Pondered by scholar’s and laymen since the beginning of the thinking man – There exists the age-old question “What is the meaning of life?” This may be the biggest question one could ever ask, that has the simplest answer.
How could a person discover their true purpose and meaning for life?
The meaning of life?
The answer; Look within.
Science searches for answers by examining the tiniest particles of life under a microscope. Religion scours ancient allegorical scriptures from thousands of years ago to uncover mystical knowledge in hopes for a Godly life.
The truth is that there will never be an overarching answer to the meaning of life which satisfies all, because our individual lives are so intrinsically different. I do believe, that if anyone is interested in religion, physics, chemistry, or microbiology, the best thing they can do for themselves and the rest of humanity is to follow that interest with as much zeal as their curiosity would allow.
However, I don’t believe you’ll find many satisfactory answers looking through a telescope or microscope, observing bird migration, or counting the rings on fallen trees if you want to understand people and life look no further than yourself.
You are a person, you are, you are just as a part of the natural world as, dolphins, sunflowers and shooting-stars, and you are a part of the natural world.
And the most important question you will ever ask is, “What do I love to do simply because I love doing it?” Within that question is the driving force of your life and all living things.
“The purpose of life is a life of purpose” – Robert Byrne
To wonder about the meaning of life is an extremely important activity, life does have substantial meaning – and there are, in fact, a range of practical steps we can take to ensure we end up leading lives of maximal meaningfulness.
Nothing will get you out of bed like doing what you love, and nothing makes you forget time like doing what you love, and nothing leaves you keen for more living than doing what you love. There is absolutely nothing more important than to find and do what I love to do.
The worst thing one can think is that for some reason your joy and enthusiasm aren’t that important, that being interested isn’t important, being happy isn’t important. You might as well believe life isn’t important.
That’s a belief that will kill you, or at least drain all the life out of living.
One does not have to know why being happy and interested matters more than anything else.
Do what you love
It doesn’t matter what you love to do, as long as you love doing it. Do it, and you are smack in the middle of the meaning of life, though you may not realise because you will be too busy enjoying yourself.
We should start by saying that there is no meaning in life outside of that which we can find by ourselves as a species. There isn’t any kind of objective meaning written in the stars, in a holy book or in sequences of DNA.
“But what if I’m unhappy?”
What seems to prompt people to complain that life lacks meaning are particular varieties of unhappiness. Let’s consider some central examples:
You’re in a relationship, but the intensity you experienced at the start has long gone. You don’t seem to talk about anything important any more or share vulnerable feelings and ideas. It feels, as you put it, ‘meaningless’. Or else you’re single and, though you have many friends, every time you see them, the conversation seems shallow and trivial.
Maybe you are at university studying for a degree and signed up for the course in part because you often feel confused about who you are and what you want.
You thought that reading books and going to lectures would shine a light on things, but the topics are dull and disconnected from your confusion. You complain it feels meaningless.
You’re working in a large profitable company and earning a decent sum every week, but the work doesn’t seem, in the grander scheme, important.
By which you mean two things: that you don’t seem to be making any great difference to anyone’s life and also that there’s no profound part of you that you’re able to bring to, or incorporate in, your work. It might as well be done by a robot.
Meaning is to be found in three activities in particular: Communication, Understanding and Service.
Let’s look at communication first.
We are, by nature, isolated creatures and it appears that some of our most meaningful moments are to do with instances of connection: with a lover, for example, when we reveal our intimate physical and psychological selves, or when we form friendships where substantial truths about our respective lives can be shared.
Or on a journey to a new country, when we strike up a conversation with a stranger and feel a thrilling sense of victory over linguistic and cultural barriers. Or when we are touched by books, songs, and films that put their fingers on emotions that are deeply our own but that we had never witnessed externalised so clearly or beautifully before.
Then there’s the meaning that emerges from understanding.
This is about the pleasure that can be felt whenever we correct confusion and bewilderment about ourselves or the world. We might be scientific researchers, or economists, poets or patients in psychotherapy; the pleasure of our activities stems from a common ability to map and make sense of what was once painfully unfamiliar and strange.
Thirdly, there’s service.
One of the most meaningful things we can do is to serve other people, to try to improve their lives, either by alleviating sources of suffering or else by generating new sources of pleasure.
So we might be working as cardiac surgeons and aware every day of the meaning of our jobs or else be in a company that’s making a modest but real difference to people’s lives by helping them get a better night’s sleep, finding their keys or thrilling them aesthetically with elegant furniture or harmonious tunes. Or else our service might be to friends or our own families, or perhaps the earth itself.
We’re often told to think of ourselves as inherently selfish. But some of the most meaningful moments come when we transcend our egos and put ourselves at the service of others – or the planet.
One should add that in order for service to feel meaningful, it has to be in synch with our native, sincere interests. Not everyone will find medicine or social work, ballet or graphic design meaningful. It’s a case of knowing enough about ourselves to find our particular path to service.
3 pillars of meaning
The meaning of life is to pursue human flourishing through communication, understanding and service.
In order to have meaningful lives, we can also see that certain things will need to be in play.
We need to have relationships with others: not necessarily romantic ones, but connections of some kind where the important things are shared. It might, of course, be relationships with books or songs.
We also need to have a culture conducive to fostering an understanding of oneself and the world.
The enemies of this include being surrounded by mass media that throws out chaotic information or an academic environment that promotes dead, sterile investigations.
And lastly we need to have good work, which means a world filled with businesses and organisations geared towards not just profit, but the assistance and genuine improvement of human kind.
In addition, we need to help people to discover their own particular inner ‘tune’ that they can put into their work, so that people aren’t just serving per se, but serving in a way that taps into their heartfelt interests.
To build a more meaningful world, we have to place the emphasis on emotional education, on community, on a culture of introspection and on a more honest kind of capitalism.
We may not have meaningful lives yet, but it’s central to affirm that the concept of a meaningful life is eminently plausible – and that it comprises elements that can be clearly named and gradually fought for.
Do have any questions or stories you could share with us at CherryDTV? We love to hear from you and your life experiences! xxx