Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The Meaning of Life

One of the great philosophical pursuits is to determine what is the purpose of our short time on this earth is. That is, what is the meaning of life? You could even argue that everything stems from this question; science, society, culture, religion, all descendants of the question ‘Why am I here’.
After all, questioning is what makes us human. Blind obedience, blissful ignorance, ignoring reason, humanity as a whole is incapable of it. Yes, there are people who are completely in ignorance of everything, who obey blindly and do not pursue reason or discovery, but for every one of them there is another human being who will ask ‘why?’
I will ask the why. Why do we want a meaning to our lives? If we have a meaning, we have a purpose, and if we have a purpose we have an objective. A vacuum cleaner has a meaning to its existence, and we use this meaning to clean up around the house. Its purpose it to clean, its objective is a dust free house. But what if we have a similar meaning, purpose, objective as this common piece of machinery? How depressing would that be?
To simplify things, let us say that the meaning of life is to climb Mount Everest. It is a suitably grand and difficult purpose, so let us use it as an example.
To begin with, climbing Mount Everest is no small thing. First you have to train, you have to prepare. You know your goal, the meaning to your life, and so you spend the first 15 years of your life growing up whilst your parents train you to fulfil the meaning of your life. You learn how to hike, how to survive.
Then there is the challenge of climbing it. Suitably difficult for it to be the meaning of your life. It takes a few days or weeks of hardship, and then you reach the summit. You have reached the meaning of life, you have fulfilled your purpose as a living, breathing, sentient organism of planet Earth. Well done.
The question is, now what do you do? The meaning of life has been fulfilled. Do you commit ritual suicide at the summit, knowing that you have given meaning to your life, that you have fulfilled its purpose? After all, all your life up to this moment has been training to fulfil the meaning of life, so what’s the point after you have done it? Do you then climb down from the mountain, knowing that your life is fulfilled, only now you have no other objective. You have so single-mindedly trained to fulfil your life, after you have there is nothing left to do, no point or purpose.
Except, of course, of what you make for yourself.
This is where the meaning of life becomes a depressing, not an enlightening, concept. Because, after you have completed the meaning of life, you now have to find a new one. You are complete, but your continued existence is now pointless unless you make one.
So why not cut the crap and just start your life pointless? Instead of finding another purpose after you have scaled Mount Everest, why don’t you start your life without a purpose and then give yourself one. Sure it will take some time, but it will be worth it.
Of course some may say the meaning of life is made evident after you die, perhaps in the grace (or entrapment) of some deity, or even that life is merely in preparation for the next one. These are topics for another time, but from earlier blogs of mine you can possibly see where my opinion lies on said matters.

And no. The meaning of life is not 42.