The Meaning of Life

Your innate curiosity brought you here.  Even though you’re probably skeptical, you still want to see if some stranger on the internet has finally found what you’re looking for: the meaning of life.  Well, read on and let yourself decide whether or not the following meets your requirements for an adequate and acceptable meaning.

The other night, a few friends and I were sitting around arguing passionately about politics, life, and all that goes with it.  This led my buddy Taylor to say, “I don’t know what my purpose is.  I feel as though I need to be contributing some greater good to the world, but I don’t know how I can do that.  If life is just about going to school, getting a degree, and then working and paying off debt until you retire or die, what’s the fucking point?”

And surely, we all have wondered what the reason for our own individual existence is.  We look at great people like Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, and Gandhi, and we see people who had a strong sense of why they were put on Earth.  Sadly, they are the rarities, the stars that shine brighter than others, and the reason is because they looked at the world and saw what a rotten place it could be. However, they did not merely look at a sick world and dismiss it as incurable.  No, with every calorie they could burn they mustered up an unwavering energy to shake people from their bubble of indifference and ignorance, telling them that we can find a cure to all our problems if only we avoid the trap of negativity and passionately work towards making Earth a better place to live and raise children.

By saying injustice or reprehensible behavior is just a part of human nature we in turn foster injustice and reprehensible behavior by accepting it rather than making the effort to prove true what we have said so proudly for so long: we are not animals.  If we honestly believe we are one evolutionary step above lions, bears, and the rest of ‘em, then we must walk the Homosapien walk.

The meaning of life is not to spend it following unjust and unnecessary rules of a society that for so long has profited from the same injustice and reprehensible behavior that so many consider an innate part of humanity.  It is not about following religious laws that were drawn up by men wearing prophet masks as a means to end the barbarism that was prevalent during humanity’s adolescence.  Instead, it is to find something you love, something you are good at, and use that skill to better the world.  That is the meaning of life because as far as we know, this life of ours might be the only one we get and to act in ways that make life harder for future generations is the greatest sin of all.  To spend it blindly and obediently following in the footsteps of all the dim stars that eventually burned out is an awful waste of a great opportunity.

If you live a life where you do not harm others, and instead help when you can.  If you strive towards making a positive impact on your community and your world, then you will have nothing to worry about if there is a God and an afterlife.  After all, if there is a God and it is worth worshiping, it will not be offended if you didn’t attend church or kneel before your bed at night with folded hands, begging for things you can easily obtain yourself if you just make the commitment and have a genuine desire to improve your life conditions.  So when people ask themselves, “What is the meaning of life?” you can confidently tell them it is not about being a good Christian or an obedient citizen, but a person who righteously resists and denies injustice and negativity in order to be a shining star that brightens Earth when it is dark.

written: Feb. 2009

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5 thoughts on “The Meaning of Life

  1. Reblogged this on Blog of The Imaginator and commented:
    This article has a great introduction which acted as a hook and reeled me in, bemused. I wasn’t expecting to find the meaning of life, but I wanted to know what this author’s perspective was.

    By the time I’d finished reading the article, I was reminded that I had meant to write something on the notion of altruism.

    Why are some people more altruistic than others? Some of the people which Joe refers to are examples of this; they felt so strongly that, dammit, something needed to be done and that they would be the ones to do something about it. They had the power, they did something, and were probably pleasantly surprised by just how many people responded positively to their efforts and asked if and how they could join in and help.

    Strength of feeling draws attention from people generally, and it can lead to the kind of actions which then draw the attention of the media. Once the media have shed light on it, and if the actions are interesting enough or carry on long enough to mean that the media then re-publish the story, then suddenly the story comes to the attention of a much wider audience and the likelihood of like-minded people seeing that story and wanting to become involved increases; this makes that initial act of altruism all the more poignant and out of the ordinary.

    What did these people imagine to be the meaning of their lives? Is altruism the meaning of all of our lives? Is our purpose, beyond sowing the seeds of our genetic selves, to leave the legacy of a better world for everybody to live in?

