Nicolae Tanase: Dr. Axelrod, what is the meaning of life?
David. B. Axelrod: For some, the meaning of life is a who-done-it, a pursuit of magical thinking asserting belief above reason—which creation myth, which god, which story best satisfies a society’s needs at any given time. Faith begins where reason leaves off. Religion provides an agenda not an answer.
For others, the meaning of life is a murder mystery, where science demonstrates that the function of life is, at least, to assure that life continues. But science can not provide definitive answers—only theories based on our current tools for discovery.
Take, for example, the question of how many people have lived on our planet and currently are alive. Clearly, there can be no reliable answer, only an estimate, give or take a few billion. An educated guess says that 100 billion creatures (enough like who we are now) have lived up to this moment in time.
That is also where the murder and mystery come in. Are there even a million actual individuals whose names or deeds have been preserved for us in any way? That would be one one-hundred-thousandth (.00001%) of all humankind.
And of those records or deeds remembered, how many were associated with war, destruction, illness, catastrophe? If life is meant to propagate life, the vast amount of what we call history documents the taking of it.
The purpose of life, and in that way, the meaning of it, must be to find the balance between the need to perpetuate life and the predominant activity—the taking of life. As surely as we must eat or be eaten, we must find an artful way to live and die.
The meaning of life is the balance of all elements, from whatever biochemical elements first combine to qualify as alive, to whatever chemical process by which life is so disassembled that those same elements can reassemble to form new life.
What is meaning of life, the singular accomplishment any one of we, the 7.5 billion persons currently alive, can offer to the world? It is that we bother existence so little while we are alive that we allow future persons a better chance to live.
We must leave only life-affirming transactions and elements behind. We must not create too much life—too much wealth, too many material things, over-population. We must not create too much death—too much poverty, depravation, weapons of mass destruction.
The meaning of life is to achieve a balance.
All things being equal—nothing being absolute—we may yet be meaningful. But, there is also a brief, and not entirely glib answer: The womb is the door to the universe. Enjoy turning the knob.
~David B. Axelrod has written and published hundreds of articles and works of fiction and non-fiction ranging from 22 books of poetry to dramatic writing for stage and television, freelance journalism, stories and memoirs. His critical biography, Merlin Stone Remembered, won a Gold Medal for nonfiction from the Florida Book Awards, and a national Coalition of Visionary Resources (COVR) Award for best biography. He is recipient of three Fulbright Awards, including his serving as Fulbright’s first official Poet-in-Residence in the People’s Republic of China. He is Volusia County, Florida, Poet Laureate, and previously served as Suffolk County, Long Island’s Poet Laureate. A frequent lecturer and performer, he has appeared for the American Library Association and at the United Nations. Dr. Axelrod is founder and past president of Writers Unlimited Agency, Inc., and continues as its Vice President. He is publisher of Writers Ink Press. He lives with his wife, Sandy Martin, in Daytona Beach, where he is Director of the Creative Happiness Institute, a grant-funded organization dedicated to wellness through the arts. For more information about him, consult his websites:
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