What is the meaning of life?

Heard that one before? Of course you have; countless number of times. From people living and from people long since dead. From people you know in your lifetime to people who lived centuries ago. Philosophers, sages, writers, thinkers, poets, and many others have answered this eternal question in their own way. Some thoughts have appealed, and others have seemed banal, even ridiculous. In fact you might even say that this question by now has become absurd and redundant; indolent and pointless.

Or you might say that this is a foolish question, because quite obviously the meaning of life is
different for every single individual, shaped by each individual’s own circumstances. As it is also by one’s religious beliefs (or absence of any), the worldview of the society one is a part of, the level of education acquired (not purely in terms of formal education but more in terms of broader knowledge attained), and by still other influencing factors.

But surely all of us, at some point or another in our lives, have pondered on this question. Even at several points in our lives. And no doubt some if not many, periodically continue to give thought to what the ‘real’ meaning of life is, or should be. And I dare say that perhaps the majority of humans have even concluded that whatever it is, it does not matter, as the priority has to be to live it as well as one can.

Among those who have thought about it will be many who have reached a conclusion; decided on an answer they resolutely believe in. And based on this answer, they are shaping their lives, or trying to shape their lives accordingly. What can I say? Good luck to them. I have to admit here that it does pique me to learn some of the answers if people are willing to share these. I promise an objective consideration of all thoughts shared!

I imagine that you have already concluded at some stage in reading this post that I am going to burden you with my answer to this mundane question, and this is what the preceding paragraphs have been leading up to. Well, you know what? You are right! So here goes.

My thought on the meaning of life has its genesis in a categorical realization, or deep conviction if you will, that each one of us is immaterial on the one hand, and each one of us is part of a grand scheme of creation on the other hand. An obvious reality? A dichotomous assertion? Or perhaps just one of those things that perhaps most of us have as a thought somewhere at the back of our minds, and a thought which has never really been analyzed to any depth?

But if I accept this fundamental notion (as I do) and build on it, the first conclusion I reach is that no matter what level or form of success or fame (or disrepute!) one achieves, it amounts to very little if anything at all, in relation to the infinite time and distance dimensions of even our still limited knowledge of creation and of the universe. In short, I am not even a grain of sand on an endless beach which has existed forever. This is the zoomed-out, holistic truth.

Now zoom into the here and now, and suddenly I, the nobody really, become a piece of a giant jigsaw puzzle that represents life as we know to be right now, at this moment, existing to our utmost knowledge, only on one single celestial body called Planet Earth, which itself is like that grain of sand on an endless beach. This is what makes each of our lives remarkable. The very fact that here and now we exist. We are real. And whatever we do or don’t do has an impact on many others; fellow human beings and other life-forms. It also has an impact on our physical surroundings, on nature and the environment, and not least, on our future and the future of many others, and indeed on the future of our Planet and the future of life itself.

Accept all this and you are nearly at my answer to the question, what is the meaning of life?
Accept all this and I can see only 2 choices. Option 1 is to rationalize life to be an indeterminable period of time, which will end with the inevitable – death. And in this period focus all your endeavours on making your own existence as glorified as is possible. In other words, make your own life as secure and as comfortable and as much joy as possible; in terms of your definition of security and comfort and joy.
You can well say that this is exactly what we all do anyway, so what is the big deal?
The big deal is Option 2. Looking at the holistic zoomed out perspective (I am a nobody in the greater scheme of things, no matter what a big success I become by any criterion), while at the very same time looking at the zoomed-in perspective (I am here and now and while I want my existence to be deeply satisfying, what I do or don’t do has an impact on many other things).

Going for Option 2, the meaning of life for me is then that my existence is meaningless, even beyond a grain of sand on an endless beach, if I spend my allotted time on Planet Earth without utilizing whatever resources and assets I have (extra money, education, exposure, experience, specialist skills, contacts and connections, etc., etc.), to make even a little positive difference to my world, however limited or expansive it may be. Depending on each individual’s particular life-circumstances, the entire world may be a remote village which the individual seldom exits, or it may just be the home country which is never exited, or it may literally be the whole world if the individual has ‘been there, done there’ across the seas.

It doesn’t matter how large or complex your particular world is. Even if you are a hermit living a solitary life in a remote part of Tibet, with no contact with or impact on any other living human being, your existence is still making an impact on your natural environment.

So, at the end of the day, it is an insult to yourself more than anything else, if you live your life without appreciating (and doing something about it!) that while you work towards self-preservation and personal satisfaction, you also need to work, in the broadest sense, for the preservation, uplift and well-being of life itself in all its manifestations. That in short, is the meaning of life for me.

One Response to What is the meaning of life?

  1. Hunaid says:

    Bob, if it is appropriate, I would like to post this very short video –


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