What is Life About?

Today, I read the Wikipedia article on the subject of the meaning of life. I was very surprised by how lengthy it is. It turns out that just about every school of philosophy, perhaps not unsurprisingly, has had a view on what life is about, all the way back to good old Plato.

Of course, one possibility is that life is not about anything in particular. We are all here by chance and life therefore has no meaning at all. But it remains a fascinating question that has engaged the minds of the best thinkers to have ever lived and continues to intrigue most of us. Part of what it is to be human, it seems, is to grapple with this question at some time.

The idea that we somehow seem to be programmed to look for meaning in an apparently meaningless world has been described as ‘absurd’ and the dilemma, according to Kierkegaard and Camus, as quoted in the Wikipedia article, can be resolved in one of three ways:

• Suicide or “escaping existence”
• Religious belief in a transcendent realm or being
• Acceptance of the absurdity

The top reason for suicide, from what I can glean, is depression. So, it is not inconceivable that such thoughts as life having no meaning could be a contributory factor. However, given that the suicide rate hovers at around 11% in the USA, with males about three times more likely commit suicide than females, and that depression accounts for only about a third of that figure, it seems that most people manage to come to terms with the matter via one of the other options.

Clearly having some kind of religious belief is a source of comfort for many. About 56% of people in the USA say that religious belief is important, but an overwhelming 92% say they believe in God or a universal spirit. In the UK, it is about 78% that believe in God or a universal spirit. I must say I was surprised that the figure was so high; apparently 38% believe in God and a further 40% in a universal spirit or force (Eurobarometer Poll, 2005).

So, does that mean that the remainder of people are left just having to accept the absurdity of their lot in life? Personally I don’t think so. When I read what Kierkegaard and Camus had to say on the matter, I immediately thought to myself that those guys had definitely missed a fourth possibility. Even if it were true that life can have no intrinsic meaning, that does not necessarily mean that, as individuals, we cannot find personal meaning.

Here are some possibilities that I believe represent personal meaning for many people. The list is by no means exhaustive, but these are the kinds of things that give purpose and meaning to many people’s lives:

• To Realise Our True Potential
• To Have Children
• To Acquire Knowledge
• To Do Good
• To Form Loving Relationships
• To Enjoy Life

In my personal development workshops, I always suggest to people that whether or not they believe in God, they should not abandon the idea that life holds a particular purpose for them. It is not something I have always believed, by any means, but it is something that I do now firmly believe.

My own view is that we are here to leave our mark on the world, to make a difference and to leave the world a slightly better place for future generations.

3 thoughts on “What is Life About?

  1. Sufian Chaudhary

    I believe life is far more exceedingly complex than many like to ponder, if we were to fully comprehend the value and meaning of life, it would change our perceptions of everything we currently find important and this loss of material significance would be quite scary for most to deal with.

    Life right now has become centred upon our material world, however this train of thought is not spiritually sustainable if our material world was to collapse. Much of the GFC is based around the fear of the lack of true change into a new economic norm than it is based on actual market performance. We don’t want to feel like we have ‘wasted our time’ working, for it to just disappear in a couple bad trading days, however isn’t this exactly what happens when we die? Will we not lose all material possession?

    Life can be modeled into various Dimensions that the human soul must Ascend into one by one, in order to achieve a level of realization consistent with the very Creator that thought us into existence. Daily life may seem meaningless without some form of spiritual recognition of ‘moving forward’ or ‘helping others’, however even still we are trying to externalize our issues by filling a gap within ourselves that never existed in the first place.

    To be content with the Now, to complete ourselves with Love, this is true freedom.

    If you would like to read a complete breakdown of our Universal cycle, please visit Enlightenment City and enjoy the higher path of knowledge.

    Kind regards,

  2. Will Edwards Post author

    Hi Randy

    Yes, I have long been a fan of Stephen Covey and I think he is right on the mark with that – very memorable too.


    Will 🙂

  3. Randy Brinson

    In his book ” First Things First” Steven R. Covey proposes that we achieve balance and have meaning in our life when we maintain focus on our purpose, which according to Covey is, “to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.” This maps nicely to your list above.

    I strive not to be distracted by life’s petty interruptions but “to keep my eye on the ball” by making it a priority to work toward those things that give life meaning.

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