What is the Meaning of Life?

I’m doing some research for an upcoming talk I’m giving and I’d appreciate hearing your honest answer in the comments below.

  • Anonymous

    It’s the infinite game. To continually explore and experience ourselves.

  • Phusikoi
  • Christophe

    There is no “the meaning of life” so the question is void (i.e. nonsensical).
    It’s like “how many colors of the week are there?” or “what is the prime number of air?”

    But you can ask: “Can I give meaning to my life?”
    Depending on your individual answer (I presume there migh exist a homo sapiens who cannot give meaning to his life), you can continue to “what would that meaning be” and “How can I give meaning to my life”
    And as we all are humans, and we share culture, we might suspect that what you think gives meaning to your life might give meaning to other people’s lives as well….
    You might as well share it when you found that.
    As I might share what gives meaning in my life… I can share that too (if that was the actual question)
    Calling it “the meaning” would be an exaggeration.

    • Rafe Furst

      Please share…

      • Christophe

        I think I confused “meaning” with “value”. (As I recall, meaning comes from “to mean”, synonym with “to signify”, or “what does it refer to/ represent… in that context the meaning of a life is the life lived as such… maybe… not going to elaborate on that, will take me all night)

        So what gives meaning as in value in my life (on a sufficient abstract level so that it might be informative to a reader)

        1) Other People.
        => Doing things for others, being in company of family and friends, meeting new people, getting help, valueing them and spending time with them.
        I think that this gives the most value in life. And being there for and by others means a lot to me.

        2) A way (or ‘element’ or passion or calling or maybe talent)
        I can’t put a finger on it entirely, but it is the thing you happen to find out (or not) along the way: the values or actions that drive you.
        For me this is “Truth”, and finding it, and knowing how to obtain it, refine it, share approximations of it; obtaining solid knowledge and making sense of this world and universe.
        For others it is Beauty, or Love, or Dancing, or Playing, or Painting or Teaching or Fighting or ones Children… or whatever that people pursue passionately.
        I cannot suggest which one is the best for a specific person (I would require to know him/her better before daring to do suggestions)
        And I don’t imply that it’s an or/or story: one can have multiple passions, but most often one stands out.

        (from now on, the numbering is not a ranking)
        3) Hedonism
        4) Memories
        5) Beauty
        6) the small things
        7) the surprises
        8) Legacy

        And probably other things that stimulate my senses and give me a “real” happy feeling.
        (but now a lot of neurological thoughts are coming up, and that would take more time and thinking and formulating than I’m now willing to give here… I might talk about it in a few weeks when I’m in Santa Monica ;-) )

        • Tobe

          One and two sound like Viktor Frankl’s answers.

  • Milena

    One year ago, I would have answered something obvious. To love. To be happy. But those don’t get to the core of the question.

    Now, I’m starting to believe that the meaning of life is to realize that we have complete power to make ourselves extraordinary. We can choose to live whatever life we want to live. In high school and college I was shy and socially-awkward, with very few friends. Well, I’m tired of living that life. So I’m creating a new one. An awesome one. And somehow… it is working! Life isn’t about “overcoming obstacles” — it’s about realizing that the obstacles are completely self-imposed.

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  • Assuming a meaning of life exists implies there is some sort of objective meaning in the universe, imposed outside of ourselves. As a scientist, I don’t believe this is the case. As self-aware beings, we create meaning for ourselves. Meaning is a purely internal construct of our minds. The meaning of life is whatever we each individually decide it to be.

  • Tim

    I agree that meaning is subjective. To each their own. Ultimately people like to find a meaning or a goal to strive for so things don’t seem meaningless. For most people I think the “goal” ( which is interesting when you substitute it for “meaning” in the question), the goal is to get through life with as little trouble as you can whilst enjoying your time.

  • Marissa

    Ditto to all of the previous comments. Would like to add “being in the moment.”

