Introduction: It seems that humans have been searching for the meaning of life ever since we appeared on planet Earth. Some people search for the meaning of life in religion, whilst others use logic or science. Of course, religion and science are not incompatible: many people have also combined the two in their search for the meaning of life.
What is Life?
Life can be defined in various ways.
The word ‘life’ can refer to biological life – for instance, the way that plants, humans and animals are all alive as material beings made up of cells.
It can also refer, more esoterically, to the life of the soul. Knowing what we mean by ‘life’ will help us in our quest to ascertain the meaning of life. A biologist trying to define what life is in a biological textbook they are writing will have a different answer to this question than will a spiritual person trying to understand the meaning of the soul’s life.
The question ‘what is the meaning of life?’ can be answered in numerous different ways. These are some of the meanings of life that have been put forward:
- It can be defined as the state of being or existence. It is what differentiates plants and animals from inorganic matter.
- For some people, life ought to revolve around acquiring as much knowledge as possible, often with the desire of creating new inventions or other ways to improve human existence.
- Some people have argued that the meaning of life is to love our fellow human beings and to act in a peaceful way towards them.
- Often, people suggest that the meaning of life is to some extent determined by evolution and genetics. What we want and what we do reflect our status as biological beings.
- Religious people tend to state that the meaning of life derives from a higher power, and that a meaningful life is one that acknowledges this.
- There are also others who believe that to be alive means to exist without inhibition, doing what makes you happy without being limited by expectations of the world.
Knowing the question:
It is sometimes said that in order to find the meaning of life, one must known the right question to ask. In Douglas Adams’ famous novel, ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, the meaning of life is said to be ’42’. However, this leaves people frustrated, because they do not know what the question was. This is a humorous way of illustrating that it is crucial to know what it is we are looking for when we say that we want to know ‘the meaning of life’.
Questions asked to find the meaning of life.
Some of the questions that have been asked regarding the meaning of life have included: ‘why are we here?’, ‘where did we come from?’, and ‘is there a divine power at work in the world?’. Many people have tied the meaning of life to the question of whether there is life after death, and/or whether we have lived past lives before this one. These people want to know, very often, whether they are to seek the true meaning of life in this world, or whether it is to be found in the next world.
Some answers to the questions posed above.
Throughout the ages, people have had different answers to the question ‘what is the meaning of life?’. Some have argued that we are here to do as a divine power tells us, others that we are simply here to love each other and to be kind to all. One important thing to note here is that it can often be a very powerful thing to do to acknowledge that we do not (yet) have a definite answer to the meaning of life. Acknowledging that we are still seeking the meaning of life can pave the way for actually finding it, as it stops us from clinging to illusory and inadequate ‘solutions’ to this issue.
People often pose the question ‘what is the meaning of life’, and we may have different answers to this question at different moments in our lives. The meaning of life may be a mixture of all of the above mentioned elements, such as love, knowledge and biology. Whatever our answer is, it certainly helps to know what we mean by ‘life’ and what other questions we need to ask in order to know the meaning of life.
However, many people still go through life searching for the meaning of life. It is a good thing to question the essence of life, but it is never wise to spend your whole life doing the same to the extent that you miss the beautiful moments.
Also read about the “Meaning of Life” at Wikipedia.