Life has meaning? Parts 1 – V
Life Has Meaning?
Five drafts later, and I am still wondering what the meaning of life is. I was going to try and write this paper and make it sound like I had put some educated thought into it, but that is just too much work. Now, please don’t think this is a “B.S.” paper because it is not. I did put thought into this paper, but my thoughts did not take me very far. I have tried everything from witty and sarcastic opening lines to questions that stimulate thought, but the only thing that has remained consistent in these last five attempts is the title. I believe I am struggling with this paper because I am at a point in my life where I don’t really care what the meaning of life is; I am just trying to figure out how to get through life.
“Life has Meaning?” is a question that most people ask themselves at some point in their life. Each person undergoes some sort of personal struggle; no matter how horrible or how insignificant that trouble may seem to other people, each person’s struggle seems difficult and gigantic to them.
The meaning of life
The question – “What is the meaning of life? – can be asking one of two things. Either it is asking “What is the purpose or point of life?”, or it is asking “What is a person’s purpose in life?” Each question has different answers.
What is the purpose or point of life?
“Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!” This quote, from PBS’s television show The Magic School Bus, pretty much sums up the purpose of life. Life is not about being perfect; life is about making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. Part of what makes life so difficult for me is the very fact that I am not perfect and that I do make mistakes. The hardest part for me in life is forgiving myself after I make mistakes. Thus, I have altered the above quote, making my motto, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy, and get over it!”
What is my purpose in life?
I think that people’s purpose in life is to help other people on their life’s journey. I don’t mean help others figure out what their life journey is; I simply mean aiding people during daily life. Whether it is holding open the door for someone who has lots of bags in their hands or running an errand for a neighbor, small things like these make people’s life journey easier.
What does it mean to be human?
There was a young man who injured his spinal cord in a motorcycle accident. In order for him to heal properly, he was immobilized and was required to stay in the hospital for several months. After a week of staring at the hospital ceiling, the young man became extremely depressed. His roommate, an eighty year old man named Bill, was concerned with this young man’s depression. So, Bill offered to describe the scenery outside to provide the young man a distraction. Thus began their daily ritual; periodically throughout the day, old Bill would describe what was going on outside for the young man. One night, the young man woke up as nurses and doctors hurried in and out of the room; Bill had a stroke during the night and passed away. In the morning, the young man asked to be placed next to the window. The nurse was puzzled and explained that there was no window in the room. The young man insisted that there was, and informed her that Bill always told him stories about what was going on outside. The nurse smiled sadly, “Old Bill was blind.”
It is moments like these that the meaning of humanity can be seen. I have heard it said that humans are innately selfish and have tendencies towards selfishness. True, it is a lot easier to think of yourself than to place your troubles behind and help someone else, but that is what makes humans so special – their ability to care for one another.
How do you live in an evil world?
“If God loves us, how come we suffer? God must will the evil to be present or else he would not have created it.” Nobody likes accepting the blame for something when it goes wrong. That is why most people look to God, blaming him for the evil in the world. They hold God responsible for the evil in the world, when in reality it is our fault. How many times do we walk by someone and not offer to assist them? How many times do we say something rude to someone or gossip about someone? The problems in the world are not willed by God; they are willed by we who do not stop to consider the after effects of our actions.
The next question people ask in regards to evil in the world is this: “Why should I resist evil if nothing I do will make a difference?” A priest once told a story:
There was a woman who lived along a beach. Every morning, the woman would walk along the beach, pick up the starfish, and throw them back into the sea. One day, a young man watched as she picked up the starfish and returned them to the sea. He looked at the coastline, scattered with starfish, and thought to himself that the woman’s attempt to rescue the starfish was ridiculous. He walked down to the beach and confronted her. “There are so many starfish on the shore that are going to die; rescuing a few of them is not going to make a difference.” The woman looked at the young man then bent down and picked another starfish and through it in the water. When she finished, she looked back at him and said, “It did to that one.”
This is the attitude that people should have when viewing evil in the world. They cannot change the entire world, so they should start by changing their community first. For example, I once was a part of the Anchorage Youth Court, a division of the juvenile justice system in Anchorage, Alaska. We conducted sentencing hearings for juveniles who committed misdemeanor crimes (YES! They were REAL crimes NOT mock crimes), assigning a sentence of community service hours, an essay, and an anti-shoplifting class. The purpose of Anchorage Youth Court was to allow juvenile offenders a second chance; however, more often than not, the defendants were caught stealing again and returned to McLaughlin Youth Center. One day, I overheard my fellow judge asking what good Anchorage Youth Court was doing if most of the defendants were returned to McLaughlin Youth Center. This question struck me. She, like so many people (and myself included), believed that in order to make a difference, a large number of people must be helped. It was at this point that I realized in order to make a difference, all I needed to do is better the life of one person. If the nine hours a week I spent with Anchorage Youth Court only affected the life of one of my defendants, then my time with Anchorage Youth Court was well spent.
Through word and deed, people can make a difference in the lives of individuals in their community. After all, the world cannot change unless the people change. To get the people to change, one must first change themselves.
How do we use the wisdom of others?
Many people, when faced with all the evil in the world, look to the wisdom of religious leaders and politicians. They believe that these leaders are infallible, and therefore, they do not challenge the leaders’ words. What most people forget is that wisdom is not set in stone; wisdom is knowing the facts and making an educated decision based on those facts. As the times and circumstances change, people need to refine what was once considered wise. They do not need to necessarily disregard the wisdom of the past, but they need to realize that what was once considered appropriate and wise may no longer be considered wise. Thus, with their newly gained knowledge, people must be open to making new discoveries and challenging the decisions of the past. Even the ancient philosophers never accepted the wisdom of their predecessors as final. Some philosophers disagreed with their predecessors completely and started conducting research from the beginning while others built upon their predecessor’s teachings. If one pauses to reflect, we have multiple teachings both in religion and in science because people have never stopped questioning the facts. As people search for the truth, they are presented with new ideas which they entertain and ponder. Today’s technology and medicine, for example, would not exist if the scientists of the past merely accepted the teachings and traditions of their predecessors. Instead, these scientists used the wisdom and teachings of the past as stepping stools to reach for greater achievements.
Is life worth living?
How am I supposed to know? I am not finished yet!