What is meaning? And why do we need it? Can we live without meaning? Is meaning or the understanding of it possible? Is it necessary? Is it individual? Or might meaning hold a shared consciousness working for the greater good of all?

I was watching “Somebody Feed Phil” on Netflix. This is a food documentary show that follows television producer Phil Rosenthal around the world as he eats. Well, it goes a bit deeper than just him eating, it actually shows how connectivity works with food as the connecting device. I had been skipping over this show on my Netflix feed because I’ve seen so many food shows, and frankly, I’d been in a buy a new home phase, so home shows were trumping food shows, at least in my television world.

The first episode preview was Venice, Italy, so I had to watch as I’m officially obsessed with that country. Forty-five minutes into the episode and Phil goes to visit with Chef Massimo Bottura and wife Lara Gilmore, known most famously for their restaurant Osteria Francescana, considered one of the best, if not the best restaurant in the world, and then for their non-profit Food for Soul, which feeds individuals living on the street in Venice. This is the part that caught my ear.

Food for Soul feeds the homeless. But not only does it feed these individuals, it endeavors to create continuity and to foster a sense of community.

Cut to the inside of the hall where the food is served and it’s a virtual museum, filled with beautiful artwork on the walls, not to mention that the building itself is an architectural work of art. I know that’s a lot of art in one place, which is why I think I suddenly discovered my face was wet with tears. You know the kind where you didn’t realize you were crying for like a minute or so? Yeah, those tears. So not only are these nameless individuals, put into a category called “Homeless People” being fed, it’s in a space fit for a King or Queen, depending. I can only think that if Mother Teresa, the God Mother of caring for the most destitute among us, had had a rating system for being of service, Food for Soul would be a 5 Star Mother Teresa establishment. Put that in your Michelin Guide and smoke it.

Dignity among people. And as the tears streamed down my face, I thought about my mascara. No, I’m kidding, I actually found myself asking this question of myself, “Am I doing enough?” Honest. Raw. Heartfelt question for me. Am I living up to my potential now? Or is there more I’m to do?

And then the deeper questions began to surface for me, “Is there meaning to my life? To my existence? To my work?” And if I’m to answer this question honestly, well, there’s room for growth. There’s a jump from where I am to where I envision myself and my creative potential. But something is telling me in this moment, the meaning piece, or part, has to be defined. And for some strange, unanswered, and undiscovered reason, I find tremendous meaning in Italy. Or in this case, watching a show taking place in and about Italy.

It’s semi-bizarre. I don’t fully understand it. But again, there I was crying over parmesan reggiano. I suppose when I boil it down, to use a cooking term, a beautiful environment nourishes, and yes, actually fuels my soul. That’s how I feel in Italy – fed. But not just my stomach, my whole being. And this show was highlighting how in Italy the richness is overflowing, feeding the souls of all men and women including those living on the street, without homes. But are they really? Definitely not at Soul Kitchen.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the label “homeless” because I think it oversimplifies a very complex human challenge we have, caring for ourselves and for one another. Part of how I care for myself is by first recognizing that I have a need to feed my soul, and once again I’m back at the space called “Meaning” on my Monopoly Board of Life. And when I’m caring for myself, I can care for others from my own overflow of well-being. That definitely seems to be what’s happening at Soul Kitchen, a model worth repeating.

So circling back to meaning. Who am I? And what the hell am I doing with my life? Is this question a special one asked by special people? Or maybe we all ask it? Is there meaning to my life? My quick answer is, “God I hope so!” I really do.

I definitely want to leave the world a better place than I found it. And whatever I can do to that end brings a great deal of meaning to my life. Purpose is another word, but I like meaning because it asks us all innately to look, search, explore, and to try to answer this question, “What is the meaning of my life?”

If you had to write the definition of your life in the dictionary, what would it say? “Barry:  Meaning: Writer.”  Well, okay, too simple. “Barry: Meaning: writer, lover of people, believes in humankind, faithful servant to his higher power. Do gooder. Explorer, learner, and most definitely a lover.”

I don’t know if this definition is exactly right, but I’m thinking about it. What brings meaning to my life? How do I want to define the meaning of my life? And am I living that meaning, or do I have a ways to go? Something tells me we’re all writing our definitions on the daily, and it’s a lifelong journey. What’s your definition of meaning for yourself? And how do you create more of it in your life? I think this next sip of my morning coffee is going to clarify it all for me. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always that next trip to Italy in the wings. Nothing like some homemade pasta, exquisite art, and breathtaking landscapes to inspire meaning and the soul. Shall we?

Barry Alden Clark has coached thousands of individuals in connecting more deeply with their hearts, their life purpose, and helped create a pathway for these folks to move forward in a direction more aligned with who they truly are. He & his creative partner Eliza Swords are currently delivering uplifting content on social media every Wednesday via “Best Day Ever with Barry and Eliza”, a Facebook and You-Tube phenomenon reaching thousands of people around the world. They are also inspiring love and joy through creating heartfelt and entertaining content via their production company Pure Honey Ink. Currently they have projects in development for social media, film, television and publishing. You can reach Barry at www.barryaldenclark.com.

Image courtesy of Jeremy Bishop.