What’s the meaning of life?
I don’t have a definite answer to this profound question asked by many a people over eons.
Philosophers have debated over it and there has never been a one-for-all answer. May be that is what makes this question intriguing and yet so infuriating at the same time. Man has tried to answer this question since the beginning of time and this search has led to much philosophical, theological and scientific speculation. The diversity of this world and its cultures presents a myriad collection of answers different from each other.
Pico, in his famous “Oration on the Dignity of Man” published in 1486, states that God placed man at the midpoint of the world and addressed him thus:
Adam, you have been given no fixed place, no form of your own, and no particular function, so that you may have and possess, according to your will and your inclination, whatever place, whatever form, and whatever functions you choose…by your own free will, in whose hands I have placed you, will determine your own nature…You will have the power to degenerate into the lower forms of life, which are bestial. You will have the power, by the judgment of your soul, to be reborn into the highest forms of life, which are divine.
Pico sees this free will as the supreme generosity of God through which man will himself become the fruit of whatever he cultivates. According to him this is what qualifies man as the most supreme creation of God.
Any living being on our planet primary goal is survival. Man is not any different in that matter but because of his rational faculty he tries to find something more than merely survive. This is what makes us more than an animal and adds color and flavor to our world. Finding the meaning of life in general seems like a futile exercise. If you look at the whole, the idea of finding or attaching a meaning to our life in this complex world appears pointless.
For every good act there is an evil equivalent. For every honest person there are plenty of dishonest persons around. An honest politician remains an oxymoron. Innocence and purity are shunned since the innocent and pure of heart are inevitably duped and exploited. Our faith which is meant to elevate us closer to God is used to divide us, and used against us. Instead of getting us closer to the divine it brings out our bestial nature. As you can see our world is imperfect. But does that mean that we cater just to our own self-interest and don’t try to look beyond ourselves?
The free will gives us the power to not succumb to this world’s corruption and find our personal meanings of each of our lives. The materialistic world which runs on ostentatious displays of wealth and merriment makes us afraid of delving deep into ourselves. All that is cared about is the superficial appearance and every achievement has to be measureable. I too have joined the pursuit to find the meaning of life—my life. I am sure that in due time I will find something but I can’t be sure if it will be worth it or not. One thing I am sure of is that the experience will be of personal benefit and that in itself is a reward.
Oliver Sacks, when he first discovered his diagnosis of terminal illness: staring death in the face, he wrote, “Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”
Let’s not lose hope in these dark times we live in, and let’s choose to believe that our life has a purpose and a meaning, whatever it may be. If we persist enough, our brief-lives on this earth can be worthwhile and we can definitely make at least a teeny-tiny positive difference to our surroundings.