Wednesday 27 June 2018

Does Your Life Have Meaning?

What I'm exploring is what gives life meaning? In real life and on the internet I find many people are unhappy and for a good reason. They have no meaning in their life. They know that something is missing, something important, but hardly ever can they identify what is missing. I think that we are missing multiple things and not simply one.

In the past people had much of the things that we are now missing. However they were missing many of the things we now take for granted. Health, long life, plentiful food and constant pleasure in the form of countless types of entertainment. Think how if you went back in time, even a hundred years, how you would explain your life and your experiences. That you can fly, that you heat food in 5 minutes, that you know what the Amazon looks like because you've either been there or you have seen it in colour on your television. But by gaining all of those things we have had to make sacrifices, something that we often refuse to acknowledge. Because to do so might make what we have gained not seem so important. It might even make us wonder if this thing we always thought was mana from heaven, that was free, was in reality quite costly.

I have heard it said that the cemetery is filled with men who were once indispensable, and it's true. Non of us are irreplaceable, even if we are wanted and needed. However life is that thing that occurs between the cradle and the grave, a time of action and possibilities. Much of it is repetitive and we like it that way. The same people walking the same streets doing the same things, it gives us comfort, it marks our place in life. But so much of our lives seem unimportant, does it really matter if I turn up to work on time? Is it important? If you open the store it might be, but what about if there are 100 other people all starting work at the same time? Many people do things because they are habit or expected of them, not because they are important.

Feeding a baby is important, it's dull and repetitive and still important. In this context important means, if it wasn't done would it really matter.

Administration is important, however after a certain point it loses all importance. How much of our life is like that?
Let me put it another way a peasant a thousand years ago knew that he had to work or he and his family went hungry, maybe even died. He had to defend his family from violence, he couldn't call the police or the army as he was both. His life was harsh, it was hard work and more hard work followed by some more hard work. But his life had meaning, everything he did was important. What is important in our life?

To be fair he didn't do all those things by himself, he had quite a bit of help. He had:

Was needed
Was wanted
Achieving objectives

Everyone of those is important.

Today many are quick to reject religion, to say that we don't need it or that we are too sophisticated. People need more than just religion to be sure, however it seems to fill four holes that people often have and don't realise. One is it fills in many intellectual conundrums that people have, you are not the first to ask the question and many great thinkers have gone before you. You don't need to reinvent the wheel, it's already been invented. Two it provides emotional support, again it provides answers to questions and it provides a community of mutual support. Thirdly it answers the spiritual void that many experience, too often our modern life tells us that we have no spiritual life, but we do and we need to accept that we do. Fourth, it provides limitations on our actions and behavours. Modern life is Liberal and Liberalism says that we should be free to do as we please. However that is not human nature, our true nature rebels at such freedom, we cannot handle it. Here want to know our own limitations and we want help.

We need husbands and wives respectively, we need children, we need purpose and continuance. We need to pass on our life to another. Family is the past, the present and the future. Without it we are diminished. Without it life loses it's lustre. Without family we are left without love and without love life loses much of it's meaning.

Work occupies our hands and our minds, meaningful work also occupies our soul. It fills our time and gives us a purpose. It is more than simply money, although most of us do work for money. 

We need to be needed, we need to know that our existence is important to others, that we serve a purpose.

We also want to be wanted.

But if we are not achieving things then we can feel that life lacks meaning. We need to affect things, to see some progress. Without achievements we feel as if our life is standing still and that we do not matter. In truth we want to matter, even if in some small way.

Lastly but not least by any means is belonging. We need a place that we fit, we need a home and we need others to accept that we belong. Family, friends, neighbours, countrymen, we need them all to belong. We need communities just as we need our nation.

For life to have meaning we need to fill as many of these as we can, because if we do not we wander through life filled with holes.

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  1. It is hard to find meaning in the modern world, as there is so much to do which is irrelevant to anything and anyone. Ultimately, for me, life has meaning when you know yourself, in the Socratic sense, and are able to live a life where can influence and shape the experiences of your life as your inner nature demands. Life simply isn't about being alive, but the nature of your interaction with the environment and world around you, both being shaped by it, and shaping it. Life isn't about the body and mind functioning, but about the interactions between the body and mind, and the world around it.

    Family, work, being needed, wanted, belonging and achieving objectives, with some autonomy are all relating to this desire to spread ones inner self into the world around them.

    As for religion, this can achieve this too, if one believes the goals and ideas of religion also come from within themselves.

    The difficulty in the modern world is that it prefers as as 'actors'. We have a 'brand' in the workplace, an image to maintain online. Interactions with others are reduced to those of shallow practical necessity, or perceived necessity. We lose a sense of community, of place, of belonging somewhere. We place more importance on health, on our own "mental wellbeing", treating it as something that exists in isolation. We focus on ourselves. But if we don't have meaningful interactions, then we are nothing, dead. This I think can lead to melancholy and depression. There is interaction, but little of it means anything. People have little to no meaning to the world outside of them, little influence. The try to get out of their melancholy by treating themselves, but it is not themselves which is broken, it is the quality and meaning of their interaction with the world.

    1. Dennis

      If what you have written is correct then maybe my life does have meaning.

      Quite possibly, yours as well.

      Mark Moncrieff

    2. I blog. Therefore I am. And if I am, then life has meaning.