The Meaning of Life

The purpose of life is just feeding, reproduction, and death. (Death is essential to evolution.)

But that isn’t the meaning of life. Meaning is a meta-narrative (story about the meaning or value of our stories) that directs our actions or even our gaze toward some things and away from others. It isn’t innate to life, it is mythic, even fictitious. But I challenge people who think fictions don’t effect the world in very real ways to consider Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning, which details how a sense of meaning literally helped jews survive Auschwitz, or on the flip side, all the ways myths of meaning have driven wars and waves of religious conversion.

Myth is fundamental to the fabric of all human society (as society is intersubjectively composed), and there can be no more fundamentally mythic question than “what does it mean?” A rock, a life, a particular pattern of mountains or a specific mountain range, are all begging to be given a meaning. The fact that meaning is given and constructed hardly means it isn’t real -- is a house real? -- is it less real to know that it will one day blow away in a hurricane? A house is the result of purposed activity -- and so is meaning. It’s not as if trees grow so that we can saw it into planks, so that we might construct a shelter.

When we say life has no meaning, we’re accidentally speaking nonsense. The question is what meaning do we want to build with a life?