I'm interested to know. Mostly looking for positive, wholesome things to hear from other people.
I have a hard time nailing down a definition for this question because I've been trained to think the answer needs to be grand, overarching or valuable to other people.
But the bottom line is, I truly am nihilistic. Like I have goals(get published, paint stuff, marry my girl) but they are things I desire to do not because of some meaning within them. These things make me happy, make me feel good to do them(to write, to paint, to love).
I don't feel a particular loyalty or responsibility to my fellow man half the time, nor do I plan to have children. On a certain scale, I do. I desire to be good towards others because I want them to be happy and to be happy with me, in particular. I desire to see the suffering of others lessened because if it were me, I would want others who saw me suffering to think and act on my behalf. It's not an investment in a future where I will be repaid; it simply hurts to watch knowing what it feels like to be left alone in suffering.
But in my day to day, I'm not a warrior. I'm not going out there thinking of humanity on my shoulders as I make purchase choices or share my opinions. I don't actually live as if I owe a responsibility to this planet and our communities. It is simply enough that I abstain from doing harm.
I'm probably not articulating my thoughts properly and nobody will likely read this whole thing. Just been thinking about this question again and trying to share the simplified mindset I've come to where I don't actually acknowledge or am not aware of any purpose in my life. Like, I'm happy with that but was just trying to draw it out, trying to put it into words.
It was different in Mormonism. I remember constantly being aware of the meaning my life had been given. "I am a child of God" was in my mind almost every moment of every day. Happy or sad moments were coloured by this notion that I belong to someone, I am a tool, I was made, I am wanted. My life was not mine, my existence was written by something more powerful than me. I owed debts forever based on this notion. And how unhappy that made me, to never feel free to have a moment where I wasn't THAT, where I wasn't working towards THAT, or taking responsibility for that as my role.
I don't believe there is any meaning to life. At all. Looking for it is an unnecessary distraction, a detour, that atrophies the good stuff.
This is my life and no one else's and what I want from it is to "never level off" which is my personal motto. If "life is a banquet" as Auntie Mame said, then the most important ingredient is hunger. Spending a lot of time trying to score a reservation at the most exclusive restaurant doesn't do it for me. Been there, done that.
Human interconnection is best when guided by reciprocity. Which is the opposite of winning the big prize. This is the stuff that happens in the shadows as they say. My best memories of my life are the liminal moments, not the big wins.
This is from a review that sums up much of how I feel about life"
"The show is more interested in the unlikely sweetness and meaning of friendship that can come from all of the time that's not supposed to count, moment to moment, day to day, year to year, before some imagined big break."
I, too, had grandiose plans for laying it all out on the line regarding Existence, but then The Cat wrote (see below!!), and since nothing could possibly top what he said, I'm just going to sit around all day, brooding.
My purpose is to leave behind children and grandchildren who are an improvement upon myself. Having fulfilled that purpose, my purpose is to create order out of the chaos and articulate a more tenable existential foothold than the one I inherited, which is why I write here and elsewhere, to pass on the meaning I have derived from my observations and reason, to the next generation that will replace my generation.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/13/2023 12:25PM by schrodingerscat.
"My purpose is to leave behind children and grandchildren who are an improvement upon myself."
I find that disturbing. And you say you "have fulfilled that purpose?" Such influence you have!
My parents treated all six of us the same. And yet we could not be more different than each other. We each found our own path with our own passions. It took til the end of his life for my father to appreciate who I was rather than judge me by what he wanted me to be, what he considered an "improved version".
We are all making it up as we go along and assuming one's take on things is the correct one and that path should be taken by others is a little, well, arrogant in my books.
A few months before leaving for the mission field, I was with some of my fellow ward Priests at a Stake Aaronic priesthood function. We ended up being divided into three classrooms, Deacons, Teachers, and Priests. I only knew the guys from my ward...
In the classroom, the instructor began a typical lesson. After a bit, he posed a question, but I don't recall his exact wording; it was along the lines of "how can you best show your father in heaven that you want to return to his presence?"
Then he started at the front of the class and asked each attendee to provide a response. So, of course, we were all striving to give what we knew was expected, but doing it better than the guys ahead of us. "What he said..." was not going to cut it, despite how true it might be.
I was in the third row, with lots of time, as I began thinking about my response and how to make it better than any other response, or to at least make it into the top three.
But just before getting to the end of the second row, a kid said, "I want to be a disc jockey! I want to play really great songs!" His voice was loud and firm.
It blew my mind! I could not understand what had just happened, at least in terms of WHY he had interjected such Terrestrial gibberish into a Celestial discussion! I have no recollection of how the instructor handled it. But then it reached me and I gave a grand and lofty response . . .
I eventually grasped that he simply didn't believe and wanted to poke fun at the religion of his youth! But at the time, just WOW!!
