Sunday, December 03, 2006

The meaning of life.

“Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.” – Erich Fromm

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” – Carl Jung

“Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is.” – Carl Rogers

As our species throughout history attests, humans have pondered the fundamental philosophical question regarding the meaning of life since the ability to write and most likely the development of conscious self-awareness and a higher cognitive ability even before.
For a great number of people this question poses as a serious obstacle, one seemingly insurmountable, and one which is usually resolved through the most vacuous, superfluous and inept means possible, religion.
The principle aim of life, as far as I am aware and in the most rudimentary form, is to survive to the fullest efficacy possible and to replicate ones own genetic lineage. However, beyond these simple tasks – or difficult if you rather - the meaning of life is open to interpretation, it is to be discovered and affirmed by the individual for the individual. In an objective sense the meaning of life is as I described first, in a more subjective sense the meaning of life is infinitely open to interpretation. I would hardly expect two individuals’ specific interpretations of what the meaning of life is to be identical.
As a secular humanist I find the meaning of life to be, in a general sense, the pursuit of life in abundance, happiness, pleasure and love. In a more distilled sense I find the meaning of life to comprise a number of categories such as psychological, biological, social, political, scientific and philosophical. It begins, as I see it, with oneself, through discovering who one really is, and affirming this one develops a healthy and strong psychological awareness of ones own self and is then ready to pursue the other categories. One must realize and then develop the best of their abilities, which consists of cultivating in ones own personality, strength, lucidity, intelligence, a yearning for knowledge, skepticism, empathy and, as Carl Rogers phrased it, “unconditional positive regard.”
Built upon this, the meaning of life is now concerned with social aspects. I take it as the meaning of life to work towards the remediation and reconciling of social ills and conflicts, to help create a peaceful, cohesive and tranquil social environment and world-state. To help others realize and attain their highest potential possible. The meaning of life, socio-politically speaking, is to affirm universal human rights and decency and to work towards creating a citadel of peace and beauty, in this life, globally. It is to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideals of democracy, freedom and the open society. It is to work towards increasing educational standards, literacy and cultural enrichment.
Scientifically and philosophically, the meaning of life is to better understand it. It is to work towards a comprehensive description of the universe which we find ourselves in and the functioning thereof. With the growth of our scientific knowledge comes, inextricably bound, advances in virtually every aspect of our lives. Advances in scientific medicine such as antibiotics, vaccines, modern techniques of surgery, anesthesia, pharmacology and biogenetic engineering has tremendously improved our prospects for a happier, healthier, longer and more fulfilling life. Scientific research has and will continue to elucidate our knowledge of the universe and our place within it through such facets as astronomy, physics, biology, genetics, psychology, sociology, etc.
It is, to me, the meaning of life to pursue these ends. The meaning of life is to not only survive and replicate, but to derive pleasure and happiness while doing so. It is to love life in its abundance, to seek and work towards creating and instilling more abundance and to share this love and experience with others.

9 comments:

Stardust said...

It is, to me, the meaning of life to pursue these ends. The meaning of life is to not only survive and replicate, but to derive pleasure and happiness while doing so. It is to love life in its abundance, to seek and work towards creating and instilling more abundance and to share this love and experience with others.

Well said, JD

I have a Joseph Campbell quote on my blog, which says "Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning."

The meaning of life for individuals could be either good or bad, depending on one's environment and level of opportunity, education and social status.

Humans are born with different abilities and upbringings and they develop different interests and each person has the capacity to do something positive or negative with their lives which will either make society a better or a worse place in which to live. We can choose which it will be...most humans,fortunately choose the positive route and do the best they can.

JDHURF said...

I like the Campbell quote, certainly befitting. It is true, that every individual is different and develops differing interests therefore rendering a different – albeit sometimes very similar – meaning of life as contrasted with others. As I said: “I would hardly expect two individuals’ specific interpretations of what the meaning of life is to be identical.” Let’s hope that those who choose the positive route become even more the norm.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

bpabbott said...

Nice post! I got a laugh out of the Fromm quote

“Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.” – Erich Fromm

am I alone in recognizing a commonly inferred solution ... "I'm so wonderfully important/miraculous that it can't be by chance that I exist, some supernatural being must have created, and is watching over, me!" ?

JDHURF said...

bpabbott,
I’m not quite sure how to take your response, I’m not sure if you’re being facetious in criticizing Fromm, or if you’re being facetious in criticizing the inept and stunningly vacuous religious solution to one of the oldest philosophical questions in existence.
I went to your blog to see if I couldn’t clarify which position you would be more likely to take, and, well, I was still left unsure.
In which case I will simply thank you for stopping by and commenting.

bpabbott said...

JDHURF wrote: "I’m not quite sure how to take your response, I’m not sure if you’re being facetious in criticizing Fromm, or if you’re being facetious in criticizing the inept and stunningly vacuous religious solution to one of the oldest philosophical questions in existence."

Sorry for the confusing post, ... it would be the later ... of course ;-) ... however, I'd hoped (and still do) to not offend anyone!

I'm new to your blog, but find it to my liking!

JDHURF said...

Thank you for the clarification, no apology necessary. With a healthy number of the devoutly religious by simply dispassionately stating your opinion you are likely to offend, by no fault on your behalf. I have yet to take offense to a post and likely won’t. I very glad that you enjoy my blog!

Anonymous said...

For me life is just "moving on"...for how long and how far .. i cant say,.... but just keep moving on.
Can't say what it all accounts for.. at the end of the day... you should be happy... thts what someone said to me... n thts what is correct but it is so difficult to keep with.

sirrunrunshaw said...

beautiful. thanks for sharing.

JDHURF said...

anonymous: you’ve got the idea.

sirrunrunshaw: thank you very much!