Friday, December 29, 2006

The meaning of life - if any

2006 is soon coming to an end. And this blog is coming to a brand new start. Most of the contributons in this blog will probably be quite down to earth and linked to our everyday life as expats in Cape Verde. But what to write in this very first contribution? Why not start off by sharing some thoughts about the basic of basics - the of the so called "meaning of life". It could perhaps provide a foundation for the rest of this blog, to give an idea of where the author of this blog is coming from, on a more philisophical level. So, here it goes:

Human life has no inherent meaning - and, what is more, this circumstance also has no meaning.

Despite common beliefs, it is easy to see that the general notion of the so called “meaning of life” is always completely made up, either designed by yourself, or, in the case of religions, already designed by others as a pre-given “truth”.

While human life might in retrospect appear to be planned or meaningful, in reality, very little of what goes on in our lives is but a series of coincidental events.

Most people seem to prefer to attach a “meaning” to events in order to grasp all those coincidental things that just seem to happen to us, especially those that we don’t understand. We can in that sense be described as “meaning-making” machines. This might be a natural consequence of the fact that humans have the capacity to understand a lot, but not everything. At some point in time, we all realize that we don’t understand everything, and this realization makes us very uncomfortable. Therefore, we have a very strong driving force to “create” meanings.

The notion that life is meaningless seems to be very difficult for many people to accept; some, including most believers of the main world religions, would even say that life is not worth living if it has no meaning. Consequently, many seem to attach a major (negative) significance to the possibility that life has no meaning.

I would argue, however, that this circumstance – that life has no meaning – has in itself no meaning. It is not bad. It is not good. It just is (as a possibility). Interestingly, this second notion seems to be even more difficult for humans to grasp, or to accept. (Many classical existentialists, such as Sartre and his followers, are evidence of this as they tended to be very pessimistic about the conclusion that life has no meaning.)

The bad news about life having no meaning is that there is no “higher cause” or something “all-mighty" that lies behind the good and the bad things that happen to us and others. (Ever heard – and reflected on – the expression "God works in mysterious ways”? This is just a way of saying I have no clue why this bad thing happened, but there just MUST be a reasonable explanation…)

The good news however is that if there is no pre-given meaning, there is lots of space to create one for ourselves! One that is based on inspiration, caring about others, and generosity. Rather than something that is pre-given, written down, interpreted and distorted countless times, mostly by old men some hundreds of years ago.

This is my simple starting point for my life philosophy.

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