    If that is the case, then the most positive thing that I feel I could do for the world would be either to increase awareness within the world, in whatever measure, or perhaps to enable others to achieve their goals. I could be proud of that.

    Nevertheless, there are still two questions to answer here; what is altruism all about, and what is the meaning of life?

    Altruism is acting in the interest of others, without regard to the self. I believe that people are driven to this by strength of feeling, but is there an underlying evolutionary explanation for this strength of feeling? There might be after all. What if we consider that feelings come from an animal part of our brain, and are the result of a subconscious calculation of our circumstances as we perceive them with our limited senses. So be it. Then what has our subconscious calculated? If we save the life of a person in danger for example, on instinct, without thinking, then what is the purpose of that drive?

    Perhaps it is not down to one reason. It might be down to the animal brain recognising the human need to reciprocate as a societal norm of our species. It might be that we are simply driven to save as many of our species as we can, because we are wired to do so (unless self-preservation or nurture overrides this aspect of our nature). What of charity, of volunteering, of activism? Lives might not necessarily be in immediate danger, so why engage in these activities? Maybe those activities are rooted in the same biological feelings, after all, when engaging in these activities we are doing them because we want to, or tell ourselves that we have to. That strength of feeling overrides apathy or laziness, drives us to action. Perhaps it is simply that we are all individuals in this respect, and we all find different ways to provide benefit to others by some measure in our own fashion, in our own time; because we are part of a community and in the back of our minds we all want to do our bit to contribute to the great tribal group that is this planetary population.

    So we are individuals when it comes to altruism. What of the meaning of life? I propose that the meaning of life is individual to everybody as well. For Joe, it is about altruism, but for others, it might be as objective as continuing our line. There again, surely whatever meaning there is to our lives is what we bring to it ourselves? Why should we need others to consign meaning to our lives? People can bring meaning to our lives by way of context or purpose, yes, but I wouldn’t agree with the idea of somebody handing me a sealed envelope and saying “this is the meaning of your life, read it carefully and then go out into the world and make it happen” (although that might be interesting as an intellectual exercise). No, I think that life is what you make of it. Some of us have an easier start than others, and better chances in life than others in this world, but it still doesn’t change the fact that we are capable of giving meaning to our own lives as we see fit within the constraints or freedoms afforded by the circumstances we find ourselves in. When it comes to the meaning of life, it’s all in our heads anyway.

    1. Imaginator, thanks for the comment. You bring up a bunch of valid points, and being 4 years removed from when I wrote that piece, I’d like to add a little update hah. The meaning of life is always a subject one has to take with a grain of salt because you can make a case for it so many different ways. You can say the meaning of life is to procreate or to go on/continue in spite of death. That’s a very straight forward way of looking at it.

      However, when I think back to my frame of mind when I wrote this, I was noticing a lot of selfishly destructive behavior out of people. And it got me thinking about why there’s so much of it in the world and why other people can so easily do so much bad to each other. Then I noticed the rare examples of people who go in the completely opposite direction, the ones, who resist those negative energies with every ounce of their being no matter what hardships they must endure.

      So I concluded that the purpose of humanity–since it’s much easier to be selfish or allow negativity to exist–is to try and affect the world in a positive manner. Now this doesn’t mean you gotta get all Ghandi, but have the mindset not to harm others and to help when an opportunity presents itself. I’ve always believed that if you can positively affect one person you can positively affect the world because after all that one person you helped may end up being the next MLK or Mother Teresa or whoever did a whole lot good for the world.

      If you liked this piece, check out my post Limitlessly Limited. That’s a new piece of writing and it probably has some holes in it that some intelligent discussion via comments can flesh out.

  2. “By saying injustice or reprehensible behavior is just a part of human nature we in turn foster injustice and reprehensible behavior by accepting it rather than making the effort to prove true what we have said so proudly for so long.”

    I like how you point out this notion and how we are sometimes so quick to just say, “oh that’s the way things are,” instead of actively trying to change them or experience them for ourselves.

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