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Musings On The Meaning Of Life

Updated on October 31, 2012

Musings On The Meaning Of Life

Lately some events in my life have had me considering the meaning of my life as well as life itself. It is amazing how the passage of time and the subsequent realization of one's own mortality can focus one's thoughts. That is not to say that I have never considered this subject. But these considerations were only scattered and momentary thoughts. Several philosophical questions have now focused my mind in a concentrated fashion. Does God exist? Do we have free will or are our lives already determined? Does good and evil exist and what are they? What is the meaning of life? I will try to describe my views on these questions in the next paragraphs . I will also show how they interconnect to develop my philosophy on "The Meaning of Life".

I would like to start by stating that I was raised as a Lutheran and confirmed into that Protestant faith. My mother is devout and I as a good son dutifully went to all of my Sunday school classes and strived to learn all I was taught there. Doubts arose in my mind when I was 13 walking home from church one Sunday morning. Only at this point did I begin to wonder if what I was being taught in my church was true or simply a passed down faith. The lesson that I had just learned that day seemed more like a fable than a true fact. I began in subsequent years to explore other religions and faiths. This search was to trace their origins, basic tenets, and their inter-connections.

My conclusion was that religions taught wonderful values to live by. But with the large proliferation of different religions at present and throughout history, I could find no tangible proof that any of these faiths showed the true origin of man and the universe. I probably would have become an atheist at this point except for one prominent quandry. I accepted the scientific theory of the evolution of the universe through the Big Bang theory. Darwin's theory of evolution also proved itself true to me. But who or what caused the Big Bang and everything that has evolved from it? Something must have initiated all of this. Whatever God or force was behind this creation is still a mystery to me and to everyone else as far as I am concerned. My belief was and is that something beyond our knowledge created our world and universe.

Next I turned my mind to the classic philosophical argument between free will and determinism. This is a debate where I have come down in agreement with most believers in modern religion and God. Determinism is a philosophy which states that everything happening in the world is pre-determined. Every action and condition is caused and determined by prior actions and conditions. This includes the actions of human beings. Therefore we have no influence over what we do. We are conditioned by prior events which predetermine our reactions.

I understand this theory but I find it to be preposterous. I agree that situations, actions, and our backgrounds influence what we do to a great degree. But we are thoughtful and cognizant organisms who are able to learn and adapt to situations which will change our reactions to circumstances over time. We also develop moral qualities which influence our actions and reactions. I am in agreement with organized religions that people have important control over their actions be they good or bad. Not total control but we are responsible for our actions.

That brings us to the argument over the nature of good and evil. What is it? To my mind good is anything that one does which advances oneself or the society at large without purposely hurting anyone else or society. Evil on the other hand is the purposeful hurting of another person or persons for one's own gain or amusement. This is not to say that it is evil to win a fair competition in the marketplace, sporting event, academics, etc. High achievers who surpass others are usually the people who create wealth and innovations for society and are our leaders. People who simply go about their lives trying to optimize their own good without regard to damage they are causing others are leading evil lives.

Of course the vast majority of people live their lives somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. We have been nurtured by family and society to do good and most people do so throughout their time on earth. But self interest sometimes leads to evil actions through greed and fear. This is the battle everyone wages daily between good and evil both in the world and within ourselves.

Now we arrive at my main theme. What is the meaning of life? We are only on this earth for a relatively short period of time. So what is the point of it all? Those who have a strong faith in God feel that salvation in heaven will be theirs if they lead a good life and believe in God. Atheists believe that this life is all there is. My feeling is that the more good we do for others and society here on earth, the better our existence will be in this life and any existence that may follow this one. This is the basis of the theory of Karma. This theory makes sense to me.

One's energy must go somewhere when you die. My belief is that positive energy will beget positive energy down the line. It's just a thought, I've seen time and again positive actions beget reciprocal positive actions in my life. Negativity is destructive and leads nowhere. I don't believe in the concept of heaven and hell. This to me is just another human construct created to coerce people into following the tenets of that particular religious faith. The bottom line for me is one should do good for others because it will ultimately lead to good for oneself and the society at large. Also a positive life in this world will lead to a positive existence in the next life if it exists.

My quest to find the meaning of life has been a complex but enjoyable journey. It is a search that will go on for the rest of my life and enrich me. I certainly do not feel I hold all wisdom but these things I've pondered and written about here feel right to me. I welcome other views and arguments which I feel will give me further insights into my search. My doubts about the existence of God were at the source of my confusion at the beginning of my search. People who follow an organized religion have the pre-set guidelines of their religion to give their life direction and meaning. What should my direction and meaning be without this faith?

My personal belief is that there was a force or being that created this universe we live in. But it is up to each of us to create our own way in this world and find our own meaning within ourselves. Determinism shows that we are definitely influenced by the causation of events. We have the free will to direct and re-direct our own actions. My religion is my free will to continually re-discover the meaning of the world and my life and make sense of these causal events. I also believe that good and evil flows from this free will. We as human beings have that choice and our survival on this earth relies on these decisions every day.

Therefore in my view, there is a force or entity that created this universe. But it is up to each of us to do good and improve the situation of human kind and the world we live in. It is in everyone's short term and long term interest to do this. This is the creed I live by. The magic in life is to continually gather knowledge and improve one's insight into our existence and make it better.


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    • profile imageAUTHOR

      Howard Schneider 

      6 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Thank you for your comments, Donna. I enjoyed writing about these personal feelings and beliefs on life. Everyone experiences things differently and your experiences are very profound indeed. I believe that it is essential to all of us to pursue these questions as they are central to who we are and how we see ourselves in this world, in an afterlife, and the universe also.

