Excellence Reporter: Dr. Szokolszky, what is the meaning of life?
Agnes Szokolszky: Why do I live, and what for? In our daily routines we rarely stop to think about these questions. Most of the time life is something we do, and not something we reflect upon.
Being in the world is not a personal choice – we do not ask to be born. Once you are born, however, you become entangled in a web of intricate connections of family, society, and culture. This web absorbs you, and carries you like a huge river with strong currents. And you may soon realize that you have special powers to influence where the river takes you. To some extent you may realize that you are even able to influence the currents, eventhough you never quite figure out the river and where it flows.
To be a living creature means being part of something huge, something greatly exciting and something quite incomprehensible. This realization is, I guess, a useful starting point for thinking about the meaning of life. It brings with it the appreciation that by being born you are given a chance to participate in something extraordinary, something special by cosmic standards! I take that this huge life process keeps going forward, although eventually it might run into nothingness. However, as a human being, „thrown into the river” at a certain time and place, I experience myself as an active, creative force.
To be human means to have intellectual and practical powers that go beyond the powers of other living creatures. These powers endow me to comprehend both my smallness and my greatness as a human being.
I take that the meaning of life is the imperative to excercise whatever powers I have in order to contribute to this enigmatic life process in a positive way. My life is meaningful because I am compelled constantly to appreciate that I have been given a chance to live a unique and rich human life, and with it the responsibility to seek how I can contribute to make things better around me.
~Agnes Szokolszky is an associate professor of the Department of Cognitive and Neuropsychology of the Institute of Psychology, University of Szeged, Hungary. She earned her PhD degree at the Center for the Ecological Study of Perception and Action (CESPA), University of Connecticut. Her research interests are ecological and systems approaches to psychology, the history of psychology, and theoretical issues of psychology. She is a happy mother of two sons and lives in a harmonious and loving marriage with her husband for 45 years.
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