The Meaning of Life - What's Yours?


Ultimate Meaning



Sustainablity - Our Environment

Personal Happiness and Contentment - Is that the ultimate goal?


OK I have something that I'd like to get off my chest.  I don't have a lot of real meaning in person adult friends at the moment - I've moved cities and haven't been out much - although that is changing - so being able to write on here - in a dear diary way - but get some feed back would be really great - as I don't get time to research my theories as much as I would like - and so some grounding from others always helps me not to get too far off reality.


I suppose it relates to meaning of life.  What is your meaning of life?


I've worked a lot of getting rid of mythology and have been left with not much really - although I am quite liking the humanist perspective - or what I know of it - in terms of it's natural and science base.


I figure due to the heat death of the universe there isn't much point to life.  Only that we are here and that is amazing in itself.  But we aren't perfect - we only find ourselves here because in our current form we are well adapted to reproduce - but it isn't without flaws.


Death is something that many fear and I think it is a main driving forse of religious belief - behind the cultural and social benefits people gain from involvement.  I think a good death is quite an amazing experience according to people who've come back from death to tell the tale - so now a days I'm not so scard of death - although who knows how I'll be at the time.  I feel sad thinking about it - but then again I'm only 34 and hope to live until I'm at least 80 - so perhaps by the time I've had another 46 years I'll be in a very different head space about it all.  Here's hoping anyhow.  In fact I think a good way of dealing with death in general is to accept it's going to happen and know that it is quite amazing for a few minutes once you've died technically, until you're brain fades out.  Of course there is nothing after that, so I'm not worried about that bit - it's the leaving that is really sad - leaving all your family and friends behind - my husband put it quite well when he said it's a bit like leaving a really great party before it's finished.


So once we've dealt with death - and meaning - ultimately there isn't any - what are we left with?  We're left with what to do with our time?


Morals have come up quite a bit.  I didn't used to like them much - but Sam Harris book changed that - and now I can see the value in morals in terms of it's wrong to cause children harm through sexually abuse or physical mutalation - through cutting off their clitorises.  So on an extreme end of things I can see the value of moral values of right and wrong.  I can see also that we have these values because we have empathy and don't like to see others hurt.


But can we stop all pain?  Would it be good to stop all pain?


Pain is part of life - it is helpful in some ways - it would be nice if we didn't need to have it, but it has a value by way of keeping us alive.


I like nonviolent communication - not because I think we ought to be nonviolent in our communication, but because I think it is a useful tool in communicating with others about our feelings and needs, so as to get our needs met in a way that isn't harmful to others.  I think this is a useful way of being.


We are lucky in our society generally that we don't have to make decisions about harming others.  I'm not convised that total nonviolence would work.  When thinking about the major religions in the world the ones that are most nonviolent are quite contained and small - although Hinduism has a lot of members.  It's the violent ones that are prospering - christianity and islam.  In fact Islam seems to have picked wars with all of them - Pakistain and India - Palastine and Israel - Islam and the West - I don't think they've attacked the Buddhists yet - perhaps there is something in that!


Christians seem good at fighting Islam currently and historically - I'm thinking of the crusaides.


Buddhists aren't agressive, but they don't seem to be growing either - in fact China has put quite a stop to their leadership also.


The other main issue I think is our sustainablity on planet earth.  I don't think that waiting for technology to get us safely to another planet is the key to this.  I think we'll be waiting a long time and in fact I think the human race will die out and take out most other species with it, before we work out how to get a group of humans safely to another habitable planet using science.


I think that the evolution of dealing with climate change will be gradual and we will slowly adapt to less food and less material things.  Although I also think that much pain will come too and I think that we will have more people starving or getting sick due to malnurishment - the food quality is already going down - due to our farming practices - we relay on synthetic vitamins - which I'm skeptical about - and also fossil fuel based fertilisers - I'm not sure how sustainable they are either - and I believe that crops are reducing due to poor quality of soils.  Although Israel and Australia are leading the way with using poor soils to grow food - due to their need based on poor soils.  American on the other hand seems to have rich deep soils.  India is running out of water in parts to successfully irrigate food.


Is it OK that humans clear the land to make food for themselves at the expense of so many other species?  I heard that at least 5 species are lost every day mainly due to human food production.  We haven't even found all the species in the world - there are just so many.  Does it even matter, when the universe will die a heat death in the end any way?  What's it all worth?


Perhaps it matters to our quality of life and our survival as a species.  But you wouldn't know, when most people are more concerned about entertainment - once they've done their day's work to get their basic needs met.  Switching their brains off in favour of someone elses imagined theatre on TV or you tube.


It seems perhaps that I missed the point here.  Isn't life about enjoying yourself?  Does it really matter about the planet and long term sustainability and saving other species or our own for that matter?


Perhaps it doesn't really matter what we do at all.  Perhaps everyone should just life the life that makes them the most happy - and that is the best thing we can all do.


What are your thoughts?









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Replies to This Discussion

Why does there have to be a meaning of life?

Ryan - well there doesn't have to be a meaning to life - but I think that people feel better when they feel they have meaning in their life - in that why would you do anything or have any motivation if you didn't feel it had some meaning to you to do so?


What do you do in your day?  Doesn't it have meaning to you?  Why would you do it if it didn't?


Eating is meaningful - we feel hungry and when we eat we feel contented - so it has meaning - the meaning is that it makes us feel better.  And so on...

My meaning of life is life itself. To live and learn, to enjoy, to share with other people and other animals. To accept the inevitable pain, knowing that pain is the extreme of feeling - and I cannot imagine a life without feeling.

I´m not very troubled about death, perhaps that comes with growing older. If I´m lucky, death wil come when I´m no longer able to enjoy the party of life, like the terminally ill cat I had put to sleep last week.

