‘You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.’
Religious texts, prophets, saints and the newest fads in wholesome living all advocate you to find the meaning of life – find out your purpose and live the way you ‘ought’ to live life.
Quite frankly and I’ll be blunt about it, I don’t get it. I don’t understand why we are so preoccupied with the true meaning of life. What I don’t understand even more is what finding out the meaning of life has to do with religion, because life, in my opinion, came before we found religion. In fact, at the cost of being branded an atheist, I’ll admit here that I feel life is far bigger and more complex a concept than religion. It may be just a four letter word, but it encompasses within itself concepts that none of us mortals will be able to figure out within one single lifetime, and that religion is only a part of life itself. Even if someone served us the meaning of life on a platter, it will take a much more evolved human brain than ours to grasp its entire meaning. For who are we, but puny human beings, living on limited air and time?
To me, the exercise of devoting one’s entire life to finding the meaning of life is a life not lived because life has so much to offer than trying to figure out what it’s about. To me, the question is rather subjective. The meaning of life could mean different things to different people. If a saint comes and tells me that the meaning of life is blah, blah, blah, I won’t nod my head in mute acquiescence. I’ll say, ‘that’s your way of thinking, not mine’.
To give you an example, a few months back India was witness to two parents abandoning their toddler to the care of her aged grandparents, in order to become Jain monks. They relinquished the world and embraced monkhood. For those of us who do not know about this, please read about it here. I don’t know about you but when I read the news I felt that they had wronged their toddler daughter by relinquishing her to care of their parents. They relinquished their duty as parents, something that should have come over and above everything else to them. But that is not what they think. To them the true meaning of life lay in religious pursuit.
My reason for giving you this example was not to tell you my opinion of whether their action was wrong or right, it was to show you that there is a difference of opinion in what matters in life most. There is thus, inherently, a difference of opinion in the assumed answer to the question ‘what is the meaning of life’.
To a pauper, the true meaning of life may be to earn enough one day to leave the footpath for good. To a rich man, it may be finding a balance between his work and home life. The purpose of a mother may be to ensure the good upbringing of her child, but the purpose of a career woman would be to be the CEO of a good company. A priest may find peace in devotion to religion, while a scientist may find it in a new invention. Who do you think is right or wrong? None of them!
So when two people, their desires, the way they think, the way they attain their goals, their very raison d’etre are different, how can they concur on what is the meaning of life?
Life is so many things to so many people, it’s meanings cannot be ascribed to a few set ways in which a few of us perceive it. To me, life is about a careful balance of pleasure and duty, ambition and sacrifice. I believe there are a set of duties that all of us mortals were born to fulfil, and some pleasures that every one of us must be entitled to enjoy. If we have ambition then we must remember to let it not trample on the lives of others. That is a kind of sacrifice and a duty. And that is not the only sacrifice that a human being must make in his life. When a person achieves a near perfect balance in these two sets of extremes, is when I believe we have found meaning in life.
My point is, and you may not agree with it, but that’s your opinion, that figuring out the meaning of life is keeping you from fulfiling your very purpose of existing on this planet – living your life – which is why you have life running in your veins. All of us have a life because we were supposed to live it. We have different ways of living it and that is fine, because there cannot be a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ way of living. We all live according to what our circumstances allow.
I believe that we have only one life to do and be all that we wish to do and be. I feel that if we do not forget to be ‘humane’ at all times and lead a life of peace and harmony, balancing our duties against our pleasures at all times, is when we will not need to search for the meaning of life.