The Meaning of Life

17 Jan

I was approached, today, by a long-time friend of mine who simply asked me what is the meaning of life?

As an agnostic atheist, the meaning of life is not clear as it may be to others. I’ve met gnostic atheists who say there is no meaning to life other than the biological need to reproduce. Many theists (read: religious folk) say that the only reason for our perpetual existence is serving a higher being.

And because it is unclear, it is something I’ve spent much of my time pondering.

I’m also a scientist, and as such, I can tell you that humans are animals, and are thus subject to many of the same principles all animals are subjected to. These being the essence of survival: intake (food, water), excrete, and reproduce. Reproduction is the essence of all animal life, which is why, although our planet is vastly overpopulated and we are basically killing our own kind, humans continue to have offspring. That, in a nutshell, could be the meaning of life. Humans just happen to have developed opposable thumbs and a conscious, or we wouldn’t be thinking about why we exist.

That’s how I’ve come to my conclusion about the meaning of life.

The meaning of life is about the human connection. We’ve already supported that with our brief discussion of reproduction, but it’s more than that, too. It’s about gaining knowledge and sharing knowledge. It’s about being kind and sharing ourselves with others. If I can inspire one person, whether it is to be kinder to others, or to learn something knew, then I’ve made a difference. If I can teach someone something, I’ve made a difference. Even if my smile at a stranger in a grocery store can brighten their day, I’ve made a difference.

Why else do humans spend so much of their time with others, exchanging stories and asking advice? It’s all about spreading the wealth of knowledge, and making our journey in this life about the journey, not the destination. I think that is what many of us get caught up in, is the destination. You know…living life through God so that we have a beautiful afterlife with rainbows and butterflies and unicorns (because what’s heaven without unicorns!??). But that isn’t good enough. We are here now, and we need to make the best of it.

From my point of view, if you live this life trying to teach, help, and be kind to others then whatever your belief, you win. How can a Christian God send someone who has lived their life virtuously, but was Buddhist, or Jewish, or Atheist, to anywhere other than this heaven place? That doesn’t sound like a being that is amazing, and forgiving, and wonderful. That sounds like a judgmental, power-hungry dictator.

Living life to it’s fullest. Gaining knowledge and wisdom. Giving knowledge and wisdom. Connecting to each other. Showing kindness to all. Sharing stories and giving advice. That’s what life is about. Growing as an individual, to grow as a culture.

And sex. Lots and lots of sex. It is our biological prerogative, after all.

What do you think is the meaning of life?

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5 Responses to “The Meaning of Life”

  1. L January 17, 2015 at 6:17 pm #

    I’m an existential nihilist. Basically, I reject the notion of meaning when it comes to existence. I don’t think there is any rhyme or reason for our existence. We just are, for better or worse (IMO worse because I’m also an antinatalist, meaning that I believe we were all done a major disservice by being brought into existence and that it would have been better to have never existed). In the interim, I believe we should live it up and enjoy life to the fullest, whatever that means for us as individuals. In such a way I’m slightly hedonistic I suppose.

    Concerning spiritual matters, I identify as Episcopalian but I’m far from a traditional Episcopalian, much less a traditional Christian. I don’t believe the creation or the Jesus story are literal fact. It’s pretty easy to see why that isn’t the case from a scientific point of view. Rather I use them as guides for my own life as this is what I find peace in. I do go to church and take the Eucharist regularly, and feel passionate about it to the point of pursuing a career in the priesthood, but I can’t accept these things as literal fact. The scientist in me won’t allow me to do so.

    Concerning after we die, I’m not too sure what I believe on that. I know for sure I don’t believe in a literal hell. To me any deity that would do that to his/her own creation can’t possibly exist, and especially when that deity is supposed to be love. I lean toward believing our energy being recycled into the universe in accordance with the law of conservation of energy/mass. Whether we remain sentient after death, I wouldn’t venture a guess to know whether that is the case or not.

  2. thecuriousbum January 17, 2015 at 6:37 pm #

    Basically I think the same thing. I’ve almost gone back to Christianity a couple of times, but it had to do with pleasing women (I know, bad idea) or being surrounded by religious people. And of course, it’s not a guarantee of feeling fulfilled anyway. As much as the acronym’s been been beaten to death, I have kind of a YOLO attitude; don’t live in fear of what you don’t know or what’s around the corner. Maybe I’ll regret it later but don’t worry too much about it regardless.

  3. buddy71 January 17, 2015 at 9:03 pm #

    i identify as buddhist. i really do not spend time thinking about the meaning of life as i just try to live it the best i can. i would say i would agree with what you say, if i was to stop and think about it. but i can truly say i dont think about the meaning until someone asks about it. the body we have is just a vessel that has a time limit on it. but the energy or the essence (soul?) just moves on. heave and hell are places made up by humans to try and understand an unknown or to explain life and death. but, if i spend time thinking about this or worrying about it, that just leaves me less time to just live life.

  4. quirkyintrovert January 17, 2015 at 9:41 pm #

    I don’t really spend much time thinking about the meaning of life, but for me it would be to have a positive impact on others. I keep it separate from religion, but many of the major religions teach being kind and treating others compassionately. I have a more open view in which each religion has their own heaven, so that everyone who does good to others ends up in some form of heaven, instead of going to hell just because you don’t believe something. To me, a person’s actions matter more than what they do or don’t believe in.

  5. wallsofwinterfell January 26, 2015 at 8:10 am #

    I have thought a lot about this too. Life is so ephemeral. In fact human existence in the face of the longevity of the universe is really nothing more than a blink of an eye in comparison. So what of it? Why does it matter? Why does anything matter at all?

    That’s why the concept of God is so appealing. You speak in eternities. You can become eternal and one with God. It’s a little more frightening to think of yourself and ultimately your existence and the existence of your loved ones as nothing more than specks of dust in a universe so vast it doesn’t even notice.

    But in reality regardless of your belief system or religion, we are already one with the universe. Law of conservation tells us that matter cannot be created or destroyed. So even if our consciousness was never fully formed until now, we have always been a part of this universe.

    Time as perceived by us now is linear, marching ever forward, in this form, in this matter. But remove the dimension of time and this point becomes an infinite dot, as part of an infinite universe.

    That’s what I think at least.

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