you have to radically love every person you run into? The mailman? The random sophomore who sits behind you in class? Your middle school arch nemesis?

Well, kind of, actually. 

But you can start small. Maybe it’s just small acts of showing that you know someone  — as they say, to be loved is to be considered. 

Maybe it’s writing your friend a note to wish them luck on an exam or engaging with your professors when they tell you about their personal lives. 

And selfishly, pouring into relationships doesn’t just benefit the other party. 

Harvard’s Grant Study, the longest study on human happiness in history, followed a group of men for 86 years and found that “warmth of relationships throughout life has the greatest positive impact on life satisfaction. Put differently, Vaillant says the study shows: Happiness is love. Full stop.’”

So then, by the transitive property, the warmth of relationships equals happiness, equals love, equals the meaning of life. Are you still following?

Trust me, I understand the naivety I’m displaying. I’m 22 years old, entering the “real world” with a “the world is my oyster” mindset. I barely know how a 401K works yet. Who am I kidding?

As the Taylor Swift lyric goes, “how can a person know everything at 18, but nothing at 22?” As I brace for my commencement ceremony in two weeks, I feel that pretty heavily.

But I think I’m at the very least on the right track. Loving others radically and unconditionally with understanding and forgiveness helps forge empathy and mutual respect.

Loving others without standing to gain anything from them can be daunting. As humans, we’re always looking out for our own best interests. 

Author Gloria Jean Watkins, known by her pen name, bell hooks, said “The practice of love offers no place of safety. We risk loss, hurt, pain. We risk being acted upon by forces outside of our control.” 

Speaking for myself, I’m always searching for a sense of control. There’s something dangerous about putting yourself on the line, in full vulnerability. 

And hooks also says, “I want there to be a place in the world where people can engage in one another’s differences in a way that is redemptive, full of hope and possibility. Not in this ‘In order to love you, I must make you something else.’ That’s what domination is all about, that in order to be close to you, I must possess you, remake and recast you.”

This is the hard part. It’s pretty easy to show love to the people you get along with, admire or even just agree with. It’s not as easy to show understanding for people when we don’t  align with them.

The past few weeks, I have felt love on full display with my college friends. We’ve reminisced about entering college when we had to spit into a plastic tube every week and take our classes on 100-person zoom calls. We’ve spent every waking moment together, embracing as we realized we were in a “last” moment. We’ve made our bucket lists to check off every last thing we haven’t gotten around to doing over the past four years — namely visiting the Bethlehem Star and naming sandwiches at The Goose.

It’s easy to feel this type of love with people we’ve forged meaningful relationships with in our four quick years. We’ve all shared the discomfort and growing pains of being away from all we’ve ever known — and also thrown into it in the middle of a global pandemic.

But I’d urge you, and myself, to think about showing love to the people it’s less apparent to. The people you have nothing to gain from. And I’ll have to thank my parents for this teaching (thanks, Mom and Dad.)

The fact that meaningful relationships are the key to a happy life probably seems obvious, and the studies corroborate these findings. But how often are we making the conscious effort to invest in meaningful relationships and to show others radical love? 

I sure don’t have the science down myself, but college is a Petri dish-level experiment in investing in meaningful relationships. Make the choice to discover the most unlikely friendships you can. Show radical love to others just because you can. 

It might just make your own life happier too.

Comment policy

Comments posted to The Brown and White website are reviewed by a moderator before being approved. Incendiary speech or harassing language, including comments targeted at individuals, may be deemed unacceptable and not published. Spam and other soliciting will also be declined.

The Brown and White also reserves the right to not publish entirely anonymous comments.

Leave A Reply