Your life, the world around you and the meaning of it all.
I see you got some baggage there… you have certain beliefs, views, values, goals and motives shaped by the social upbringing and your experiences. Before entering, leave that (bias) at the door. Only then can you learn something new.
Welcome! Sorry about that. But you see, there is a vast amount of knowledge out there and we can’t be stuck in our current bubble. At the core, each person is free, limitless, open-minded, unconditional, curious, willing to learn and do… but throughout the years of life, the person gets the beliefs, knowledge or lack thereof, habits, psychological conditioning, experiences, emotional and ideological attachment, biases etc. It is that which you are up against in yourself and other people… not the person itself. The person can change, learn, gain new behaviours, habits and values. You’d want to bring yourself and remind others back to that core default state.
Where we are now, how we think and feel, what we do with our time and life, what we think we should strive for is the result of what we have learned, our beliefs and views, what we think we know and the way we think. The question is… if the knowledge, perspectives and insights we have are limited, then… what you think is best and right, the things you strive for and do in life, might not be what’s actually best. Are you really doing the best you could be doing? What I mean with “best”: A person might think that pursuing something is the best thing there is to do in her/his life, without other knowledge and perspectives about the world, the system, without the insights into what the meaning of life could be etc… the person might not do what’s actually best for her/him and the world around. Those things are based only on your current mental models. Expansion of knowledge and perspectives is then what’s needed in order to live life in the best possible way. So let’s take some time and try to expand our mind and think about the bigger picture, arguably the most important and very fundamental questions. Try to really understand, imagine, take it in and get into the text and the meaning of it. So many times we just read through something without really understanding or reflecting about it. Thus letting all of it all pass us.
“An unexamined life is not worth living.” -Socrates
Let’s start with the positive. You are unique and got some potential! No one can become, be, think and do what you do the way you can do it. It is about bringing it out, bringing out the best of you, out to the world… that is one of the meanings of life. Share with the world all the best that you have and you’ll be rewarded like never before.
According to Maslow’s research, the highest level of human needs and development is self-actualization. Greeks had a word Eudaimonia “human flourishing or prosperity. A life well lived”. According to studies, self-actualization combined with higher meaning, mission and purpose in life is proven to give people the highest life-satisfaction and fulfillment.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:
Studies show that giving gives us greater happiness than receiving. Helping/Serving others or doing something for the world… when we care about something else besides ourselves, something bigger than ourselves.
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2008/mar/21/medicalresearch.usa — The path to happiness: it is better to give than receive.
There is a Japanese philosophy called ikigai which is a concept that means “a reason for being.” The word “ikigai” is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile. The word translated to English roughly means “thing that you live for” or “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.”
“A person brings value to oneself in proportion of the value the person brings to the outer world.” The greater meaning requires the person to grow, work on oneself, strive to achieve the highest potential and live a self-actualized life which according to studies, as already said, makes up for the highest life-satisfaction.
Memento mori. Remember death. Death is one of the notions that underlines the meaning of life. If the person dies and the world goes on… what is then worth doing with your time in this world? Then, what are the things that matter and are meaningful to do? Is your life really about you then?
“Life is a preparation for death.” — “When you die, your ego dies and all that remains is what you have done in this world”. Everything material, all consumption, all short-term temptations and interests and worries will not remain. All for nothing.
Only what you have done, what you’ve created. Only what you shared with this world will remain, what you have done for others, if you’ve done what was needed for the world or not, whether we’ve done the right and best thing or not, if you shared your unique potential by achieving it… by bringing out the best of you to the world or not.
Think about any great person who lived a very long time ago, but whom we still remember. That person’s life changed the course of humanity for the better. Isn’t that the greatest thing to strive for?
Near-death experience shakes people up and many realize what’s truly important. It changes people and their lives for the better, their priorities and what they choose to do. We all can be awakened in such a way, by merely thinking about it. The deathbed thought experiment as an example. We don’t know how much time we have left and when it will come. Think about what would be the best for the world around you long-term, but live having in mind that you might have a short period left, thus acting in a prioritized manner.
The World Around Us
Would you or could you live all by yourselves in this world? Without other people, animals or living nature. Does this say that we live for each other? That we are interdependent and interconnected? Things we do in the world ultimately affects us and comes back to us. At the core, we are all world citizens, living on the same planet. That’s a solid basis to reason from and build the life upon.
Today’s world is following the “tragedy of the commons”. The trend which disregards the basis from the above, thus slowly destroying our commons and the planet.
