What's the Real Meaning of Life?
Below, some answers to the world's most fascinating question.
BY: Edited by David Seaman
On October 10, 2004, David Seaman, a freshman at New York University, was trying to avoid writing a paper on "God and the cosmic order in Dante's universe" for his humanities class. On a whim he typed "What is the meaning of life?" into an online forum. He received a whopping 50,000 hits and 2,000 answers. The excerpts below are from his new book, "The Real Meaning of Life," a compilation of some of the best responses he received.
Give more than you take. Do your best to leave every situation better than you found it. Seek beauty in all its forms. Chase dreams. Watch sunsets. Endeavor to use more than 10 percent of your brain. Don't stifle your deep-from-the-gut, cleansing laughter. Take a moment to ponder the enormity of the universe, then admit to yourself that you can't possibly be the center. Breathe deeply. Swim into the dark water. Let yourself cry when your body tells you to. Love more. Delight in silliness. Don't be bitter. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive.
For me, the meaning of life is to leave the world a better place than you found it. Many of us will come and go, leaving ripples that fade over time into the noise of history. A select few, though, will play the role of chaos theory's butterfly. Through actions that perhaps even appear insignificant, they'll kick off waves of change that leave a lasting impression on the landscape of human culture. I hope that somehow I manage to start some waves that improve the human condition over the long term.
Since none of us is an expert on the creation of the universe, because none of us created it, and none of us was alive for the past billions of years to witness it, then we can safely say that we are all just trying to make sense of it. We believe in philosophies, truths, dogmas, faiths, or sometimes the lack thereof that have been passed down to us through myriads of ways of telling.
To scrape it down to a skeletal essence, then the truth I believe in is this: to love others as best we possibly can and, for the sake of Pete and heaven, to love something bigger, greater, and beyond ourselves, something we did not create or have the power to create, something intangible and made holy by our very belief in it.
This is not the souped-up, sexed-out version of love that many of us resign to. Rather, it is the kind of love that causes us to forgive those who hurt us and to risk our lives. It is not magical, or impossible, for it is within us all to love others so fiercely that in the end we could give it all up. This scary notion cuts much deeper than any hurt we experience or inflict, because it buried under layers or silliness, sadness, pain, fear, and American dreams.
This is all easy to say, hard to do, but worth every effort we can muster.
Finding a meaning to life is itself the meaning of life. This quest for spiritual truth is what makes us human and differentiates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Humans are the only animals to ask "why," the only animals to wonder where we came from, what we are, and where we're going. Finding a purpose or a passion, whether it be religious faith, love, or simply a hobby, is a uniquely human ability. Life is our only opportunity to embrace this privilege. Unfortunately, so many religions and belief systems encourage the opposite idea-that this mortal existence is merely a test or preparation for what lies beyond death. But life is no dress rehearsal. This is the time to explore, to indulge our curiosity and our hunger for truth.