  • Mike Cloud

    You’re like me, you only go after the easy questions… :)

    It seems to me that one thing that comes out of a careful analysis of syntactical knowledge, as well as a careful reading of our times, is the inter-dependence of question and answer. With that in mind, my first step would be to look at the question.

    So we have ‘the meaning’ — is there only one? is it universal?
    Then we have ‘meaning of life’ — so life is an entity/object/thing that possesses meaning? what if meaning possesses life?
    Typically the word ‘life’ contrasts or is opposed to ‘death’ — what if life’s meaning intimately involves an understanding of death? Typically too, in our culture at least ‘life’ is taken to refer to specific and separable organisms, is this a true fact or a perspectival bias? Who is it that separates life from non-life, one organism from another, one electron from another, and where does this separation take place?

    Others on here have spoken of ‘creating our own meaning’, but (again) what if meaning creates us? In other words which is created, and which creator? If ‘meaning’ (or something deeply intertwined with it) creates us/self/being what does it mean to say ‘create *your* own meaning’?

    An additional angle with which to look at the problem: if syntax is necessarily either incomplete or inconsistent, and its limitations show up most strongly in self referential problems, then the closer one gets to questions of a fundamental nature (‘what is self’) the less sense one is likely to make in any kind of formal syntactic arrangement of symbols, and the more contradictory ones symbol manipulations become. Said more simply: can one write down an answer to this question and still make sense at all?

    Some Buddhists (Tibetan) have said ‘the meaning of life is to help others’, but if self and other are illusory mutually dependent symbol based categories that don’t map ‘what is’ fully (as is at least one way of understanding the primary Buddhist teaching of ‘no self’) then does this answer not chase its own tail?

    Maybe that’s the point.

    On the third hand, there is an experience that one can have of ‘Knowing’, or as I put accessing and experiencing and being in the land of Meaning. It seems one target of spiritual pursuit is to know meaning, and it seems this is a real experience. So there is something to the question, its just not so clear that any specific arrangement of symbols is going to satisfy the questioner…

  • Mike Cloud

    Here’s a more direct ‘answer’: Whose asking?

  • Homo Sapiens

    Life has no meaning. The movement of stars and planets has no meaning. The movement of subatomic paticles has no meaning. The life of an ameba has no meaning. The life of an ape has no meaning. The life of a homo sapiens has no meaning. You should cancel your talk, because you are not going to tell these truths. You are not going to tell those people that they are no different from anybody else. That there is no purpose or meaning in their lifes. These ideas are not sad at all, but most people find they make them sad. They need meaning and purpose, and that’s what you will give them. You will tell them some lies so they feel happier and they like you a little more. What if you just told them the truth? No more talks for you. More people would dislike you and believe you’re crazy. Truth would be bad for your survival as a homo sapiens, so go ahead and lie to them so yo can improve your well being.

    • Rafe Furst

      Why do you assume my talk is to tell people the meaning of life?

      • Homo Sapiens

        Good point. I’m starting to think that it’s not the specific question that matters to you, only the kind of question that it is, and the kind of answers you are getting. Hmm. Anyway, my answer comes from the experience that people need lies to avoid sadness, that speakers tweak their talks to suit the needs of the listeners no matter what truth may be, and that listeners don’t generally want to end up sadder than before. I was trying to “dare” you into telling some truths no matter the consequences. So, what is your talk really about? If I’m guessing right, you can’t tell us yet.

        • Rafe Furst

          I don’t know what the talk is about yet :-) I’m listening for some truths…

          • Homo Sapiens

            Back to the initial rant then: will your own well being (that is, being liked, doing more talks, etc.), or your audience’s well being matter while choosing what to say? Those who speak want to speak truths, but only truths that others will gladly want to know more of. They don’t transmit ideas, they sell them. Imagine you tell your audience a truth like ‘No life has a meaning, not even those of the creative genius or the altruist. No more than a serpent laying some eggs or an ebola virus reproducing itself. Actually, no more than a storm or an eclipse, and no more than a resting atom of hydrogen.’ Do you care about the unhappy faces, wishing their lives’ meaning will be put back high up somehow, at some point during the talk, it better be soon, because that’s where they belong? After all, they have friends and lovers, they read books and have a job. Are you able to tell them there are simply no answers to most fundamental questions? Should a speaker provide solutions, hope, meaning, purpose, false happiness to as much people as possible… or simply truth, while not caring if some read it as a liberating fact, while some others feel sad and empty?

