Chapter 1, Task 1
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Task 32 – Meaning is the meaning of life

Task 32

Meaning is life

The Camera Cure - task 32
I study the children exploring the world with the camera. If no one liked the pictures, they would still be full of meaning for me. I stood here a good distance away in order to make the children appear small in the potent nature. So far they have been to four continents and have sailed over/through three seas. I hope that the experiences and challenges this gives them will make them extra resilient when they have to manage on their own.
Dominica, 2013. Photo: Torkil Færø



The question ‘what is the meaning of life?’ is actually a trick one. The answer to it is concealed in the question. It is meaning that is the meaning of life. The Japanese speak about ‘ikigai’ – the meaningful thing that gets you up and out of bed in the morning. It is crucial for life. If we lack meaning, we get sick. Our vitality is depleted if we go without doing something meaning- ful for too long. Finding our meaning in life is also important for others. We become easier to be around. We get a surplus of energy and thus have more to give.

Have you put in words what the meaning of life is for you? Start small. Think about what you like to do. What fills you with enthusiasm; the measuring unit of meaningfulness. Do more of that! Think about what you like to do, and do what you like so it becomes a habit.

In addition to not doing what they like, many have a tendency to do what they don’t like. Doing things that seem meaningless takes a toll on our health and surroundings. Many say «you can’t just to as you please!» Yes, often you can as long as it doesn’t occur at the expense of others. Your happiness and development are something your surroundings also benefit from.

Who around you do what they like? And who don’t? What effect does this have on the people around them?

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More meaning

My father was hospitalized with jaundice. I received a number of text messages as we were sailing along the paradise islands on the Panama coast. My family’s four-year-long sailing trip around the world came to a sudden halt. We packed our bags and 48 hours later we landed in Norway. Then we watched the gradual disappearing of my father for three months.

The sailing trip around the world, and the preparations, had been the meaning of my life for several years. Now that I was left high and dry, everything seemed meaningless. Just like several times before, I had to find a new meaning in life. And I found it – working with photo- graphy as medicine for coping with life.

Before my father died, I was hungry for seeing the world, understanding it, and exploring it by taking pictures. Afterwards I was more focused on helping others to become better photographers and, as a consequence of that, improve their health and coping skills. It felt even more meaningful to me.

As photographers we naturally search for meaningful images. We are attracted to subjects, situations and surroundings that is inherently interesting to us. When we are running on empty, getting bored with what we have in front of us, we instinctively move on to something hopefully more meaningful. When we feel enthusiasm rise inside us, we stay and produce more images. If we are happy about the pictures on the screen, we decide to go back or con- tinue the project. Sometimes we get bored with our pictures. That is part of the process. To find what is meaningful, we also have to touch the meaningless and move away from it.

Remember this: What you accomplish with a 30% effort on a meaningless activity doesn’t say anything about what you are capable of doing when you are busy doing what you love and can give everything to it.


The best photographers take pictures of what they spend their time on without a camera. What gives you the most meaning? What do you really want to do above all else? Can you take pictures of it?

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BOOK SUGGESTION: Ikigai by Héctor Garcia

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away

Pablo Picasso

A meaningful life can be extremely satisfying even in the midst of hardship, whereas a meaningless life is a terrible ordeal no matter how comfortable it is

Yuval Noah Harari

Life is so short that many people only have time to do the most unnecessary.

Ferdinand Finne