The meaning of life

Draft III

The Meaning of Life

The meaning of life is what we have become in this lifetime.

The purpose of our life is to act better than who we are.

We have long pondered the meaning of life.

Recently I arrived at a satisfactory answer for myself. I publish it here in the hopes that it might provide you a clue to your own ultimate answer. I believe that we must perceive and discover our answer to life’s greatest question in our own unique way. Each person gets an opportunity to perceive, understand and explain the unexplainable. This is my opening attempt to answer but one of life’s big questions seen through the window of my life at this moment.

There are many expressions of this struggle to better understand our world -  our spiritual and religious texts, art and science. All these are a great lens to view the sacred through, but they aren’t always approachable. There is one area though where we all do our best to understand life’s mystery – living life. Every expression of our life from the seemingly trivial and mundane to the acts along the way that in their doing and unfolding seem to define us  Life. It is the one thing we all do at some point.

I believe the meaning of life typically eludes us because it is not actionable when we expect or hope it to be. Some sort of secret book with step-by-step instructions and explanation. Today I received an insight that suggested in a very clear unmistakable way that the meaning of life is more like a destination we arrive at by the end of our life. It is what we are by our final breath. By living our life, no matter how short or long, we establish our purpose through our actions and in turn this becomes the meaning of our life. The meaning of life.

The more useful and actionable question then is actually What is the purpose of life?

This is my understanding of what I just said to you

Most of us live our purpose consciously and unconsciously until our own time has come to an end. At that point the meaning of life can best be described as the sum total of our actions as a person. If we have loved and how deeply, if we have helped and how much, these are all contributors to our meaning but not tests. Our life meaning is just that – what has come from what we have wrought.

I do not attempt to ascribe good or bad to actions that we use to find our life’s meaning because good and bad are too easy to misjudge without context, wisdom and great perception. But we all have the ability to recognize quality. Like many people I believe that true good and evil exists in all of us and is manifest to varying degrees in our human actions (and lives). Some actions are more good or more evil, but in today’s world we do not expect agreement in society as to what that looks like exactly. While there is an infinite spectrum of good and bad no life is completely free of good or bad actions. I have not personally met any flesh and blood angels or saints but I do see their actions in many. I believe in both science and spirituality – to me they are indivisible, both aspects of our overall being and attempts of man to understand, explain and experience our world more fully.

As I have stated, in order to arrive at an answer to the meaning of life one must first complete the living of that lifetime. So I’ll restate what I think the operative question is for those of us with more living to do:

What is the purpose of life?

The purpose of our life is to act better than who we are.

Better than who we are

We each come to this physical and spiritual life we are leading with unique and shared qualities. We often label or experience these qualities as limitations and strengths. Science would categorize these qualities with labels such as IQ, sex and race, or we directly experience them by how one person can sing, run faster or is more genetically inclined to develop a heart condition. We are a big bundle of atoms with both unique and shared characteristics – all from day one. Hindu’s and Buddhist’s would say we are reborn with the karma we have amassed over our previous lifetimes. That it is our purpose to then work that Karma through in our life with the goal of moving towards enlightenment.

To act better than who we are then is to live better than we should be able to with what we have.

Which is most often many leagues better than we think we can live (even for the most self assured among us). I believe it is this pursuit that gives our life definition. We can out live our qualities in the smallest or boldest of actions but actions they must be. We notice the big actions more than the little ones but they all ascend to enlightenment. How exactly we out live our qualities is not important. How we approach action is also not important – just that we get there. Some people act and do in order to better act, while others think and reflect or talk to better act.

The actions we take with the intent of out living our limitations are what develops our body, mind and soul. This is how we evolve. This is how we move towards enlightenment. We become better than the sum of our present qualities and transform into something…more. When we wholly accept or surrender to our existing qualities we cease to transform. People (myself included) get stuck in different areas of development (body, mind, spirit). For example, people in the west focus today almost exclusively on mental development and physical beauty. In some ways this is as it always has been.  In other ways it is easy to see in my short life that as little as twenty five years ago we had much greater emphasis on spiritual and artistic development in regular society.

The pursuit I mention is important because it speaks to our intent. I believe both what we have done, and what we meant to do, are both measured in determining the meaning of life. A person’s ultimate attempts at doing are measured against the intent of that doing and the final result of that doing. For example, I believe a person who has run over a dog by mistake will still pay a price for doing so, but one much less severe than the person who does so intentionally out of a desire to kill or hurt.

It is more important most of the time to do than it is to say, and as someone who is naturally better at saying than doing I would do well to finish here. So I am done and I am in action.

The meaning of life is what we have become in this lifetime.

The purpose of our life is to act better than who we are.

The purpose of life is to evolve towards enlightenment.