The Personal Website of Mark W. Dawson

Containing His Articles, Observations, Thoughts, Meanderings,
and some would say Wisdom (and some would say not).

The Meaning of My Life

Philosophers, theologians, scientists, moralists, ethicists, artists, and many others have pondered the question of the meaning of life for many millennia. Nobody has been able to provide a definitive answer to this question, and there may be no definitive answer to this question, as each person has a different answer to the meaning of life. A more pertinent and personal question is, what is the meaning of your life? Many people answer this question by responding either that their work, their family, or their friends provide meaning to their life, and often a combination of these three as the meaning for their life. While work, family, and/or friends are often sufficient for the meaning of life for most people, some people need and require a more meaningful life. Many of these people often become involved in volunteer efforts or hobbies to achieve more meaning in their life. And many times, these combinations of the meaning of life change throughout a person’s life. At the end of our lives, the meaning of our lives crystalizes as we approach death. Having watched my parents and my in-laws on their deathbeds, I can attest that it was their family that meant the most to them. Having become old myself, as I am now past seventy years of age, I have been reflecting on the meaning of my life. This article, therefore, is a short journal of the meaning of my life.

I decided very early in my adult life that I would live a moral and ethical life, that I would be honest and truthful with all, and that I would treat each person politely and respectfully. I also decided that I would approach all that I did in an intellectual and analytical manner, as I believed that this was the best means to resolve any issues, concerns, or problems that I encountered in life. Rationality and Reasoning were to become a foundation for all that I did, as this would assist me in controlling the negative emotions of my character. These negative emotions—mainly anger and obstinance—had been a hindrance in my adolescence. Humility and tactfulness came to me much later in my life after my egotism and tactlessness became a hindrance to the advancement of my career. As I am naturally an introverted person, my interpersonal skills were not very evolved, and I had difficulty relating to others. Through conscientious efforts to improve my interpersonal skills, I was able to overcome this deficiency and become more conscientiously extroverted. While I initially had difficulty in achieving these goals, I soon discovered that the more I practiced them, the easier they became. By my mid-thirties, I had established these parameters of my life, and upon reflection later in life, I realized that these characteristics added to the meaning of my life.

From my late teens to my mid-twenties, the meaning of my life was bound up in my work, my volunteer efforts at the Franklin Institute, and my Amateur Astronomy and Classical Music hobbies. In these volunteer activities and hobbies, I have touched the lives of many persons (especially youngsters) in a positive manner. My family life was relegated to the occasional gatherings we had (weddings, funerals, and occasional family reunions) while my friends came and went as my life changed. In my late twenties through my mid-fifties, my life’s meaning became my work, my wife and daughter, and my dogs and cats. From my mid-fifties onward, it was my work until I retired, my wife, a few good friends, and the writing of the knowledge and wisdom I have obtained in my life, which I have done so on this personal website.

As to my work, I would relate some of the accomplishments that have provided me with the satisfaction that my work has made a difference to the companies I have worked for, my co-workers, and my clients. As I started out in my career as a Mainframe (Big Iron) Computer Operator, I have always attempted to be the best computer operator on staff and to improve the efficiency of the computer operations departments that I have labored under. When I moved on from Computer Operations to become a Computer Programming support technician, I developed a software configuration management system before there was even the field of software configuration management in the development of computer systems. During this development, I also learned the new computer technology of Data Base Management Systems. When promoted to a Computer Programmer position, I learned the new technology of structure systems computer programming. I had become so proficient in these technologies that in my next job, I was promoted in six weeks from a Maintenance Programmer to a Super-Programmer responsible for the most difficult programming assignments in the computer programming department for which I worked. Many months later, I was promoted to the lead software designer and developer of a computer system that, as far as anybody knew, had never been attempted in the information technology field. Nobody was even sure that this effort would be successful. Indeed, many thought that it would not work, but they thought that if it was successful, it would provide great benefits to the company. Consequently, the effort was undertaken. Even the database vendor who we were utilizing for the effort did not know if this could succeed. This computer system was for the Automated Database creation and population of their tape data files, and the automated business user retrieval and reporting of this database information. This system was also utilized for the creation or importation of data when the company sold or purchased Lines-of-Businesses. After a year of design and development effort, we were successful, and we spent another year improving this computer system.

