Some thoughts on the meaning of life?


Katie Arteburn, '20

Life, the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death. Life has a different definition in everyone’s eyes. Yet, every definition seems to end in demise. Statistically speaking, citizens of the United States live an average of 78.69 years, how we spend those years however, is up to us. The meaning of life has been questioned since the dawn of time. Mankind has created philosophies and religions around it, gone to war over it, and debated it for centuries. The different views life’s purpose can be categorized three ways: living for yourself, living to better the world, and living with no purpose at all.

Humanism was developed by 19th-century German scholars to designate the Renaissances emphasis on classical studies in education. The basis of this philosophy: a democratic and ethical life stance, which declares that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their

own lives. Thus, they believe there is no “holy, god given” meaning to life. Instead of looking to the universe for meaning, people should look inside themselves to discover what makes them happy and gives their own life meaning. The only meaning is what we give to our actions, connections, desires, and the legacy we leave for future generations. Because everyone is different, the meaning of life is different for all of us. For some, it might be creating a great work of art. For others, it might be gaining a formal education. It could even be as easy as creating a garden, adopting a child, or helping an animal in need. And thus, there is no wrong or right meaning to life. Most important to the humanists thoughts on life, how to be happy. And they think: simply living life as completely and fully as possible.

Developed in Tibet and other areas of the Himalayan Mountains, a credo known as Tibetan Philosophy was born in the 11th century. Tibetan Philosophy preaches one major goal: to end the world’s suffering. Before you are able to do such a thing, you must understand the world and how it works. Through the course of your intellectual journey, you will gain enough knowledge to end the suffering in the world. The philosophy also provides a path by which you can measure your personal achievements, from being a “Person of Small Ability”, who is most concerned with themselves, to being a “Person of Great Ability”,

who takes suffering away from others by suffering themselves. It’s one thing to believe a certain way, but the true meaning of life is found by those who practice what they believe. Those who act in such a way that benefits others above themselves. All followers have a clear set of instructions for getting closer on the path to the true meaning of life.

Lastly, Nihilism: the rejection of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless. A true nihilist believes that there is no such thing as value or knowledge, and there is no point whatsoever to a person’s existence. It has been argued that nihilistic beliefs would lead to the downfall of everything, because people would simply believe in nothing. There is certainly no real truth, only  things that we think we believe in are only true until something better comes along. This idea has mesmerized philosophers for centuries. Everything we see around us is an artificial construct that won’t last with the disdain of nihilism, a theory that’s supported by Oswald Spengler’s analysis of the perspectives that beckon the collapse of a society or civilization. And maybe the reason people reject this theory is because they don’t want to believe that life is meaningless.

A quote from Joseph Campbell reads, “I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” Humans appeared on this planet around 50,000 years ago. And with our existence our purpose comes into question. Will we ever find out what the meaning of life is? Instead of dwelling on the answer to that question, live your life to the fullest. Do things that scare you. On average, you only have 78.69 years.