Musings On The Meaning Of Life
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.