And not only was he slamming the church, but he was also mocking what the rest of us were doing in our desire to impress the others and the teacher.
What won't TBMs say to impress upon the rest just how valiant they are? Saying v. Doing...
I have sort of a dark view of things as I get older. Humans are mostly disappointing although there are examples of genius, joy and hope here and there.
For the most part, humans are going to pee in their cereal until they can't. Most are not capable of long term planning. They will cut down the last tree if they can. They will keep making plastic for the most trivial of things to throw in the ocean. Most of our history and evolution was shaped by victorious kings, emperors, and other power hungry greedy leaders who use violence and force to favor their own goals. Empathy does not appear to have been a dominant force in our history as I stupidly believed all my life. Cruelty has often been the dominant tool for human "progress."
That said, I still care about trying to find a purpose or meaning for myself. However, like you, I don't really know what that would be for myself. I've ruled out any grand purpose for humans other than to thrive biologically until they can't, just like every other species does.
I care about cruelty to animals a lot. I like to read a lot. I want the world to be a better place for my grandchildren. None of these really lead to a purpose, but I pretend that they do.
Dagny, you are a remarkably dark and skeptical person and I admire that greatly.
The courage to see things as they are is foundational to a genuine life and to the possibility of making things slightly better—or at least refraining from participating in activities and groups making them worse.
"I have sort of a dark view of things as I get older. Humans are mostly disappointing although there are examples of genius, joy and hope here and there."
COMMENT: There seems to me to be two different but related 'meaning of life' views at work here. The first is social, representing the 'disappointing' lack of moral progress of humanity generally, where social and political institutions continually disappoint notwithstanding isolated examples of heroic (and more general) individual exceptions.
The second interpretation represents the exceptions noted; that is, the commitment of *individuals* to humanistic values on a more personal level. I think the vast majority of people are kind-hearted and have an altruistic moral disposition that is sensitive to the plight of others--notwithstanding also adhering to harmful social, political, or religious ideologies. Thus, on a personal, human interactive level, perhaps empathy remains a significant force and 'meaning' in human life. ________________________________________
"That said, I still care about trying to find a purpose or meaning for myself. However, like you, I don't really know what that would be for myself. I've ruled out any grand purpose for humans other than to thrive biologically until they can't, just like every other species does."
COMMENT: It seems to me that you have stated the purpose or meaning of life: As a lone individual to think and act with empathy towards others, while minimizing personal self-interest. That is the antipathy of the "grand purpose" of biology. In this sense, an individual's 'meaning of life' 'transcends' their biological self-interest, which itself is quite remarkable when you think about it. (I have no truck for 'explanations' of altruism within biology.) __________________________________
"I care about cruelty to animals a lot. I like to read a lot. I want the world to be a better place for my grandchildren. None of these really lead to a purpose, but I pretend that they do."
COMMENT: I would suggest that perhaps in such desires and actions you are not pretending! Perhaps you have discovered the meaning of life after all. And judging by your comments on RfM, you *do* make the world a better place!
I don't think you would see that side of me if you knew me in person. RfM is where I unload dark weirdness.
When I was religious, I was optimistic about everything. I was chosen! I was special and had "the truth." I was a god in embryo. There were smart men directed by God in charge! Yippee! I was oblivious to reality. Glass half full.
When I was focused on mostly science, I was hopeful. I saw problems but I saw potential progress. I saw a system to more closely align with reality. Glass half empty.
Later I focused on literature, history and "softer sciences." I was devastated to realize the true nature of humans and how I selectively ignored how things came to be. Reality is not all puppies and rainbows. Nature is beautiful but incredibly cruel. No glass at all remains. I see what is outside the glass.
I do see many wonderful things around, so I don't want to give the impression that I never see goodness and even some hope.
my dogs. They bring me joy every day. Taking them on walks and watching how happy they are about it helps my days. I'd like to adopt a few more, but I can't because of the laws here, but mine would probably not like it either. I plan on always adopting more if I live that long.
I liked what Dagny said, too. It seems that most people think when they get old, they'll have it all figured out. I just pick up more baggage.
My daughter is doing well and I'm happy about that. She has an excellent husband and his family is the best, so I don't have to worry so much about her, though she is TBM. I'm not so sure her prayers are being answered.
I feel discouraged and overwhelmed by my son's problems. So I concentrate on the little things. I'm sick of the snow. I can tell you that, but thrilled that the sun came out.
Dogs have been my saving grace in my life since my husband first left and some of my greatest pain, though they have saved me so many times. I read a book once that at the end said, "Once you have loved a dog, living without one is a life diminished." My kids would agree.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/13/2023 02:16PM by cl2.