Morals: we´re all free to develop our own. To me it´s important what I do and how I do it, not because of the negligible impact of my actions on the world, but because of the impact on myself and on the members of my household.


I think "meaning" is misapplied to life.  A tree doesn't mean anything, nor a painting, nor a poem.  They do, or show, or say something.  I taught poetry for 30 years, and I never explained what a poem meant.  I helped my students to see what it says.


Words and symbols have meaning.  Other than those....???


My purpose in life is the same as a tree's, or a fly's, or a sponge's:  to survive to reproduce.


I think there is value in human life, but that is as I assign it.

So the meaning for human or any other life is to survive and reproduce?


Surely it's more than that...  what about people who can't have children or choose not too -


Words and symbols have meaning... yes I suppose they do - I think it's important to do things that have meaning to us - I suppse the basic would be to meet our needs for survival - which are many on their own - such as the need to have community, for peace, for personal expression and creativity and the need for physical safety, food, shelter, warmth and affection - we've got heaps of needs - so meeting any of those would be meaningful for us as part of our survival...

I said life has no meaning.  I said its purpose is to survive to reproduce.  Evolutionarily and biologically speaking, childless people have purpose only in the ways they help the species survive to reproduce.  Evolution has NO teleological purpose.  It is a hard process, and humans may well be one of evolution's dead ends or side roads.  Millions of species didn't stand up to continued evolution, and ours may be one of them.
I am disposed to agree with you. "Purpose" implies a teleological goal, which I've myself disavowed above.  I am persuaded. TY.

Park - surely the goal of living life with the fewest regrets is an anti life statement in so far as it's not about what you want but what you don't want.  Also regrets like catching the wind are quite tricky to hold down - I only start having regrets about my life when I get in a melancholic mood and start thinking about the past in a negative way - if I don't think about the past at all - then I don't have any regrets at all - so regrets come and go depending on my mood and as time goes past.  I can have less regrets as I get older if I decide not to think about the past so much...LOL.  Determinsim dictates that we couldn't have done otherwise anyhow...


Although I was having a conversation with a guy the other day and he quite confronted me when he said that physics has shown that things can happen without cause - did you know that?  I'm really not sure how to take this - as I've thought till now that everything was caused in a cause and effect way - and didn't know that we could have uncaused events.  Could it be possible that they are mistaken and just didn't see the cause?  Perhaps they aren't aware of the cause - perhaps time is skued in some senses and things from the future time can cause things apparently in the past, according to our understanding of time as linier - I don't know I'm clasping at staws here because I felt very warm and cosy with a cause and effect universe - although it does bring up the 'who starting it all' problem - which many use God to fill - but then there's the old, but who caused God to do it or who created god?  But any way I'm not getting into another debate about god - but what did start off the univese - and if there are events or even matter than can come into existance un caused - where does that leave determinism?  What are the implications for us or our lives?  So many questions - I really am becoming more and more skeptical that humans will ever know these answers, ever before we die out as a species never mind in my life time... and in that case, what does it matter the answers to these questions because I won't be around to hear the answers - and so we come back to meaning of life... and what to do with it....


So no regrets.


what does that mean to you?  That you won't avoid doing something - or you'd like to try it all before you die?  Or that you're not going to risk your livelyhood on some scheme to find out that you've lost the lot?  It really could go either way depending on personality - couragous or cautious.

I'd like to respond to Alice's "...things can happen without cause." and Park's "Alice, if that were true we'd have heard about it, because it would be re-writing the physics that he supposedly say prove it.  Simply, its wrong."

An example of a real thing that can happen without cause is the particular path a complex pendulum takes. My favorite complex pendulum is the "... so-called spherical pendulum - a pendulum free to swing not just back and forth but in any direction. A few small magnets are  placed round its base. The magnets attract the metal bob, and when the pendulum stops, it will have been captured by one of them. ... Even with just three magnets placed in a triangle, the pendulum's motion cannot be predicted." James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science (Penguin Books, 1987) 43.

This video shows such a complex pendulum with eight magnets. This physical model represents an entire class of phenomena which are part of our world, events which cross scale so that quantum uncertainty actually changes everyday macroscopic events. We now know that the universe isn't all linear and predictable.

If a perfect sphere were balanced on a very sharp point in the absence of vibration or air, would you say that the point "caused" the sphere to fall one direction rather than another?

Many physical systems exhibit extreme sensitivity to initial conditions.  It's the fact that sensitivity to initial position is multiplied each time the pendulum reaches apogee and changes direction, again and again, that makes the complex pendulum inherently unpredictable. True the earliest bounces are more predictable than the later, as the uncertainty is multiplied on each bounce. The entire path is essentially entangled with the quantum uncertainty of the initial position. How do you attribute a cause to that path?

Chris - I'm a supporter of volentary euthanasia - (spelling!)  - we can humanly allow animals to die peacefull why discriminate against humans?  I would much rather be able to decide when I can go in a peaceful way than have to carry on a suffer some more -


Morals are social things I think - like moral feelings - guilt, shame etc they guide us to how to behave towards others.  They can also be used to control others though emotional manipulation - which I think should be watched and is immoral in itself - but if we can make sense of what's happened and use our emotions wisely - in that we can discriminate between following our feelings and knowing when someone is taking advantage of our natural drive to have moral behaviour and fit in socially and do the right thing by our fellow humans - then we can be in a better place.

Alysn - I like it!  When nothing you do matters, the only thing that matters is what you do... perfect.  I've come to that too - it came from the heat death of the universe for me - if ultimately nothing matters, then I'll have to make every moment I'm alive matter to me.


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