The Meaning of Life

The Meaning of Life

What is best in life?

This question is one that Conan the Barbarian fans answer with supreme confidence, but philosophers can only hazard a guess. It is a hard question to answer, because the answer changes depending on the person. The best thing in life for one person may be Grandma's homemade cherry pie in front of a roaring fireplace as large, fluffy flakes of snow settle gently in white banks outside the windows. For another, it may be a drug-fueled rave orgy in a penthouse. But whatever a person may enjoy most in life, it is a passing moment; a temporary status to be experienced and remembered.

The fact that these moments are temporary weighs all the more heavily as you age. The fear of death is a terrifying force, and one that grips the heart when you see it coming your way. But this fear is also constructive - it gives us an imperative to be creative and to make an impact that lasts longer than our fleeting lives. In short, the fear of death gives us the need for a purpose - something more permanent and important than our mere selves.

A version of this permanence exists with the act of reproduction - we are biologically compelled to reproduce, and the result of coupling gives us a genetic legacy that continues until our progeny have no children. But on the flip side, this results in none of us being on this Earth intentionally. We are all here because of a biological act of reproduction between two people that resulted with you being born, thrust into a world not of your understanding. It is possible to be content with not understanding and to spend your days rutting and eating until you die, but it is no way to have a civilized society where quality of life is improved.

As you grew, you learned things about the world that surrounds you, to different degrees. Perhaps you took strongly to athletics, striving to be the best in a sport or to perfectly craft the body that you inhabit. Maybe science was your calling, and you poured through texts of some disciplines to learn the structural foundation of yourself and your world. It may be that art seized your attention, as your perception changed with works of exquisite craft and dedication. All of these paths can help improve the quality of life of yourself and your society, and none of these paths are wrong; after all, they end up in the same grave. But turning these paths into a purpose is a quest that not all are able to fulfill.

What is purpose? One way that it can be defined is through the Japanese concept of Ikigai - simplified, it is when you conflate what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. This will be something that changes for each individual person - it could be that you spend hours in the workshop crafting your knowledge of machinery to fix what needs to be fixed, or you might study a niche of fiscal theory that needs to be understood if your government is going to pass a stable budget. You may have your purpose set on when you were a toddler, or you may find it much later in life; the important part is that it gives you a goal to strive for instead of wallowing in a depressive state of anticipating your mortal oblivion. 

Assuming there is no grand divine scheme for our souls, our life is all we have. If that is true, then our life in this universe has no inherent purpose. We just happened to be one species out of many that happened to tame ourselves, and we are better off for it. Thankfully, that doesn't mean we are stuck without purpose - our purpose is something for us to find. There may be no meaning of life, but there can be a meaning for life. We just have to make it.

A Better Choice

A Better Choice

Greenlight the Red Light

Greenlight the Red Light