The Meaning of Life – Free Ebook

People nowadays often say, sometimes in a sad way, other times more aggressively and cynically, that life just has no meaning. Two reasons are often given for this. The first has to do with religion. Once upon a time, so the story goes, life had a clear meaning given to us by God; it was about worshiping him, but as religious belief has declined, not only has God supposedly died, but along with him, the meaning he once guaranteed. Modern science is the second course at the current crisis of meaning. Scientists tell us that life which emerged from a random interplay of chemicals and gases does have a meaning but it’s of a rather bleak, relentless, and narrow sort. For humans as for all other living things like amoeba the meaning of life is survival and the propagation of one’s genetic material It sounds very true and at the same time distinctly futile and melancholy. Here we want to argue as follows: 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. We should stop 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. 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 is long gone you don’t seem to talk about anything important anymore 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 or you’re at University studying for a degree. You 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 of Darwin disconnected from your confusion. You complained that it feels meaningless. Or you’re working in a large profitable company and earning a decent sum every week, but the work doesn’t seem in the grandeur 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 robots. From these strands we can start to extrapolate a theory of meaning. 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 the lover for example when we reveal our intimate physical and psychological selves when we form friendships with substantial truths about our respective lives can be shared all 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 then there’s the meaning that emerges via understanding this is about the pleasure that can be felt whenever we correct confusion and puzzlement 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 is 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 that includes medical professionals but also people who bake cakes, write songs or dance for a living we’re often told to think of ourselves as inherently selfish but some of the most meaningful moments come when we can 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 sync with our own native sincere interests it’s a case of knowing enough about ourselves to find a particular path to service. Armed with such ideas, we can move towards defining nothing less than the meaning of life. The meaning of life is to pursue human flourishing through communication, understanding and service. 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.

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