Imagine if our world was attacked by an alien force that would wanna destroy us. We have a chance to put resistance and save the world. Can a person in such an important moment do whatever he/she wants? Does the person have responsibility? We wouldn’t win if everyone continued doing whatever they want, right?
Now the question is… are we in such position now? Are we in wars against all the bad things that are happening now? Isn’t there already a force or forces that can destroy the world and humanity, or that already kills people, our environment and living creatures? Do people live and do things according to the situation, or do people live as if we lived in an ideal world where you could do whatever you want?
What if for example there is a force that can severely damage our planet, thus our lives in 50–100 years, all while people are working hard on, or doing something that is actually worsening it all or working on something meaningless in the light of such significant event, something that will have absolutely no value in a damaged world and our damaged lives. What’s all that hard work for?
What to work hard for is more important than just working hard on something. It should be called intelligent (hard, it’s not that hard when you have a purpose, you’ll actually love your work) work. Where we educate ourselves & research the biggest problems in the world, prioritize them, weigh in ourselves, our uniqueness and think about where and how we can help the most and then actually going out and doing it, doing something to solve the biggest problems and advancing the world forward… and that is what is actually needed the most.
Everyone is running somewhere. Fewer ask whether running there is really what’s best. Many don’t even know what they’re running for. What do you strive for? Why do you live the way you do?
People are so consumed by and are caught up in something that they don’t give themselves time to zoom out, think and reflect more deeply about the world, our lives and what truly matters. That rips us of a feature that makes us human in the first place. The ability to think, reflect and reason. That way we miss the bigger picture. That’s when and where societal issues begin and grow. By exercising abilities that make us human one becomes more human, living more consciously… living a better life.
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” -Albert Einstein. Those who do evil might not know better, they might not have greater insight and wisdom, but those who do, it is only them who know that something is wrong and it is up to them to do something about it.
Today the majority of people engage in an indirect way of destroying the world by being passive, only thinking about one’s own matters. For example “we have a workforce distribution disproportionate to our priorities”. What does the world need is what many don’t think about in their choices of career or study. Majority of the bright minds don’t work on problems of highest priority. It’s up to each of us to set our priorities straight. There is so much untapped human potential. Human potential is one of the most important things that we have, which in turn will solve the biggest problems in the world.
You don’t wanna be on the wrong side of history… imagine all of the horrible things that people have done thinking they were doing nothing harmful, that they were doing ok or what’s right, while in actuality they weren’t. If only they questioned their own beliefs. We all might have such beliefs and behaviours.
We need to question/examine our own thinking e.g. “Am I really right?”, “Is what I’m doing really the best I could be doing?” and so on. To be more aware of: what we work on and the impact of our work, what we spend our time doing; what’s going on in our heads; our choices, decisions, beliefs, values, motives, goals and whether they are the best and right ones; our habits (e.g. what we eat); our biases; our natural flaws and tendencies as human beings such as confirmation bias and so on.
There might be some things that tip you over to the wrong side. By adhering to the masses, to a social group or ideology without questioning it, is when we do non-optimal things or outright horrible things happen.
Think Hitler and everyone who followed him. There were probably many who wouldn’t think the same if they did it for themselves but many just followed the masses and are now on the wrong side of history.
Where have you followed the social environment, the social construct, became dependent on it and which you now merely defend? Being driven by self-interest and what one believes or wants to be true without questioning it, is also a sure way to lead oneself to the wrong side as Hitler did.
These are extreme examples, but they make the point clearer. You can be affected by the same things. How would future generations view your actions or lack thereof? How would you be remembered?
“The only evil is ignorance” -Socrates.
No one can give all the answers. But one can give the tools using which you can arrive at answers and solutions. What are the fundamentals with which each person would find their way to what’s right and best? What set of qualities would be needed, such as, even if born in the most radical/extreme society, the person would find the way to the truth, to what’s best and right. So that the mind of the person would not be a victim of the environment.
If there would be things to teach a kid with which one can arrive at its own best, right, most probable truthful conclusions and answers upon which actions will be taken and life would be built upon, it would be the fundamentals of seeking the truth; seeking what’s morally right and best; being curious and seeking answers to questions; to question everything including your own mind, existing beliefs and what you do; think logically/rationally; be open-minded; seek knowledge and explore. That’s pretty much what philosophy and science entails.
