From the mailbag: “What is the meaning of life?”
Oh, sure, why not take on one of the most difficult philosophical questions in the universe? After all, if we can answer this – “what is the meaning of life?” – then it should give focus for the rest of me and my life and make all the follow questions just that much easier to answer. That makes sense anyway.
Philosophically, I come from a Judeo-Christian worldview with influences from the usual places. The church I grew up in helped shape my initial belief system, as did my mother’s faith. Losing my father when I was six years old certainly had a place in my spiritual development, too, though I didn’t know it until much later. As a graduate of a Christian Bible College and Seminary, I certainly honed and explored and deepened my spiritual framework – but maybe not in ways you might expect.
Just having lived life, aging into my forties, and the people I’ve been drawn to and surrounded myself with have influenced me greatly. I’ve read lots of books, seen tons of movies and TEDTalks, and had lots of conversations that have given me insight into what I think life is about.
Early on in my youth, I’d have told you that the meaning of life was to do what it took to get to Heaven and try to bring as many people there with me as I could. But that was back when I believed getting to heaven required a lot of effort; now, after all that Bible-learning, it doesn’t seem quite so hard.
In 2020, I might argue that the meaning of life is to be as kind to one another as possible in an attempt to counter-balance all the anger and hatred in the world. Bullying, political rhetoric, abuse, neglect, mass shootings, road rage – it’s too much. So, perhaps we find meaning in the light. There’s meaning in random acts of kindness and those that aren’t so random. Paying for someone’s coffee is part of it, but so is smiling at someone who might need a moment of connection. Listening to someone’s story, telling them how much you appreciate them, and finding a specific reason to praise them – it all adds up.
Still, pinning down precisely the answer to the question is beyond me. I know enough to tell you that I don’t know for certain. It’s in not knowing and having the wisdom to admit it that I have found my greatest strength.
What do you think?
Kirk Sheppard is a blogger, with a variety of interests. On select Sundays, he posts “Spiritual Sunday” blogs where he discusses philosophical and spiritual ideas. Other topics on his daily blog include “Saturday Q&As,” “Monday Memories,” and his monthly “2020 Vision” feature-length articles.