“What is the meaning of life?” is probably one of the most profound questions ever to strike our collective conciousness. Even the least philosophically inclined person might ponder this riddle at some stage in their life. Some people profess that there is an absolute meaning and purpose for existence – a meaning that applies to the whole of humanity, whether they agree with it or not. Religion clearly defines an absolute purpose and meaning – that we should devote our lives to some form of God, and appease him/her/it with rituals and liturgy. Religious people will often view those, like myself, who deny what they see as the fundamental reason for existence as believing that life has no meaning whatsoever. I do not believe that life has an absolute meaning, but that does not mean to say that I do not believe life has any subjective meaning. I feel that people make their own meaning, and very often that changes throughout a lifetime.
The very fact that different people arrive at different answers to this fundamental question is proof of its subjective nature. I can see why it can be psychologically pleasing to believe in an absolute meaning of existence. I believe, however, that the truth is more important that what we might find psychologically satisfying.
Humans are a conceited bunch. We feel that we are the reason that the universe exists, despite the fact that we continually discover this not to be the case. We are not separate from the animal kingdom like we once thought, we are the cousins of all life on this planet, not the custodians. Our planet is not even special, every year we discover more and more solar systems like our own. Our star is not special, we have no privileged place in the galaxy, or the universe, we are lost amidst countless stars, and galaxies. To think that our little rock is the sole reason for everything, to me is absurd. Everything we know tells us that we are part of something grander than our forefathers could ever have guessed.
I do not find it a particularly unpleasant thought, in fact it fills me with awe and wonder. How many other intelligent civilizations might there be? – This is the kind of question that gives me goosebumps, and there is much about the cosmos to bring about this feeling; the tremendous beauty of galaxies and nebulae – art on a scale we can scarcely imagine, the vast distances that light travels to reach our eyes, sizes beyond comprehension.
I do not feel that this lack of absolute meaning should plunge us into desperation and hopelessness. We can make our own meaning. Some might think life means religiously watching your favourite football team every weekend, or to find true love and happiness, others might think it should be spend in devotion to God – and that’s fine by me.
So, what do I think that the meaning of life is? Firstly I would say that, for me, the meaning of life has always been in a state of flux. I have never had one set meaning that I have adhered to my entire life. At different times my life took on different meanings, and it shall no doubt take on more in future. The following are some things that I feel currently provide meaning to me; giving as much meaning and happiness to other people’s lives as I can, speaking out against injustice, acquiring knowledge, spreading truth, and being happy. Then there are more personal things such as music, sunshine, singing, writing, walking, talking, reading, learning, thinking, sitting around a fire at night beneath the stars.
The most important thing to me is to have fun, and enjoy it whilst I’m here. This existence is the only one we can be sure of, I feel its too precious to waste on bended knee to a higher power, or pursing a higher course. We shouldn’t bemoan the fact that we will one day cease to exist! The fact that we exist is a wonder in itself, and there are many, many potential people who never got a chance. A life devoid of absolute meaning, is not a meaningless life.