The meaning of life isn’t to be happy, it’s…

It’s a much bigger landscape than happiness.

And the road to it starts with connection.

In general, I don’t like posting pictures of myself, and the idea of actually posting this picture seemed ridiculous… until I realised that this was not attention-seeking or self-promotional or sensationalising.

It’s just me, being me. A man in nature. At peace.

Connected and clear and calm.

Connection is not just about you and other people.

Connection is about how you relate to yourself, the larger world, and a sense of purpose — something outside yourself and immediate vicinity.

Last week, I drove out to the red rock desert with my partner.

We shared some awestruck moments overlooking the big, big earth laid bare … and me, laid bare, too (photo above).

With or without clothes (who cares, really?), this is simply me in a place that makes me feel clear and grounded and energised to come back to “the real world” and do good work.

In years past, I totally rolled my eyes at people being “one with nature”, especially when they felt compelled to proclaim it.

It has taken me a long time to love the desert.

And though I grew up among towering fir trees and icy mountain lakes and breathtaking peaks, I’m only recently feeling deeply, profoundly integrated into what Mary Oliver calls “the family of things.”

I count that as growth, expansion, inclusion, progress.

If you want to feel connected, you have to belong to yourself, to have a place in the family of things, and to look outside yourself for a place to give your gift.

The meaning of life is not to be happy.

The meaning of life is to belong.

Photo credit: @syannawand

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  • Gerhard L. Düwer

    That’s what we all need, to belong … belong to the family of things. This was new to me. Thanks

  • Jen

    Was this the epiphany that was referenced in your podcast!? I’ve been anxious to know what the “mind-melting experience” was!

  • Stephanie Anne

    I love this idea of belonging. Also appreciate the growth in changing your own POV over time. Simple, elegant, astute. Thanks

  • Patricia

    I love this it is so true

  • Squatchy

    “Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life. An individual human existence should be like a river — small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.”
    -Bertrand Russell

    • Dallas Hartwig

      Looks like you’ve been reading Brain Pickings recently, too. 😉

  • Diana Lang

    It’s lovely for you to find that within yourself Dallas. Women have been living this reality for millennia. Connection is what allows life itself to continue. Welcome to the tribe lol xx

  • Jean Hornung-Starr

    Having been born into a family as the tenth child, I always felt connected to something bigger, the family, my church, and thanks to a wonderful woman who led 42 Girl Scouts troops, Mary Jane Garske, (since deceased) to nature. I have a plaque on my patio that says: Lose yourself in nature and find peace. We never walk alone.

  • Helga

    I love the idea of belonging but sadly I feel that true belonging has eluded me all my life. I have spent countless hours with my therapist talking about this, my sacred wound, feeling that I don’t belong. I know I can “fit in” with any group, as people usually think I am interesting or intelligent, and I’ve discovered that a) I am an introvert and b) I developed several tools to feel like I “fit in” which, for me, looked as belonging. I unconsciously discovered that people like talking about themselves, so I tend to ask questions about themselves, which serves a couple of purposes: I feel like I fit in (not to long I thought it meant I belonged) and I refract attention from myself by asking questions about others, which makes me feel less awkward about not belonging.

    It’s been complicated for me, but my therapist has been really helpful and creating an online space has given me the opportunity of being myself and feeling more comfortable with the idea of not belonging, and not feeling like I am “too much” or “too little” of something or the other around people. Realizing I am an introvert has allowed me to say no to several social commitments that made me feel so alone and so aware that I didn’t belong. I now feel comfortable not engaging in things that make me scream inside my head how much I want to go home. I now start to feel I belong to myself and my little family.

    Perhaps I just need perspective, not just mental, but actual physical perspective, to make that connection. To feel that connection. To feel the belonging.

    Great picture, and it was great reading you Dallas

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