Finding out what the meaning of life is is a herculean task: the greatest thinkers in history have debated it for millennia, and they have not reached a clear conclusion. Or yes, but in very disparate opinions that make it clear that there is no consensus about what the meaning of life is.
To find possible answers to the meaning of life, we must first ask ourselves some questions. This is a modest guide on what is the meaning of life.
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What is the meaning of life
What differentiates human beings from animals is their ability to think, from which arises the existential anguish of finding answers to crucial questions . And the quintessential question that we have been trying to solve for centuries is: What is the meaning of life?
The answer can be given by the questions we ask about this question and, in any case, questioning ourselves about existence is a first step . to solve the riddle.
1. Where did we come from
In our current times, the questioning of the past has become obsolete: postmodernity has condemned us to the dictatorship of the present and to transience. But for a long time, one of the ways to find meaning in life was by analyzing and metabolizing our past .
Human beings and animals have something in common: they both evolve. But according to Darwinism, animals evolve for their survival, while man evolves to progress .
And so, if we look back, we see that the history of humanity is a progression of stages of social and technological development that, utopian, would have to lead to uninterrupted progress.where we come from and why we have evolved , as a species, in a certain way, we will be able to find the answer to the meaning of life.
2. Where are we going?
Although, in fact, the question about the meaning of life is usually always a mental projection into the future: where are we going, where do we want to go.
In this sense, the question becomes an exercise in optimism because it changes its meaning: we no longer ask what the meaning of life is, but what meaning we want to give to our life. The future is an opportunity to build our vital project.
Here, therefore, the question no longer has a passive tone but an active meaning that gives us responsibility as builders of our path.The answer stops being something predefined , and fills the space of the optionality.
3. What are your preferences?
At last, the question about what is the meaning of life and what meaning do we want to give it is summed up in a question of potentialities and preferences. That is why the most optimistic believe that, even if life had no meaning , we can give it to them.
Analyzing our potentialities, organizing our preferences and making use of our capacity to build our vital project. According to our preferences, our potentialities and other conditions, we will opt for a more optimistic or pessimistic, individual or collective, ambitious or conservative response.
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5 possible answers to the meaning of life
From all these reflections and the conditions in which we live, we will draw very different conclusions that offer several possible answers to the meaning of life. These are some of them.
1. Pessimistic response to the meaning of life
It has prevailed for many centuries and is highly conditioned by the mentality forged through religious beliefs . In fact, it is still a widespread idea in our societies to think that this life is not the most important.
Christianity spread the idea of earthly life as a vale of tears, concept taken by other religious or philosophical conceptions tending to fatalism and pessimism. According to this perspective, the meaning of life is to trick it as much as possible trying to overcome pain and suffering, which is inherent to man.
Many people, when wondering about the meaning of life, do not see any sense in it, because they focus its relevance on the point of death and the afterlife . However, this idea has been outdated in favor of more vital and optimistic interpretations.
1.1 Religious perspective
The meaning of life changes even depending on the religion to which we refer, but there are some points of connection between all of them .
According to the religious conception, what happens on Earth, and therefore also in human beings, responds to the divine will: the individual is a passive actor . In addition, death is what gives meaning to life.
Hence that taciturn and pessimistic outlook. For traditions such as Judaism or Christianity, the meaning of life is to live in accordance with divine commandments, among which love of neighbor occupies a special position .
The secular philosophical variant of this vital pessimism is nihilism, a tendency that denies the existence of all things and the possibility of reaching knowledge. Since nothing exists, it doesn’t matter what we do: that was a justification for committing crime and spreading evil in the 20th century.
Who most popularized this philosophical side was Nietzsche, who compared Christianity to nihilism insofar as he proposed a suppression of mortality and suffering. But for Nietzsche nihilism started precisely from the death of God as overcoming the subjection of the individual to a false security.
Since nothing exists, neither can the idea of God exist: modern nihilism leaves the individual alone before a cruel world in which there is no more meaning in lifethan the fact that it doesn’t make sense. That is why morality does not exist.
2. Optimistic response to the meaning of life
In life there is suffering and pain, yes, but man has the ability to overcome them by promoting other positive emotions that manage to overcome discouragement. According to this theory, the meaning of life is to give it meaning: pain is optional.
2.1 Esoteric perspective
It coincides with some conceptions of Eastern religions in considering that the meaning of life is to fill it with meaning through a path to perfection. It is an individualistic philosophy that invites the individual to perfect his inner world to reach a higher level (call it Nirvana…).
From this perspective, the meaning of life is, for example, to do as little harm as possible and try to do good (karmic philosophy) or to live in connection with nature (animist religions) through meditation and various rituals (religions of Buddhist type).
The result of this way of seeing life is an ascetic and peaceful lifestyle. The ultimate goal is to connect the individual with the divinities and the cosmos. Happiness, in this case, is not in the material, but in the individual.
2.2 Humanism or collectivist response
Another way of understanding the meaning of life is through collective action to achieve a better world. According to this conception,the individual is nothing if he does not dedicate his life to making the lives of others and the world around us better.
This humanism usually starts from the idea that there is no God or any superior force, and that therefore the responsibility for improving the world lies exclusively with men and women who, by organizing themselves and working together , acquire a power of large dimensions.
Solidarity, altruism and community are some aspects of this humanism that is characteristic of the contemporary era. According to this way of processing existence, my life has no meaning if I don’t dedicate it to others . Happiness is in giving up one’s own wealth or even one’s own happiness for a common good.
2.3 Carpe diem or individualistic response
We could say without fear of being wrong that it is part of the cultural and social paradigm of our days, and therefore, this is the most attractive option for our generation.
Many believe today that the only thing that gives meaning to life is to experience it in a radical way , squeezing every moment. This leads to an inevitably selfish way of living life, since the idea is transmitted that the only thing that can make man happy is to experience pleasure and seek momentary and individual happiness.
This hedonism leads to avoid any negative feeling or thought, banishing pain and death from day to day. This conception has Carpe Diem as its flag, which insists on the transience of lifeand, by denying the existence of a life beyond death, it challenges the individual to live to the limit.
Happiness, in this conception, is in the material, the pleasures and the tangible.
- You can also read: Easy explanation of what the myth of Plato’s cave is and what it means.