What is the Meaning of Life? The impossible question. The question easily invites us to posit the extremes of human goodness upon the appearance of life Owing to our vulnerable consciousness, we ascertain a meaning or a series of meanings to try to make sense of a fluctuating and insecure dynamic of incalculable presentations. Nothing presented to consciousness, through the senses, has any essence, yet we search for meaning or declare a meaning. We vacillate or change our minds to what we grant meaning and to what we don’t. We stop imposing a meaning on particulars and generalities owing to loss of interest or we hold onto to a meaning, as if life depended upon it.
We like to give meaning to life, via the idea of the good. Why should we impose the good when every act of so-called goodness gives way to non-goodness, to harm, to unhealthy circumstances, to evil, to violence and war? Are we not disillusioned with all those who tell us what is for our good — politicians, corporations, scientists, media, religious, educators and so on? The consensus of the powerful and privileged claim to be on the side of the good. This gives meaning to the influential at the expense of the many.
Aren’t we tired of telling others what is for their good, as well as telling ourselves? Adherence to the identity with the idea of the good perpetuates a banality. The belief in the good is not good!
When our inner construct claims that life has meaning, we place pressure upon ourselves and various modes of existence amidst the movements of cosmic life. There is no evidence to show that life has any inherent meaning; nothing is carved in the rock to indicate a higher or lower purpose to life. Such wishes and determinations of our species only reveal a heartfelt need to try to make sense of it all.
Faced with birth, aging, pain and death, we experience the failures of the self to be masters over life. Despite all our efforts, life makes largely redundant the absurd notion of choice when faced regularly, if not daily, with the unwelcome, the unwanted and the unnecessary. We can choose to do the right thing to give more meaning to our life, only to find that our mind takes little notice of the choice. We give way to the unchosen or we grasp onto a narrow purpose to determine our self-importance.
The idea of meaning carries itself into our varying relationships to life, to oneself, to others, to the good, to a spiritual search or transcendence. We take up such as fashionable or unfashionable concepts as Being, the Now, the Non-Dual, Oneness, Stillness or God for consolation to the challenging presentations of life.
Yet, we foolishly can slide from belief in doing good and finding the good to give meaning to our life into the other extreme of meaninglessness, of the selfish gene, of a dark, empty universe, full of desperate forebodings. These views, too, impose upon life negative and hostile attitudes that reveal a superficiality of perception. There is no evidence to confirm a pointless, meaninglessness existence either. A meaningful life and meaningless life have little relevance in reality.
We have the capacity to keep uncovering unfolding processes, large and small. Global or particular, these dynamics of change confirm the unreliability that impact upon our sensibilities. Upon experiencing unpredictable events, we might pursue an upliftment, a purpose, a divine, to make us feel good about ourselves, and feel good about the impact that we make. The wish to leave a little mark in history, even if it is only with family and one or two friends, smacks of absurdity.
This extensive website on the meaning of life with the multiplicity of thoughtful views from caring people confirms that life has no meaning, no evolution to a higher level, no promises, no assurances about anything. We read and applaud the precious contributions in our varied communications. Every single expression of meaning (or not) finds itself thinned out or cancelled out under the weight of numerous other designations about our relationship to life. The infinite number of meanings of life emerges from the infinite diversity of expressions of life, internally and externally. Not a single meaning has any gravitas to it. The language of meaning lacks any gravitas.
We can approve or disapprove of the reasons to live from the variety of written views of different people. Our affirmations and rejections only confirm we give meaning to the views. Life does not invite a meaning except as a multiplicity. There is no inherent truth to any meaning and no inherent truth to projecting life as a meaningless bland.
We pay respect to life through being devoid of any interest to give meaning to life, since there is no evidence to confirm a meaning. Such impositions upon life obscure the free expression of the movement of what unfolds. Life does not require the drumbeats of human beings since humanity, itself, expresses and confirms life. There is nobody outside of life to determine life and what it is and what it is best used for. Let us vanquish to history the notion of some purpose to life. The tree cannot get outside the wood to determine the wood.
It is a relief and liberating to live without the rude imposition of a meaning. The wind is free to blow through the trees.
~Christopher Titmuss, a former Buddhist monk in Thailand and India, teaches Awakening and Insight Meditation around the world. He is the founder and director of the Dharma Enquiry Programme and facilitates an online mentor programme for Dharma practice and mindfulness training. Poet, blogger and social critic, he is the co-founder of Gaia House, an international retreat centre in Devon, England.
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