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Download the Meaning of Life? Yeah Right...

Bestselling author Jane Owen's take on modern spirituality, whether you can find the meaning of life on the Internet and where she finds her purpose.


Let’s start with a question. Can you remember what it was like before you were born? No? Me neither and I suspect that that’s exactly what it’s like when you’re dead. And before anyone starts banging on about having been reincarnated, I’ll rephrase the question. Can you remember what it was like in between being Cleopatra and Elizabeth I? Of course you can’t, even it were true. Oh come on, we’ve all been to a ‘Come as You Were Party’ only to find that there are 13 Cleopatras, more Elizabeth Is than you can shake a stick at and no end of Sun Kings, Attila the Huns, Napoleons etc. Haven’t we?


When asked to write on the subject of spirituality I realised I didn’t really, truly understand the word properly. In fact, I had to Google it. According to Wikipedia it’s ‘a process of personal transformation, either in accordance with traditional religious ideals, or, increasingly, oriented on subjective experience and psychological growth independently of any specific religious context.’ Well that explains everything. Not.


I Googled it some more, until my head started to spin and the only spirit I wanted was a large gin with tonic. From dictionary definitions to religious beliefs via séances and crystals and back again, and no two definitions agreed with each other. No wonder everyone’s so confused and shouty. Constantly struggling to ‘rise above the mundane’ or ‘find the light within’ and why? Because we’re desperate to explain what happens after we die. If there were a God, this would be His or Her joke. We are the only animal that has this obsession with an afterlife; most animals are too busy trying to stay alive to worry about what’s going to happen when they’re dead. I doubt very much that the giraffe that roam the plains of Africa, for example, spend much time worrying about whether they’re going to heaven or not. I doubt your average mouse is trying to find the light within, I suspect it’s more concerned with staying away from the cat.


Not only did I find definitions, I found books, downloads, videos and pictures of rainbow-coloured fractals with allegedly life-enhancing slogans. And there’s another thing I find baffling about this incessant search for spirituality: Surely you can’t learn it from a book? I was once a member of a book club that imploded spectacularly because of my refusal to take the book ‘Shantaram’ seriously as anything other than a doorstop. They’d already made me read ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Enough was enough already with the middle class bull crap!


And then there’s personal experience: I know a woman who insists she’s spiritual who’s actually spent most of her adult life, and most of her trust fund, just sitting cross-legged in India trying to think of nothing, deliberately trying to empty her mind. I, on the other hand, am constantly trying to fill my mind with literature and art and and words and images and music. I mean, why on earth would you want an empty mind, even if such a thing were possible? And how does having an empty mind make you more spiritual than the rest of us? Answers on a postcard…


I know another woman who paid a large sum of money to attend a ‘school for psychics’ and graduated with a genuine certificate of spirituality. Or was it spiritualism? Who knows? Who cares?


But on the subject of spiritualism – really? You want to talk to the dead? Again, assuming it were all true, have you not seen enough horror movies to know that that never really ends well? Another friend paid another small fortunate to train as a medium and now earns a living talking to the dead on behalf of the living. I can never quite work out if she’s in on the scam or is in fact being scammed herself.


Of course by now you, dear reader, are probably getting slightly bored by all this random talk of spirituality. To be honest, I’m boring myself. It comes down to this: The word spiritual comes from the Latin for breath. So, if you’re breathing, you’re spiritual. There you go – you’re welcome. Visualisation will not help you win the lottery, guardian angels are about as likely as unicorns and if you’re in a tunnel heading for the light then you’re probably about to get hit by an oncoming train,


But before you dismiss me as a soulless old bat and declare me unsafe to be left alone with small children or kittens, let me tell you about a November evening last year. It had a been a cold, clear day with no wind and barely a cloud and I took the dog down to the beach. There we witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. The colours were simply glorious, the very air itself seemed to turn pink, the shingle glimmered with gold and orange and the pink light bounced and shimmied on the water. It was breathtaking. I found myself skipping and laughing out loud and spinning around with my arms outstretched at the sheer joy of being right there, right at that moment. And breathe…..

About the Writer

Jane Owen is best known as the author of Camden Girls, the international cult bestseller set in the era of Brit Pop. Her latest novel, Caballo, is fast, funny, a tiny bit dark and now available as an e-book. She's a keen horsewoman and lives with her fiancée on the South Downs.


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