Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Meaning of Life

This is a rather dark and morbid entry for the blog, far darker than I'd have imagined, but I think it makes for an interesting topic, and there's a lot to discuss about it. That being said...

What is the meaning of life?

I mentioned a few weeks ago that life was all about discovering your "verse" (oddly significant after Robin Williams' suicide last week): the line or two that you would contribute to the ongoing play of humanity. But is that really what we have been put on this Earth for? Is that our main purpose here: to make something of ourselves, or to be remembered? Biology and evolution would suggest otherwise: we are here simply to continue our bloodline: to reproduce to continue the human race.

I'd like to present this line or two from Richard Wright's Black Boy, one of the most underrated and brilliant novels I've ever read:

"Can't you really read?" I asked.
"Naw," she giggled. "You know I can't read."
"You can read some," I said.
"Naw," she said.
I stared at her and wondered just what a life like hers meant in the scheme of things, and I came to the conclusion that it meant absolutely nothing. And neither did my life mean anything.

Freddie Mercury famously sung in that most unfathomable of songs, Bohemian Rhapsody, that "nothing really matters, anyone can see...nothing really me..." I have the feeling he and Richard Wright would have gotten along just fine. But the point remains: in the end, do our lives, histories, relationships matter? In a hundred years most of us will be lucky to even be remembered by our great-great-great grandchildren. Yet without us they would not exist. This goes back to what I said earlier about biology...

Various religions (I'm Catholic myself) give the reason for our existence in the divine. Christianity, Judaism and Islam say that a loving God placed us here, and that soon we shall rejoice in Heaven. But if Heaven is the ultimate goal, then is our sojourn on Earth for, other than working to that goal? Buddhism and Hinduism say that we are here because we are working to ultimate enlightenment, or else are suffering due to our actions (noble or otherwise) in a past life. (I'll delve more into the subject of reincarnation at a later time, it merits a very big discussion.)

There is a curious little story called "The Egg" (read it here)which deals which religion and the universe. It's an interesting read, and puts forth the theory that everyone in the world who has ever lived and will live is an incarnation of ourselves. In a sense, we are the Universe.

There's a book (I frustratingly can't remember which) in which a character notes that everyone in the world forms a machine: everyone is an intricate mechanical gear that, without them, the world would not function as well. That's a rather kitschy way of putting it, but perhaps it's the most correct of them all: maybe we are here to help ourselves. To help each other, to make ourselves something better than how we were born.

Interesting, isn't it? But there are so many theories out there: which exactly is the right one?

-R. R.

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