Meaning of Life: An Individual’s Search

Enchanted Forest

In the previous part, we touched upon the meaning of life in the universal arrangement – here, we will go back to the original notion of the purpose in life as an individual’s search for a more meaningful existence.

It appears that predominant views fall under so-called “subjectivism1 – and the “account for what is meaningful in terms of what people find meaningful or what people want out of life” (Metz, 2011).  Most of these are purpose-based, assuming that “a meaningful life is one that by definition has achieved choice-worthy purposes” (Nielsen 1964) or “involves satisfaction upon having done so” (Hepburn 1965; Wohlgenannt 1981).

If we narrow down the purpose-based approach, even more, we end up with a view that one’s life meaning might be purely in the goods that are qualitatively superior, worthy of love and devotion (Taylor, 1989).  The shortcoming with this approach though is in that it rules out all that is more subtle and less material, such as relationships, experiences, states of mind and emotions, but can make one’s life meaningful to them, because, in a way, these experiential facets invite the sense of wonder back into our lives – that sense which became lost for most of us with the rejection of transcendence.

Developing on this idea, I would like to refer to a letter written by the famous American writer, Hunter Thompson, where he advises someone on how to live a meaningful life.

Chasing a goal is a concept which is not valid: our perspective changes all the time so once we actually reach the goal we are far from being satisfied. A man must choose a path which will let his abilities function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his desires. In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he knows he will enjoy. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living within that way of life. It’s all about the ‘how’ not the ‘what for’.

Wouldn’t it, indeed, be rational, while we struggle with figuring out what exactly constitutes purpose in our life, to focus on how we live it, day by day, hour by hour, looking at now, not sometime in the future?

For supporters of  Thomas Nagels‘ rationale of nihilism, the above might make even more sense, since, from their perspective, a finite impact of one person’s lifetime on this planet does not matter considering the scale of space-time. So, whatever you do throughout your lifetime on earth makes no difference at all and is unimportant. Therefore, why torture yourself with seeking the elusive meaning? Instead, make sure you enjoy most of your days here.

If we step away from the subjectivist views for a moment, and our “individualised ego thinking” (Duhm, 2007) and turn to the paradigms based on teachings from the east, we might be able to satisfy our longing for something that offers that lost spiritual transcendence.

In “The Sacred Matrix”, Dieter Duhm provides a comprehensive explanation of the Whole and connectedness of everything and the entelechy that defines it. He then gives a detailed account of events that led human civilisation to diverge from the goals of Creation and to lose its connectedness with the divine source. Duhm follows with a statement that reintegration of the principle of the universal connectedness is “the ultimate imperative of our times“.

And so we, as individuals, should “recognise our function as organs in the whole“, and all our actions should “actively contribute to re-connect us with the great divine flow of the world” (Duhm, 2007). Learning how to lead a universal existence, in Duhm’s view, is the only way we can “solve the human, technical, ecological, and mental-spiritual tasks that we’re facing“.2

Could it be that what Duhm calls divine source, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, one of the most renowned masters of Tibetan Buddhism, refers to as “essence love3? Human life then acquires more meaning once it is set on the path of reconnecting with our deepest nature, finding that initial spark of love and “allowing it to naturally express itself in everything we do” (Rinpoche, 2012).

It is no doubt incredibly challenging to navigate the field of available standpoints on the question of the meaning of life; still, as we make conscious choices every hour of our lives, this is one of those choices you have to consciously make for yourself to ensure your own mental and spiritual well-being, as nothing exhausts our energy resources more than the turbulence of an unsettled mind. This does not imply that we cannot re-visit our choices and make necessary amendments as we continue “riding” the wave of life.

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1 For a full account of contemporary analytic perspectives on the meaning of life please refer to www.iep.utm.edu/mean-ana/
2 Duhm D. (2007). The Sacred Matrix. Verlag Meiga
3 Rinpoche T. (2012). Open Heart, Open Mind. Harmony Books.

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Enchanted Forest Enchanted Forest Alejandro Rdguez CC BY 2.0

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