Meaning of life
Within this website I explore whether there is a spiritual realm, a supernatural realm, containing God, mind, souls, consciousness with its contents (ideas, emotions, love, reason, etc) — this, from a purely philosophical and unreligious point of view.
In this article, I first assume there is a spiritual realm so as to explore the implications; then I present my conclusions elsewhere.
Christians seem to think you have to find meaning in every smallest event in life, doing them to glorify God or to please God, and that God calls you to a specific purpose down to the smallest detail. This seems wrong somehow.
It's odd that a religion claiming works are unnecessary for salvation emphasize works so much.
My view: The subjective conscious experience is the meaning. In experiencing each "be-here-now" moment, we experience God's presence. In enjoying goodness and beauty, we share in God's nature, since he/she creates everything good and beautiful.
It turns out you don't need the mental image of God in order to enjoy living the moment, to enjoying the goodness and beauty of reality around you. If God is merely the essence of goodness and beauty, you can experience these directly with no need of God as an intermediary. Goodness and beauty don't disappear if you stop believing in God.
Why should we even ask such a question? My dogs don't ask this question.
What is it about humans that they have convinced themselves to search for meaning and value in life, and they do things that give them that feeling?
Did our modern human ancestors from 200,000 years ago or 50,000 years ago think this? Or is it a modern idea, a construct of modern civilization, drilled into you from a young age?
When I experience negative emotions, triggered perhaps by a memory (which may not be of a negative experience at all), I found a way to make the negative emotion dissolve because I don't wish to experience negative emotions. Usually reciting this aphorism with reflection several times does the trick: "Jesus, Lord God, creator of everything good and beautiful". [I use the word "Jesus" to mean "God", not in a Christian sense.]
I no longer use this aphorism and have not bothered to find a replacement. Now I just sort of remind myself to enjoy the moment.
I even include thoughts of "what-is-the-meaning-and-value-of-life" as negative emotions, so I treat them the same way. Why should I feel bad about such a question which probably has no meaning based in reality?
Every morning we wake up, our minds and bodies fully engaged and energized. We have to do something and think something, but what we choose to do is based on us feeling it has meaning and purpose. So, what is the source of this meaning and purpose?
Some things we do out of duty to others, or of necessity for ourselves (we have to eat, for example). If all we have in life are duties, life is discouraging. (Some people might prefer this kind of life.)
So we have to have purpose. But what is the source of this purpose? Well, it's arbitrary. We just invent a purpose, and decide that's what we will do, and we throw our whole being into this purpose. And we tell people, "this is what I do that has purpose", or "this is the purpose of my life". And then, magically, that is our purpose.
Christians pretend that God gives us purpose, but in the end, it's just imagined and made up what God's purpose for us is.
I was listening to someone talking about Aristotle's view (or was it some other philosopher?) and they said that you could divide multi-celled biological life into 3 categories, each having its corresponding purpose of life:
At each stage, the purpose of life didn't include the purpose of life of the previous stages. But why not? Why is it not also our purpose of life as humans to bring in the needed molecules and reproduce?
If so, then the purpose of life equals your characteristics as a creature. So why call it a purpose of life at all? Why not, rather, prefer to call it your set of characteristics?
But the purpose of life must be something different than merely the list of your characteristics.
One possibility for the purpose of life is: to be; of being. All organisms do this, as does all matter. The purpose of the universe is: to be. In this case, the concept of purpose of life has no meaning whatsoever; it's merely a synonym for being.
Therefore, the purpose of life must in some way be related to the spiritual realm and the soul. Anytime you have a distinct individual creature having a distinct soul, then that soul has a purpose in life, a spiritual purpose in life.
Rather, each conscious creature experiences their purpose in life in the desires and enjoyments of their conscious existence.
In my dog's case, for example: She is furry and has a body. But why would you distinguish her from the rest of her environment, or from the entire universe? Just because she has a brain doesn't mean she is separate from the universe. If she is a distinct creature it must be because she has a distinct soul in the spiritual realm.
The sun has existence, but has no need for a soul. These kinds of categories are, I suppose, emergent properties, things having independent reality apart from their sub-atomic particles. The universe has the characteristic that its smallest components can clump together into macro objects, embedding information in the process.
Therefore, the purpose of life is a subset of morality. Morality defines things you can do without violating God's nature of goodness and beauty. You can't hurt others because it's bad and ugly to do so, to inflict pain and suffering upon others. But these moral questions are spiritual in nature and the souls of creatures are bound by them because souls exist in the reality of the spiritual realm and cannot be dissociated with such moral questions that are not from the attributes of God (goodness and beauty).
God is not needed for us to value other creatures and to desire to not harm them. Morality resides in the same conscious "realm" as thoughts, ideas, concepts, etc.
For humans, it is immoral to murder. And in the context of a legitimate government and society, the laws are morally binding. But we are free to choose what we wish to do within the limitations of promises we've made to others. We can create our own purpose by choosing among our allowed options.
The purpose of life is smaller than the allowed moral options; it consists of our specific choices within the allowed moral options. In other words, we create our own purpose in life. And I suppose that whoever created the universe with its natural laws and initial settings of the constants of nature; I suppose their choices defined their purpose of life. The universe as it is is an expression of the purpose of life of its creator.
Yes, the reality of the characteristics of the universe define morality.
Our purpose of life in the past is which morally acceptable choices we made and what we said and did. Did I accomplish what I could have and should have without doing what I should not have? This is how we judge our purpose of life in the past.
Our purpose of life in the present is what we choose to do; we only choose in the present.
Our purpose in life in the future consists of our present plans and dreams. The future only exists as the potential within our minds.
I need to live 20 or 30 or 50 more years because I need to finish my purpose in life.
Some of the purposes in life people have:
If you are going to have a purpose in life it should be something truly significant.
Who wants to wake up one day and look back on a long life only to realize that their purpose in life that drove them to excel day by day; that this purpose was pointless, or worse, harmful spiritually to others and to themselves? (Did Hitler ever have a moment of realization like this? Will the current Republican leaders?)
How do we judge whether our purpose in life is worth it? Of whether God is pleased by it?
Our opinion of whether or not God approves of something is a complete figment of imagination. We should take God out of the equation as an intermediary and judge ourselves directly.
Thinking about a spiritual path or religion that is not true, but yet its adherents believe it is true. They have a fictional story playing in their head, and they base their purpose in living on this fictional story.
You might think it would be better for people to only think things that are true; that is to say, if the story in their head was something true, something provably true (by "proof" I mean very likely probabilistically).
But maybe it doesn't matter if it's true or not, as long as they find it meaningful and it doesn't hurt others. If it gives them something to live for.
But people who believe in untrue things can't continue to do so once they realize these are untrue; and so, these fictional stories are forever misjudged as true. How hard should we try to convince people about which stories are true and which are not? Do we have an obligation to correct error?