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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

What gives your life meaning?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (25804 points ) September 28th, 2013

I came into contact recently with a man who bewailed life and called it meaningless. I happen to agree with him. At it’s most basic level, life is meaningless.

“But he whose mind and intellect abide
Himself abides in life.” ~ Lucretius

I find joy and meaning in expanding my knowledge and experience. I reassured the despairing man that it’s possible to live happily investing in various activities that give meaning.

I am passionately involved in community theatre. I read a lot. I write. Though currently between jobs, I work. I take pleasure in the lives of my children.

What about you? Is there a transcendent meaning to your life? Do seemingly mundane things give it meaning?

Please, enlighten us.

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21 Answers

Headhurts's avatar

I have my boyfriend. He is all I have and all I need. He is what keeps me grounded, keeps me going. Without him I am nothing.

serenade's avatar

I’ve been looking for the escape hatch for some time now and have found it in advaita vendanta, which basically chalks up the common notion of existence to playful illusion (“life is but a dream”). This seeming rug-pulling is more than ameliorated by a realization that we are much more than persons and that a greater joy can be found once the mind is subdued and we come to recognize both the primacy of our divine nature and how to tap into life’s flow.

Not saying it’s for everybody, but for the world weary, it is a totally ethical way to unpaint oneself from the corner.

ucme's avatar

My kids, wife, my personality, I could go on, but glorious as those things are, they’re essentially cosmetic.
What really gives my life meaning is life itself, i’m on this rock for a tiny speck of time, an inconsequential blip. You can be sure i’m going to cherish that time, be the best that I can be, before it’s over in the blink of an eye. Kind of like a one time live stage performance, there’s no second takes, so you better get it right.

johnpowell's avatar

Problem solving. And I mean this as related to technology. Nothing better than finding a problem and working for days to solve it and failing over and over again… Then you take a nap and wake up knowing the solution and it works.

Way better than sex if you ask me.

Bill1939's avatar

Like you, I am active in community theater and enjoy attempting to understand things like astronomy, physics, cosmology and such. I am also on the boards of directors for a foundation that raises money for our city’s theater and the theater’s acting company. I am a respite and vigil volunteer for Hospice, deliver meals for the county’s programs for seniors and other home bound people, and read local newspapers for broadcast to the reading impaired.

I believe my life is enhanced by serving others.

Coloma's avatar

I have never understood the meaning of what gives our lives meaning.
Simply being is good enough. There are many things I enjoy but I don’t buy into meaning and purpose, both are man made constructs.
Humans are the only animal that ponders meaning and purpose.

Dogs don’t lie around lamenting that they could have been champion frisbee dogs or police dogs or seeing eye dogs.
Horses don’t stand around feeling dejected because they haven’t won the Kentucky Derby or become champion show horses.
Sparrows don’t pine away because they were not born Eagles. lol

Humans are the only creature that has these egoic needs to find meaning and purpose.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

“I find joy and meaning in expanding my knowledge and experience….in community theatre. I read a lot. I write… I work… my children.”

I don’t believe you find meaning. I believe meaning is always created… authored into existence.

thorninmud's avatar

I’m launching into this answer with no idea how to actually say it, but here goes…

Two complementary truths need to come into balance. The difficulty is that they seem contradictory on the surface. Reconciling them, and giving each its place, is hard.

The first truth is that everything is absolutely perfect just as it is. At the most fundamental level, there is nothing that needs to be changed, and nothing that needs to be done. This truth is very difficult to see.

But that’s not enough. This has to alloyed with its paradoxical counterpart, namely that there’s so much for us to do, so much suffering to alleviate, so much to experience, so many personal shortcomings to address. This is easy to see, but by itself it’s hopeless and overwhelming.

These are a matched set. The first—though hard to see—makes the second bearable. The second supplies drive and focus, and keeps us from settling into complacency.