            • Rafe Furst

              I will speak the truth as I know it personally, not necessarily what I think
              the audience wants to hear. In speaking to a group, I am not concerned
              about hurting anyone’s feelings, as I know that each individual is free to
              decide (or rationalize) why what I’m saying does not apply to them.

              In speaking to an individual about his or herself, there are truths I know
              that I choose not to share if I feel it will harm some combination of the
              two of us more than it will help us. This is a supreme judgment call and I
              never know for sure whether I’ve made the right call. But perfection in
              this regard — like truth itself — is only asymptotically approachable.

              I’m at peace with this.

              • Homo Sapiens

                Fair enough, thx.

  • Dorian

    Whatever each individual determines it to be.

  • Anonymous

    Eliezer Yudkowsky’s “Interim Meaning of Life” remains an overlooked perspective: The evolved human brain places bounds on how we pursue meaning in our lives. The Interim Meaning of Life is to safely move beyond those bounds.

    • Tyler

      Just to clarify: I shared this with Michael and he posted it here. The words are my interpretation of Eliezer’s view, rather than his actual words. I still find the perspective compelling.

  • Romina

    I think the meaning/purpose of life is to experience the ‘life experience’. What other answer would be satisfactory?

  • Ryan Rabbass

    To solve the world’s current problems, in order to make room for new “happier” problems, a game that has the potential to become exponentially more interesting and fulfilling.

    At my current age, I also don’t see death as what gives life meaning, as i see this game extending and rewarding any individual who is willing to really play much longer than a typical human life expectancy.

  • Alex Golubev

    death is a noun
    life is a verb
    life is announced
    death is a word

    you know how Adam ALLEGEDLY named god’s creat-ures :) This is under Religion on my fb page.
    Rhythm, subconscious, hiccups:

    “Why So Serious?”
    http://www.shannonfarm.org/dojo/serious.html

  • Love and Knowledge

  • Short answer: There is no meaning.

    Long answer: Define “life” first. I posit the reason it’s extraordinarily hard to define, is because it doesn’t actually exist. “Life”/consciousness etc is a manifested property of certain set of complex systems.

  • David

    Short answer: Learn

    Long answer: After recently exploring all of Thomas Jefferson’s accomplishments, my position on the meaning of life is: To obtain as much knowledge, and skills as possible, then apply them every waking moment. Create a family, build a home full of tradition and morals. Pass on your knowledge to your kin, in hopes they strive for new knowledge that will create a better life for all.

  • David

    Short answer: Learn

    Long answer: After recently exploring all of Thomas Jefferson’s accomplishments, my position on the meaning of life is: To obtain as much knowledge, and skills as possible, then apply them every waking moment. Create a family, build a home full of tradition and morals. Pass on your knowledge to your kin, in hopes they strive for new knowledge that will create a better life for all.

  • Sarahsenergy

    To transcend time and space with our positive impression on the universe.

  • Tobie Botha

    If this life had to end when we close our eyes for the last time here on earth, life would have been meaningless, purposeless and final. For this reason, there is only one thing that gives meaning to this life, and that is, there is going to be another much better life after this life, which we call HEAVEN. Thank you God for Heaven. 

  • Daniel Mugambi

    Each life is a solution to a unique problem.Each life indeed acts as a magnet to specific problems.If people only knew their problems are the quarry of their greatness.Each life attracts specific people to nurture it and bring it to that place of full functionality.Each life has a defined environment in which it will thrive and be productive.Each person must take the journey into their true identity.It will not be given to you on a silver platter.