Over the summer I have been pondering the meaning of life, the reason for existence, and what we are here for. I have considered a whole range of possibilities varying from there being no meaning or point at all, through to life being so amazing in itself that that is the point. Obviously I can’t possibly come up with all the answers, but I can share my thoughts and views.
The main reason I have been thinking about the point of it all is that I have reached a stage in my life where I can begin to plan out a path for myself. My children are growing up and I will no longer be needed at home as much, so I can start to make my way in the world and create a life that will continue to be fulfilling and interesting long after my children have grown up and moved on with their own lives. But now that I’m faced with the infinite options, how on earth do I begin to choose?
I feel that it’s important to do something meaningful, but what exactly does that mean? I think it’s necessary to do something that improves the lives of other people, but even that seems vague. There is a big difference between improving someone’s health or ensuring their freedom and providing them with shallow entertainment or pretty clothes for instance. Yet entertainment and nice clothing contribute to a happy existence, so are they a less valid thing to offer the world?
Another point of view I considered is that we are all here for a period of time which constitutes our lifespan, and during that time we have to do something or other. In the big picture of human existence, how we each individually choose to spend our days makes little difference. From this perspective, it makes sense to fill our time with whatever we enjoy the most, no matter how frivolous it may seem. I didn’t feel satisfied with this idea either.
Another idea is that we are here to fulfil some kind of spiritual goal, and the possibilities here are many and varied as well. Some believe we have to live virtuous lives to enter a higher realm after we die. For some it’s a learning process and we’ll be sent back to the physical world again and again until we have completed our learning. For others it’s about renouncing the world to rediscover basic truths. The trouble with these ideas are that it’s impossible for us to know if there is such a goal, let alone what that goal requires us to achieve.
I have considered several variations of these ideas and rephrased the problem in many ways to try and find a perspective that feels right for me. I feel certain that each one of us must come to our own conclusion about why we are here and what we should spend our lives doing, based on our own unique point of view and set of beliefs about the nature of existence.
As for me, I still don’t have a definitive answer. I am not sure that it is possible to ever find one. I think it’s a process that needs improving and refining as we increase our experience of life, getting closer and closer to our true purpose, or at least to something that we feel is meaningful and find fulfilling. At this point, I want my life path to include some form of helping other people, appreciating everything that I have in my life and in my world, and enjoying myself. I also think it’s important to keep learning as much as possible about anything that interests me, so I can expand my knowledge which may in turn help me to refine my ideas about my purpose.
I don’t believe that there is one path or destiny for each of us, more that there are infinite options, some of which may be better suited to our personal identities. It is a scary prospect to realise that once you have committed to one of these possible paths you are effectively turning your back on all of the other paths that could lead you to many wonderful places, but it is even scarier to think that you could spend a large portion of your life deliberating over which path is the best one for you, and never venture far enough down any of them to reach any of the wonderful places that await you. I do think it’s important to chose wisely, but it’s better to chose something that is part way to what you want than not to choose anything at all.
It is also important to realise that if you begin to tread a path and it doesn’t feel right, you can always branch out in another direction that is better suited to you. You can always change your mind, tweak things slightly, or take a leap in an entirely different direction if you discover something that feels like it will work out better for you.