Artur Braun: The Meaning of Life and the Pursuit of Happiness

Artur_NobHillExcellence Reporter  question about “What is the meaning of life?” pulled me out of my daily busy-ness. I took the question serious and began deliberating over ontologic definitions for the meaning of life, and also about ideas such as “the sky is the limit”. Then all of the sudden I was reminded of the people I saw lately in the townships around Cape Town, those who are not driving, but walking along the highway. And the women with children I saw digging soil and carrying stones at road constructions in Kolkata. In the struggle for survival – do they know the idea of “The pursuit of happiness”?

These thoughts carried me away from the sky, from the top, and brought me closer to the bottom, closer to the majority of world’s population. I found myself in the philosophical triangle span by Jaspers, Nietzsche and Heidegger. It made me think of the extreme situations in which human existence can find itself, regardless of being on the top or at the bottom.

To answer your question, I decided to go with Nietzsche’s suggestion, that the meaning of life is up to yourself. In the end it is our own decision, our own business. Our own pursuit of happiness in matters of daily needs, spirituality, faith, empathy, friendship, freedom, family. I discussed the question with a colleague of mine, who stated “eat – enjoy – sleep” would apply to most for the people in the world. There is little reason for arrogance about this simple meaning of life, given the poor state of world and mankind. But I want to finish here with hope, with Kropotkin’s thesis: There exist people whose pursuit of happiness includes the pursuit of happiness of others. This can be a meaning of life.


~Artur Braun PhD, physicist, researcher; Listed in Foreign Policy magazine among The 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2014

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