    • Donna Kay Bryan profile image

      Donna Kay Bryan 

      6 years ago

      I am a Catholic who can appreciate what you say here. However, I have to say that my own personal experiences confirm my faith not only in God (who yes could have created that big bang/evolution), but also in Heaven. I have held a hand as its life slipped out of this world and into the next. I have experienced two different messages in two different ways from my father-in-law, and my mother the day after they each passed away. In the case of my father-in-law, my mother-in-law experienced the same thing at the same time at a different location.

      I appreciate your writing and the way you have shared your beliefs. Voted up - interesting.


    • profile imageAUTHOR

      Howard Schneider 

      6 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Thank you very much for your kind comments, Xstatic. I think we can see the results of Karma in many aspects of our lives. Reincarnation I am not so sure of.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 

      6 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      A great and wise essay, covering many complex subjects well in so few words. I happen to agree with most of your conclusions, especially regarding the concept of Karma. It makes more sense than anything else to me, as does reincarnation, in a way.

    • profile imageAUTHOR

      Howard Schneider 

      6 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Thank you for your kind comments, My Esoteric. The Free Will vs Determinism philosophical quandry is a difficult one and I agree the Big Bang makes the Free Will argument difficult. Determinism makes logical sense but it is paralyzing just as atheism can be. I do believe that a lot of what we do is pre-ordained by circumstances but I feel my Free Will changes at the most unlikely times. I may be rationalizing here and so be it. I feel more empowered feeling that I can change my destiny. Of course, looking at the Far Right Republican policies, I may not have too much or any Free Will if they come to power. I won't have any money or a job either. I appreciate your commenting on this little noticed Hub. I believe everyone should sit down and examine their feelings on the meaning and origins of life. As always, I appreciate our give and take on this and all matters.

    • My Esoteric profile image

      Scott Belford 

      6 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      While our philosophies fall right on top of each other, you state it so much more elegantly and cogenently than I have been able to do; thank you for that. It was nice to read in black and white what I have been trying to write.

      One place where we disagree slightly yet end up agreeing is determinism vs free will. I am a determinism kind of guy. I don't see any way around it, given the Big Bang as a starting point and what I conceive of as God's template from which it was made. But, fortunately, part of that template was the science of Quantum Mechanics and its ever-so-lovely Uncertainty Principle which, I can easily talk myself into, gives rise to Free Will.

    • profile imageAUTHOR

      Howard Schneider 

      6 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      I agree with you Arb that we need to take our initially blank lives and paint our meaning on to them. We do this both through our thoughts, actions, and relationships. If we like what we have done or painted in our lives, then it is a good life. Thank you for your comments.

    • arb profile image


      6 years ago from oregon

      The blank canvas inherits meaning from the painters brush and every painter will bring different color, different stroke and different vision to bear upon the blank. Perhaps our lives are but empty canvas that we the painters makes into works of art. The problem is, art is so subjective. Perhaps meaning is simply paint. Garbage or masterpiece? Meaning paints them both. Perhaps the question should be; did I paint well the canvas given me and who is it, when I have finished, that will tell me how well I used the paint

    • profile imageAUTHOR

      Howard Schneider 

      8 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Thank you for the glowing compliments glf. I think it is important that we sit down and examine what our life's meaning is about. It helps to evaluate and focus oneself.

    • gjfalcone profile image


      8 years ago from Gilbert, Arizona

      Bravo Mr. Schneider.

      Your flowing progression,through quite possibly the most difficult topic to examine, absolutely floored me. I constantly found myself verbalizing the words 'Yes' & 'exactly' througout your "Musings on the meaning of Life". Your ability to articulate, compartmentalize & describe 'fragmented thoughts' far exceeds the attemps I've made, of which you have conquered masterfully. Sir, like a well written novel, it left me wanting for more. gjf

    • profile imageAUTHOR

      Howard Schneider 

      8 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Captain Jimmy, it took me quite a long while to reply to your comment because there didn't seem to be anything to say in response. All I can say is I seek the truth every day. It's great that you have found yours.

    • profile imageAUTHOR

      Howard Schneider 

      8 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Thank you very much Bobbi. I appreciate your comments and I'm glad you enjoyed the Hub.

    • BobbiRant profile image


      8 years ago from New York

      This was such an inspiring hub. Thank you for sharing your reflections.

    • profile imageAUTHOR

      Howard Schneider 

      8 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Thank you Tony for your kind words. It took me a while to write this because I wanted to think it all out and coherently state my own personal philosophy. I re-read some college philosophy texts including Camus, Nietzche, Mill, Russell, Aquinas, and many others which have influenced me. Then I was able to synthesize them into my own personal philosophy. It got me to reading them again and I am continuing to do so. Thank you for your hubs that sparked me to do so. Good luck to both of us on this magical journey. I look forward to hearing from you further. Take care.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      "My religion is my free will to continually re-discover the meaning of the world and my life and make sense of these causal events." I say "Amen!" to that. I too believe that we create the meaning of life in each and every decision we make from moment to moment. Those decisions are either positive and increase the good around us or negative and do the opposite. We have the choice and the responsibility to live by our choices.

      I like Albert Camus's concpet of there being only two types of people in the world, the executioners and the victims, and we can choose either to be on the side of the executioners or of the victims. My choice is the latter and that is what helps me make sense of life.

      We have the power to choose either life or death, beauty or ugliness, freedom or prison, love or hate, peace or enmity.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

      Love and peace


    • Captain Jimmy profile image

      Captain Jimmy 

      8 years ago from WV


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