Katniss's avatar

My son, my fiancé, my parents.
That’s about it.

melly666's avatar

Good question! I am not religious but believe in the spirit world. I think we come here to learn lessons…good and bad. We’re only here for a short time so whatever the lesson take them all with open arms.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

I am sorry to be the miserable one again saying that NOTHING gives meaning. I definitely appreciate my loved ones and I appreciate nature and wisdom. I have admiration for many truly wise and educated people and try to gain what good I can from them. However, true meaning? Nothing gives meaning to a life and a world which is essentially non-stop suffering and pain. To me there is NO meaning to life – an airport lounge where we all wait for a final flight.

Headhurts's avatar

@ZEPHYRA Sad, but so so true, and you wrote that beautifully.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Do you really mean that @ZEPHYRA? If so, then you have authored meaning upon your life.

longgone's avatar

Good question. I’m not sure whether I need “meaning”, but you said something similar yourself. I definitely need joy, and that I get through

-Reading
-Cooking
-My piano
-Five extremely good friends, and some part-time ones
-The sweet dog I live with
-Writing
-Two sisters, whom I love
-Tutoring
-The support of my family
and
-New interests. Right now, I am learning about the progressive school Summerhill. A. S. Neill (its founder) writes very positively, presenting his ideas about children and society with lots of humour – and in addition, his books give me a lot to think about…perfect combination. I’ve just ordered another one, looking forward to that.

Sunny2's avatar

I never considered the meaning of my life. In the historical moment, a life is but the blink of an eye. Any meaning in it is determined by the individual living that life. I believe we’re all in this life together. Therefore, I try not to make anyone elses life more difficult. I hold my anger, try to be polite & friendly with anyone I meet and respond with empathy as much as I can. I appreciate the physical world and am happy that my moment here is now.

zenvelo's avatar

I just recently read Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning

Quite enlightening; what gives people meaning is doing something for others, even if all they do is answer someone else’s question on Fluther. It does not have to be a conscious helping of others, just the intent of acting to help brings meaning to their lives.

@Coloma I think you’ve described the difference between humans and animals. Animals don’t find the need to search for meaning, yet animals don’t suffer from existential despair or lack of hope.

I find meaning in being a good dad, a good caring friend, helping a suffering alcoholic, and expressing love in as many ways as I can.

antimatter's avatar

It’s the simple things in life that I have always taken for granted that are actually the things in life that makes living worth it. And I a long list of thins that I believe that puts meaning into my life. My health to start with, a beautiful morning with a beautiful sunrise. I was convinced that I was a failure because I lost everything two years ago, until one morning when a saw a glue sniffing junky laying behind a dumpster passed out or tripped out with a bag stuck on his face. I realized that I am not a failure but I am in fact a very successful person because I still got a roof over my head, a warm bed to sleep in, a rusted banged up old car and still got a job and that I am building up my life again from scratch. I got myself involved in community and environmental organizations. I’ve found meaning into my life ever since that day I saw that junky.

antimatter's avatar

Ps sorry for the typo’s…

dabbler's avatar

I think I’m on the same wavelength as @serenade and @Coloma, simply being is a fantastic thing.
(@serenade, in my opinion that’s what vedanta teaches us, find the unlimited joy in the spark of consciousnes within. Forget desire and wanting and pain. Be here now, etc.)

Haleth's avatar

Learning new things- not just learning, but really understanding them. Right now I’m trying to learn about poetry, like how a poem is put together and all the little parts that work in tandem to give you a meaning. Right now I can enjoy them on an emotional level and appreciate beautiful or clever language, but I think many poems are like onions, where there are deeper and deeper layers of meaning, and that’s what I want to learn to understand.

I also want to learn to express myself completely and precisely through writing. Sometimes it seems like the world is so beautiful I can’t stand it, or I’m full of inexpressible emotions. When I try to explain to other people what I’m thinking and feeling, language is like a veil that obscures more than it reveals. Oh, and I want to read every book in the world before I die, yep.

So it’s like my life is a race against time, where there’s no way that I can learn all the things I want to learn and do all the things I want to do, but the attempt is going to be a lot of fun. That said, I spend way too much time dicking around on the internet.

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