Friday, December 04, 2009

Our meaning in Life

Related: I'm about to change my Religion

Adapted from the Internet Infidels

I would give this one a sub-title: An ode to Futilitarianism

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.
Out, out brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
- Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5,

The mere fact that consciousness exists, that some person exists who can see and know and create and manifest everything good for others and find happiness in living, is the most astounding thing of all. It does not matter if it is brief, for merely the opportunity itself is priceless and our being here, to acknowledge it, to study it, to know it, and to love it, gives the universe meaning.

If we did not exist at all, then the universe would indeed be pointless, but since it becomes meaningful the moment we come to know and appreciate it, our lives share in that meaning and become the most valuable thing that can ever exist. From a point of view outside of time, everything, past and present, exists eternally: our lives sit forever like pearls on a string of time. What we do with our life, what we make of it, how we enjoy it, can never be taken away. It becomes a part of what exists, adding to its value, like gems in a purse.

The sages have said it for millennia, and it is true. It really is love that is key: love of learning, love of doing, love of others, love of ideals, love of country or cause, anything, everything, is the foundation of meaning. If we lacked that, we would be miserable and our lives pointless even if we lived forever. Even if we droned on with praises for a supreme being in heaven for all eternity our existence would be superficial, trite, unsatisfying, and ultimately a torture. Thus, the key lies in finding your loves and pursuing them, manifesting that love in defiance of a universe that won't.

What is worth loving? The potential of humanity, the power of reason, the comfort of another's love, the pursuit of knowledge and truth, the beauty and joy of human experience, and the nearly unlimited power of the human will to endure almost any hardship or solve almost any problem. And that is just the short list. How many wonderful people do we know, or could we know if we sought them out, who are worth loving, loving merely for the fact that we wished there were more of them in the world, and that they alone would give us a meaning to live? Even when I look at something magnificent in nature, the stars, the wilds, the musculature of a sea lion, the beauty of a nebula, I think to myself "How fantastic!" How pointless that beauty would be if I didn't notice and appreciate it. How valuable I am because I can.

Immortality is inconsequential in this equation. We have no ground to fear death, for death is the end of fear itself, and what is to fear in that? We live for only one reason: because we love life, all of it, any of it. And if it disappoints us that there is not enough happiness in the world, not enough goodness, we can contribute toward rectifying that, and that is what gives our lives meaning. The more good things we can create or teach and thus leave behind for others, the more lives we can light up with our company and companionship, the more precious our short existence will have been, and the more satisfied we will be that we used our bank account of life well, and thus deserved our measure.

I have faced death on a few occasions, and yet I was always calm and accepting. On the one hand I knew I would no longer have any worries or pains when I no longer exist, and on the other hand I had lived a good life and done some small good, things that would never have been had I not existed at all, and my short span of knowing, enjoying, loving it all was well worth it. By making the universe that little bit brighter and more meaningful, my own life had value and meaning as a consequence.

By: Richard Carrier

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