Reading, Writing and the Meaning of Life

In the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Arthur Dent, the last human, searches the universe for the meaning of life. 


Most of us don’t have to go that far. Reading transports us across time and space and connects us to people we’ll probably never meet who can help us find our own answers. Stories provide alternate scenarios that we can use to change our lives.

Writer Kezia Willingham was raised in poverty in a family disrupted by domestic violence. “No one at school intervened when I was growing up poor, ashamed, and sure that my existence was a mistake,” she says. I turned to books for escape. In all reality, they probably saved my life. I could open a book and transport to a different time and place. I could find people who felt big feelings and dreamed big dreams and thought of big things, which I wasn’t able to openly do in the “real” world.

I want the kids out there who grew up like me, to know they have futures ahead of them. I want them to know they are smart, even if they may not meet state academic standards. I want them to know that they are just as good and valuable as any other human who happens to be born into more privileged circumstances. Because they are. And there are so damn many messages telling them otherwise.”

Reading can help you find your purpose and so can writing. Authors and poets find purpose through exploring their own lives. They draw on their experiences facing obstacles and discovering strengths.

Emily Esfahani Smith, author of the Power of Meaning, draws on psychology, philosophy and literature to reveal the human experience. “When we know why we are the way we are we can find meaning in a world full of suffering. Creating a narrative gives us clarity on our own lives, how to understand ourselves, and gives us a framework that goes beyond the day-to-day and basically helps us make sense of our experiences.”

Children need the support of everyone to face the challenges of growing up. Our community is full of individuals who reach out to fill those needs. Each year Children’s Reading Alliance volunteers deliver 10,000 books to children throughout Dona Ana County. Many of these children have never owned a book and in some cases, this is the first book the family has ever owned.  Concerned citizens provide reading support to struggling readers by volunteering as mentors in the schools. First Teacher/Primer Maestro classes for parents provide families with the information and support they need to create literacy rich environments at home.


In the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur Dent learns that the people who ordered Earth already have the answer to the meaning of life, and that answer is: 42; an answer that Adams insists is a joke. Writers and readers ask and answer questions that have plagued humans from the beginning and their impact on life can be profound.