Now the question is, how do we know that your, our environment is not “extreme”? And whether you are currently affected by it or if you, on the other hand, are questioning and striving for what’s best and what’s right? What is extreme and not is relative i.e. something is only extreme in comparison with something that is perceived to be ideal. Now, imagine an ideal world of the future where there is peace, everyone gets along, nature and animals are living and thriving. Now isn’t our current world an extreme one? And aren’t then your current beliefs and the way you live and do things also extreme and horribly wrong in the light of the ideal world?
And that’s the thing, people just do what’s currently “normal” without questioning it. But by following what is, one will contribute to the current system’s destructive behaviour. It is by examining the way we live, what we do and the way we organize ourselves as we can move towards the better.
The qualities above are foundational for people in life. With that, one can find answers and solutions to pretty much anything. That’s some of the common set of qualities for people who gave us answers to various questions. Albert Einstein, Stoics, Leonardo Da Vinci, Buddha etc. People who did quite good 🙂 . That’s what will help the person to find/create the best life with a purpose. Some great people gave us some answers based on their discoveries. But that is only a set of answers. We need to seek our own. How do we find other ones (answers and solutions)? The ones that are adaptable to the current world. We can do that by using and embodying the qualities above.
An ideal world can only exist if people create and sustain such a world, such a system. When humanity learns to find pleasure and drive in solving problems and advancing the world forward for real instead of finding it in self-interests or tribalism, that’s when we’ll get a place like home. If you and everyone act according to the maxim that you would wish all other rational people to follow, as if it was a universal law as Immanuel Kant reasoned. A true hero seeks what’s right, what’s best. No matter the previous beliefs, self-interests, habits and so on. Ready to disregard them in the light of new evidence. With no ego. All the person wants is what’s right, what’s best, the person seeks the truth from which one can make the best decisions.
“Who wants change?”, everyone raises their hands. Then it is asked “Who wants to change?”, no one raises their hand.
Based on these common truths, science and philosophical reasoning about life, the world and human beings one could derive insights into the meaning of life.
A potential meaning of life which would bring prosperity to our lives and the world around us based on our knowledge and truths from science, philosophy and psychology could be to strive towards the biggest positive impact & prosperity for all and the whole that you exist in i.e. the world, all people who live in it, all animals and environment. That, based on as complete of an understanding as possible, with many unbiased insights, perspectives and knowledge. That, in combination with weighing in yourself, your good core qualities or characteristics, which to constantly evolve to encompass even wider sphere which you can positively impact, thus achieving your highest potential. Everything else in life follows. Matters such as happiness, life-satisfaction, fulfilment, joy, health, interests, friends, money etc. We are just pieces of an ongoing process. Memento Mori. Be remembered for good.
“The past to learn from, the better future to act upon”. Living a good life in the grand scheme of things. Is there anything better than this?
How can I make the biggest positive impact? Now and over the course of your life. Answer that and everything else will follow… the money, happiness, connection with other people, personal growth, the achievement of the potential, legacy etc. Human beings are adaptive and creative. “Find your meaning and interests will follow”. We can adapt any interests and learn anything… the bigger question is, as said, how can we make the biggest impact? Following that question will lead to the greatest insights about the world, human beings and the best life for yourself. We are just pieces of an ongoing process. Be remembered for good.
This is “the truth from which nothing can dislodge us” -Jason Silva. In the light of such realizations your ego dies. Every short-term temptation, self-interests, the wants, worries, failures, insecurities or anything else ceases to have power. Only the important prevails. A person is then ready to take on any challenge in the name of important purpose and mission of making the biggest social impact. Nothing should stop you from what’s important. You never know, you might just be the person to change the world. Get out of your own way and live life doing great things. Cause it’s not about you, it’s about something greater. That makes a person feel alive. Every moment of one’s existence is then significant.
Philosophy is a great tool for navigating the world and is needed now more than ever, it needs to have a louder voice in society, influencing it for the better. Helping and guiding people. Making them think about life, the world, lessons on how to live a good one contributing to society and why. Reaching out to everyone and making it practical and accessible.
Consciously or unconsciously everyone has their philosophy, which dictates everything else in life. Thus philosophizing, deep-thinking and knowledge-seeking should be part of every person’s life, in order widen your perspectives and get new insights to act upon, making better decisions, creating a better life for yourself and the world around you.
Explore and use the internet’s valuable resources to your advantage. There are educational Youtube channels/videos to subscribe to, Podcasts, Books, Audiobook summaries blinkist.com, Courses. There are countless self-improvement, philosophical, psychological, scientific material out there. 80000hours.org a website that can guide you across various world needs. Local Effective Altruism movements and so on. Look out for other resources at zalab.co/academy