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Just what IS life for?

Is life without purpose? How does one make life 'meaningful'? Is it through one’s relationship with others as we love one another?

In Elisha Fernandes Simpson posed the question: “Just what IS life for?” 

In reply Scott Croft provided an answer upon which I would like to expand. Croft wrote:

“LIfe is worth living because it allows us to love, and be loved”.

In the book Looking in the Distance Richard Holloway comments: "The paradox is that, being gifted and afflicted with consciousness, we pay close attention to the universe, even though it is uninterested in us. We are creatures with a passion for discovering the meaning of things who find ourselves in a universe without any discernible purpose".

Terry Eagleton in his book The Meaning of Life makes the point that many educated people believe life is an evolutionary accident that has no intrinsic meaning. If our lives have meaning, it is something with which we manage to invest them, not something with which they come ready made. Eagleton probes this view of meaning as a kind of private enterprise, and concludes that it fails to hold up. He argues instead that the meaning of life is not a solution to a problem, but a matter of living in a certain way. It is not 'metaphysical' but rather 'ethical'. It is not something separate from life, but what makes it worth living--that is, a certain quality, depth, abundance and intensity of life.

Kant believed that life had 'purposiveness without purpose'. He argued that one's hand or foot can be described as having a 'purpose' - the foot's purpose is to walk and the hand's purpose is to grip things etc. So while the 'purpose' of a foot or a hand is clear one is left with the question: what is the 'meaning' of the foot or hand? This meaning can only be defined within the context of the whole body. That is the hand is meaningful to the body in that it performs several functions that the body as the 'whole' organism needs to have performed.

With these thoughts in mind for what purpose am I here? What IS the meaning of my life? 

I hold to the view that MY life has no 'meaning' to ME but that it has a 'meaning' to others; that is, it has meaning only to the body of humanity as a whole. What I mean by this may be illustrated by asking the question:

"What is the meaning of a daffodil?" 

The daffodil has no meaning as a non-conscious entity and a daffodil can certainly not ask itself "What is the meaning of my daffodil life?" However, the daffodil may have a meaning to me, as a conscious being, for its 'being' a daffodil. I might like its color, or it may bring particular associations to me associated with past events in my life. Thus the daffodil's 'meaning' is subjectively defined by me and may be subjectively defined quite differently by others. Indeed some people do not like the color 'yellow' and to them there would be no meaning or point to having daffodils around at all. I might define daffodils as 'beautiful flowers' while others might see them as 'weeds'.

How does one make life 'meaningful'?  Is it through one’s relationship with others as we love one another? By loving someone that person becomes 'meaningful' in one’s life and if they love you in return then you become meaningful in their life. Thus two lives have one aspect of the 'meaning of their lives' defined through the act of giving and the act of receiving love.  Eagleton asks: Is love then the meaning of life and if so what form of love provides that meaning. Is it 'agape' rather than 'eros', 'philia' or 'storge' as described by C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves.

In biblical literature, agape's meaning and usage is illustrated by self-sacrificing, giving love to all--both friend and enemy. It is used in Matthew 22:39, "Love your neighbor as yourself," and in John 15:12, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you," and in 1 John 4:8, "God is love."  

Eagleton says: What we call love is the way we reconcile our search for individual fulfillment with the fact that we are social animals. For love means creating for another the space in which another person might flourish, at the same time as the other person does this for you. The fulfillment of each becomes the ground for the fulfillment of the other.

And thus as we realize our natures by taking care of each other's 'hearts' we are at our best. 

This is the purpose and meaning of one's life.


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Cenyack February 13, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Yes, we did ponder this back in our early years, when we were probably closer to the truth. Thanks, Micheal, for your thoughts
Brenda M February 13, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Interesting analogy! Tony T's poor wife may need a new Valentine tomorrow if her husband moved on from the subject of love while sitting on his front stoop so many years ago.  He may be a handsome guy but what's the point if he is not too swift with the intellectual stuff. :-)
Tony T February 14, 2012 at 11:29 AM
This is the stuff you discussed in the 7th grade sitting on a stoop on a Sunday afternoon....move on!!!
Tony T February 14, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Brenda, how did you know i was hadsome guy??
Brenda M February 14, 2012 at 12:18 PM
Hi Tony T For a person who continually opines on the behavior of the school board's child-like members  http://newcity.patch.com/articles/school-board-members-express-frustration-with-latest-rescheduled-meeting I would have expected a more comprehensive attention to grammar.  What I said was that you <may be> a handsome guy but that you were <not too swift> on the intellectual front.   Given your question may I now add vanity to the list of your intellectual attributes?  :-) I notice that in response to this article on the meaning of <meaning> you crawled out of Tony T(roglodyte's) cave and having seen Plato's shadow on the wall you yelled  <Move on> as your first contribution.  Over at the school board discussion you have offered <Grow up> as your first contribution to that discussion.   Maybe if one has nothing to say to raise the intellectual level of discourse one should remain silent? You know the expression <it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt>.   But then maybe you don't. ;-) Anyway, Happy Valentine's Day!
Mike Hirsch February 14, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Thank you for those thoughts Michael. For me, life is what you make of it. An old, respected, professor of mine once told me that one needs two things to live a "meaningful" life: love and purpose. I have always wanted to die knowing that I had lived a "full" life, with all it's ups and downs, twists and turns. Adventure, challenge, achievement, and familly are important to me. I think that one stays young by constantly learning and enjoying the surprises that life has in store for us.
Tony T February 14, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Your incorrect I opine (great word) on the child-like behavior of those who oppose the school board.....those who opposes the BOE and Keller-Cogan should grow up and accept that they, the BOE, were duly elected by the parents and citizens of the school district and they should move on rather than continue their continued personal attracts on the members of the BOE and focus on the election this May. And really the discussion on "what is life"....we played that game in the 7th grade as we did "how many angels fit on the head of a pin"!
Tony T February 14, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Real deep........
Brenda M February 14, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Tony T  - I note that you have noticed my note and this note notices that your note was not worth noticing.   Michael - Check out  http://www.amazon.com/Whats-All-About-Philosophy-ebook/dp/B000R521HI/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2 As one reviewer points out Baggini focuses on six answers to the question, "What is the meaning of life?" They are: 1) helping others, 2) serving humanity, 3) being happy, 4) becoming successful, 5) enjoying each day as if it were your last, and 6) freeing your mind.  1 &2 is where I would stop but maybe Tony T should continue on to 6. Just joking! :-). 
Tony T February 14, 2012 at 02:18 PM
The answers are totally sophomoric really childish stuff!!
Michael N. Hull February 14, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Brenda, in the Terry Eagleton book he writes: "If you were to ask what provides some meaning in life nowadays for a great many people, especially men, you could do worse than reply 'football.' Not many of them perhaps would be willing to admit as much; but sport stands in for all those noble causes--religious faith, national sovereignty, personal honor, ethnic identity--for which, over the centuries, people have been prepared to go to their deaths. It is sport, not religion, which is now the opium of the people." I think there is a lot of truth in that observation. (For the record I have to admit that I am a supporter of one of the biggest sports franchises in the world, Manchester United.)

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