Yesterday a friend sent me an email suggesting that an interesting topic for a future conversational salon would be the age-old question, “What is the Meaning of Life?” To this question there have been many suggested answers.
Among the religiously and metaphysically inclined there have been different responses: For theists it is “to love God and enjoy him forever.” For polytheists it is to live in reverence and respect for the Spirit-World, including Nature-Spirit, Ancestor-Spirits. For pantheists it is to realize that God is all there is. For pan-en-theists it is to realize that God is in all, and all is in God, yet God is distinct but inseparable from both Nature and Man, and that our purpose is to cooperate with the unfolding creative energy of the finite and mutable God in the realization of new and higher values in the universe.
Among humanists, naturalists, nihilists, existentialists, absurdists and secularists the answers include: To realize your full human potential. To seek life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To live in harmony and balance with nature. To create your own meaning in a secular world without metaphysical entities, agents or gods. To realize that life has no intrinsic meaning at all and that this is “the truth that sets you existentially free” to become anything you want to be during the contingent accident of your objectively absurd but subjectively meaningful life.
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, and so I’ve included some pictures and cartoons from the Web that express the variety of ways in which persons have attempted to answer this age-old question. I have posted them in no particular order. What is the meaning of life…for you?