After leaving this company, I went to work on classified government computer systems as a civilian contractor. As such, I am unable to say much of what I accomplished as these computer systems were and are still classified. I can relate that on two of these systems, in which I was a principal leader and main contributor to a team of contractors, we were successful in accomplishing our goals. Many persons involved in this effort thought it was not technically feasible, or the results of the computer processing would be of insufficient accuracy to be useful, but that it was important enough to try to accomplish. The success of these efforts led to thousands of armed service personnel lives being saved in combat and many tens of thousands of armed service personnel avoiding injury in combat. This reduction in the number of armed service personnel casualties has provided much personal satisfaction and meaning to my life.

After leaving this classified employment, I briefly became a pet sitter to clear my mind. This brief interlude in my career provided much satisfaction and meaning to my life as I was responsible for the care and feeding of pets when their owners were at work, engaged in business travel, or were on vacation. However, it did not provide the intellectual satisfaction that I needed, and, therefore, I became an independent computer consultant for the self-employed and small businesses in my residential locality.

As an independent computer consultant, I was not only involved in the technical aspect of my client’s computers, but I also provided guidance and assistance in the implementation and training of computers in the operation of their business. As computers in the operation of small businesses were fairly recent, this assistance was vital for the health and continued operation of their business. I forged and maintained a personal relationship with the owners and employees of these clients, and I still maintained contact but engaged in no work with these clients after I retired. Knowing that I made a difference for these clients has provided more meaning to my life.

I am in the process of writing the “Stories from an Examined Professional Life” that provides more interesting, perceptive, and often humorous stories about my professional life, which I hope to complete in the near future.

In my personal life, my marriage and the raising of my daughter have provided meaning to my life, along with my readings on American History and the Formal Sciences & Natural Sciences. Marriage often changes a person, as you must learn how to live together and make compromises living together. The raising of children is both humbling and frustrating. In both marriage and children, you learn that your personal life is not central to the meaning of your life. Other lives are just and sometimes more important than your own life. By being able to provide the necessities and comforts of life for your spouse and children, you enrich and gain more meaning in your life. Providing a quality education for my daughter and a domestic environment where she could flourish was immensely satisfying to the meaning of my life. This love and caring for your spouse and children are something that will be the most meaningful to your life at the end of your life. The adoption, raising, and caring for my dogs and cats also made my personal life more meaningful, and their deaths have taught me the importance of giving and receiving love. I shall always carry this love to and from them to my dying days.

I did, however, become more involved in my parents' and in-laws’ lives, which enriched my life and provided more meaning to my life. Caring for them at the end of their lives awoke in me the importance of an extended family to the meaning of my life. Their memory and contributions to my life are a treasure that I can cherish until the day I die. During this time, I had little time to obtain friendships, except sporadically, which detracted from the long-term meaning of my life. Only later in this period of my life did I obtain and retain friendships that persist to this day.

At the end of my work life and during my retirement, the meaning of my life shifted. Along with my wife and daughter and my friends, I read extensively on the Social Sciences and continued with my readings on American History and the Formal Sciences & Natural Sciences. I decided that to add to the meaning of my life, I should write about the knowledge I have gained in my life, the experiences of my life, and the wisdom I have gained in life. I do this in the hope that my wife and daughter will better understand my life, as well as impart my knowledge and wisdom to them and others to enrich their lives. I may not reach a wide audience, but if I reach even one person and help them to better their life, it will add meaning to my life. Consequently, my life has had meaning to myself and others which I can carry with me to my death. As such, I have lived a life of meaning.

I would, therefore, encourage my readers to examine the meaning of their life so that they can live a more fulfilling life and meet their end with the satisfaction that they have lived a life of meaning.