What is the Meaning of Life?
Frequently I am asked this question by my therapy patients. “What is my purpose?” “Why am I here.?” I often reflect the question back to the patient asking them for their own thoughts. There really is no wrong answer on such a debated, unproven question which clearly differs from individual to individual. If the patient has any strong conviction with religion or God, the answer is frequently harbored in a belief of duty. A duty that is written and instructed by God. If there is not a strong conviction it is not uncommon to be presented with an existential view of doing good, giving to others, and at least a verbally presented stance of altruism. My angry patients who ponder this question frequently wave the white philosophical flag, and really do not care or at least state that stance.
The meaning of our existence from our point of view is clearly changing with our development and age. My personal meaning of life has changed drastically since my teenage years, through my young adulthood and now middle age. I am sure it will be honed even finer when and if I am allowed to be on my death bed as opposed to a sudden death. This does go to show that we see our life and others frequently, if not practically always from an “I” perspective. Even the follower of a God is clearly from their perspective of what is right for them and too often what is right for others. This struggle for my patients and even myself is important. It is important in the sense of goals, motivation, attitude, and how we see the future. There will be no resolution of the question which is an important resolution to come to within itself. The discussion alone gives way to topics on morality, personal views of family, selfishness, altruism, internal anxiety, as well as spiritual and religious issues.
We do know that homo-sapiens are social animals. We also know we have the ability to procreate and sadly at times at a very rapid rate. We are very aware of the finite amount of space that we walk on ( this ball called earth.) Leaving God out of this equation for now, our purpose here on earth is really left to a betterment question. What can we do or should we do, to better our time here and the time for others? Is that one of the major questions and/or answers? Since we are social animals, and we have feelings expressed by words, tears, happiness, smiles, anger, fists, and the ability to bond in groups can we not fairly extrapolate then that we are here to better others lives? It seems reasonable that one of the reasons we walk this planet for a finite (short) time is to give back and help others have an easier time of it or benefit others in some way. That perspective actually has a selfish foundation in a global sense as well as an altruistic foundation. If we help others with the goal to better their lives will that not cycle back and help our children and future generations? Theoretically, yes.
Of course I always seem to run into the self absorbed, “I do not have a clue male and female” who truly feel that we are here to gather the most toys, make the most money, exploit others for our benefit and just die. I try and refer these patients out as their narcissism is all consuming.
If one has children it would seem to me that we have an enormous responsibility to teach them everything we know and here come the kicker, the one that is not mentioned, everything we do not know. In other words, it is imperative that we acknowledge to our children our own humility and shortcomings as this will help greatly in their own self esteem. Is it not fair to say then we walk this earth to better our children? To make sure our children are better for the next generation. For myself my two principles in the question, “What is the meaning of life?” is: 1. Recognize we are social animals and it is important in some way that we give back to others. 2. If we have children, then we must make a real effort, a concerted effort to make their life better by teaching them. Letting them know the benefits of love, the pitfalls of love, the mistakes we have made, and how they can be a better human.
Money has clearly tainted our perception of the question. The views of wealth, the nice home, the Rolex watch has unquestionably skewed our views. We all want to live comfortably, and the word “comfortably” differs for many. This page is not about that but rather what in our society gets in the way of answering the question. What is the meaning of life?
Skewed values, morality and self indulgence clearly interfere with betterment of society. This is not even debatable. In fact these are the very issues that brings many of my patients to me. The inability to obtain wants and needs, inability to control anxiety and their perceived suffering, as well as not knowing why they are here.
After reading this page, ponder your thoughts on the meaning of life for you. Shake someone’s hand with genuine sincerity, tell your children a story of your past if for no other reason then just to share, share a story of your past with your spouse, if for no other reason then just to share. Contemplate how you can make a difference by giving back. You might be surprised, the meaning of your life may change for you any day. This page has a little bit of my views, my story, my belief. I am not necessarily right or wrong. I am just sharing, that is a start………..or maybe an end.