What Is The Meaning Of Life?
I’ve pondered the grandest of all philosophical questions – the meaning of life – since at least my early teenage years. I’ve also asked a lot of people their opinion on the subject. The most common answers I get are:
- to accumulate as much happiness or pleasure as possible;
- to serve God (or follow God’s plan)
- to prepare for an afterlife
- to attain a high level of spirituality or knowledge
- to make a positive difference in the world
- there is no meaning to life
However, none of these theories fully resonate with me. Making myself happy sounds great, but I don’t see how it adds meaning to life; serving God would require God’s will to have been clearly communicated to me, and it hasn’t; I have never seen evidence of an afterlife, as much as I hope for one; becoming more spiritual could lead me to greater clarity but it probably wouldn’t justify the existence of humankind; and who’s to say what making a positive difference means, since the concept of right and wrong is so subjective. That leaves me with meaninglessness, which I easily dismiss because life is too beautiful and well-orchestrated to be meaningless.
The only answer that feels right to me is that the meaning of life is to perpetuate a flow of energy in the world. The reason for the existence of this energy is either too complex or too pure for me to understand. But energy – which I define as anything that has the potential to cause movement, no matter how small – is present in everything we see, do, and think. An electron is a simple bit of energy; a human being is a rich cosmos of energy.
The reason I think that keeping this energy moving is the meaning of life is simply because every being seems to be inclined to accomplish this purpose. There are no organisms that thrive on zero energy, and in general, every living thing attempts to perpetuate more energy rather than less. Whatever force created living things obviously wanted them to keep the world thriving. Therefore, this state of thriving appears to be at least part of the purpose this force had in creating life.
Any discussion on the meaning of life must also address the question of how to conduct oneself while on this earth. I believe that one should do what feels natural and organic to living. Most activities fit that description. Activities that are destructive to life generally do not. And yet, despite the importance we attribute to our own actions, we all accomplish the purpose of life collectively rather than individually. That is, no single being is essential to all of life, yet the totality of life is essential to every being; this is because all organisms are dependent on each other through energy that is passed around in various ways. One can look at the food chain as one example of this interdependence. Human society is another.
And so, how can a human make his life as meaningful as possible? There are a wealth of ways. One of my greatest desires is to create my own family someday. I believe this will add meaning to my life and to our collective existence because it perpetuates energy. By bringing to life a new person who has his own capability of perpetuating life, I am carrying on an infinite cycle of life – one which all of us are a part of. However, those who don’t have children can contribute as much as those who do by helping, teaching, or enriching other beings in order to strengthen their existence and fortify their procreation. Even outside the realm of humans there are many ways to add meaning to life: for instance, planting a garden has its own ripple effect of energy.
A final piece of any discussion of the meaning of life is the subject of what happens when we die. Where does our consciousness go? Do our lives continue in some way? I am certain that they do, and the extent depends on the amount of energy you have put into motion while you were alive. This process applies to all living beings, not just humans. A tree that has sheltered and fed many animals and fertilized the earth has passed its energy into other forms and carried on the flow of life. A human who has nurtured a family, influenced others with his words, and offered himself in public service has radiated his energy in many directions and will perpetuate life as long as life exists.
The ways in which that energy permutates, and its ultimate destination, are fantastic mathematical constellations that belong more to the imagination than to the printed page. But I think that if all people strive to create the kind of energy that crackles, we will be doing our part to live meaningful lives.
Evan Bailyn is a serial entrepreneur, search engine and social media expert, celebrated author and child advocate. His company, First Page Sage, is a leader in search engine optimization and social media marketing - vastly increasing business for its clients through high SEO rankings, targeted Facebook advertising and viral videos. Evan is also the founder of the Evan Bailyn Foundation, a foundation dedicated to teaching emotional awareness to children and adults.