I completely relate to your post. I also focus on things like snow, mostly because I have no power to fix anything big in the world for my kids or anyone else. There is plenty of worry about what will happen to our children. I can't imagine how much harder it is with a child with big problems. You do what you can and love them. You know you are doing the best you can and have been supportive. That's all anyone can ask of their parents.
I also have a dog who gives unconditional love. She asks for nothing in return (well, except an occasional treat). We don't deserve them. So many are treated badly. It breaks my heart what "dominion over animals" has allowed humans to do.
I'm gonna third the motion. I live for me time with my dog. I take my lunch every day (rain, snow, shine, bitter cold etc) and walk my dog. It is my favorite time each day. I don't know what my purpose is, but my dogs purpose is clearly to bring me joy.
My best understanding of life can be explained by the following analogy,
*Dons top hat and spotlight snaps on*
"Ladies, Gentlemen, and Non-Binaries! Children of all ages! Welcome . . . to the Cirque du Merde! Your seats have been selected at random, but you can claw your way to a better seat! Folks in the good seats had better watch out! You might have to share with someone you don't like!
"I'm sorry to say our show features cruelty to animals, especially the ones in the audience! But, hey, we entertain you. Might as well ask you to return the favor!
"So get comfortable, folks, you're all here until you die!"
And to think, my youngest sister was the theatre nerd in the family.
And, unfortunately, I find myself agreeing with dagney about how much cruelty and backstabbing have been a driving force in human history. Both in the past and today, gaining power at other's expense is the standard.
If you know this and still insist on being kind and caring about others in this world, all I can say is, "Aww! Come here, you little rebel!" *Virtual Noogie*
And if anyone's idea of purpose is to make society follow the one true path, please leave me out of it. I'd die of sheer boredom if everyone was all alike.
ETA: If someone's kind and you both enjoy the terrible show of life together, hang on to them for dear life.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/13/2023 07:42PM by ookami.
Back in the 1980s I was putting my arts training to good use, working in the interior decorating and design industry in NYC. I worked with all of the top designers of the era, or at times, their assistants. I sold them various items, and designed custom items for them. It was fun, and artistically satisfying.
However...I came to realize that it would be difficult to make it to the highest levels in the industry without being rich, or at least well-to-do, myself. Yes, some people do it, but it takes a tremendous amount of drive that I just didn't have.
Plus...there were things that were starting to bother me, such as the more-or-less standing cost of $10K for *one* set of living room or bedroom curtains. Or the tantrums thrown by the designers' clients over things like not being able to make a Christmas delivery for a custom piece that they ordered at the last minute. First world problems, am I right?
I started to think...if I'm going to deal with people throwing tantrums, I want those people to be six years old or younger. I felt a deep calling to go into one of the helping professions, to make a difference. So I did.
God, I was *so* naive. I took my newly acquired skills and training, and became an urban teacher. I had no clue. It was so, so difficult. But I persevered. I have taught for several decades now. At present, I work with immigrant children. The stories that they and their families tell me would tear your heart out. So may brave, aspiring people.
So I feel like I've done my bit. In my small way, I've made the world a better place. That's important to me. I also highly value helping my family, and helping animals. I learned a very long time ago that you have to do things for your own reasons, because you may not get any gratitude in return. So I do these things for my own reasons, because it fulfils me as a human being.
My question now, is, how do I find meaning in retirement? I'm not sure. TBD.
If you try to find spiritual meaning to life, you will be like a dog chasing your tail endlessly.
Life is to be lived! A life lived comes in various forms or combinations of, reckless, stupidly, addicted, religious, money driven, fame driven, lying, cheating, helping, surviving, adventure, duty, etc.
But the key to all of the above is emotions. Control your emotions, less crashing and burning. Running on emotion, lots of crashing and burning.
So the meaning of life is to take charge, know what you are doing and why. Understand the difference between needs and wants. And whatever path you take, assume responsibility.
The object of my life is to stay sober. The purpose is to be happy. And to do my best.
It’s frightening the amount of discontinuity I sometimes feel Around those three things at time, but the struggle is incredibly valuable. More often than not, it does make me happy, and lately I have been doing my best, for the first time in a decade.
I guess if I had to assign a purpose for any given person, At any time, and be as general as possible while also speaking to the most universal and powerful truth about life that I believe is right for the most Amount of people, it would be that our purpose is just to not be alone.
“But in my day to day, I'm not a warrior. I'm not going out there thinking of humanity on my shoulders as I make purchase choices or share my opinions. I don't actually live as if I owe a responsibility to this planet and our communities. It is simply enough that I abstain from doing harm.”
The last sentence is perhaps your purpose and meaning. Events in your day to day can be focused around ‘this’. In everything, try to do no harm…make your choices reflect this. If everyone lived consciously by this purpose, we could probably have a lot of social and environmental ills sorted out. You see, you have chosen the rather highest and most noble meaning and purpose to pursue.