What is the meaning of life? This has been one of the greatest philosophical questions of all time, pondered by almost every human being at some stage in their life. In the early days, the meaning of life was simple: survive. We had to use all of our resources to feed and warm ourselves, while defending ourselves from the various creative ways nature can kill us. But as civilisation developed and we had more luxury of food, time and thought, we began to wonder more and more: why are we here?
When we are babies, the world revolves around us. Parents exist to feed us, what we see are the extension of our minds and what we cannot see does not exist. This belief carries on to adulthood somewhat. We see this in old beliefs that the universe revolves around the Earth, and religions telling us that everything on Earth was created for mankind. The concepts of destiny and divine will provided us with purpose in this world. We felt important and valuable because we felt that we were part of something greater and our lives mattered.
But as science developed, we came to learn that the universe does not exist for us. Things don’t happen because they are scripted as an intricate chain reaction as part of a grand story; they just happen thanks to random chance. Biology teaches us that life is a product of a series of accidents and mistakes, to create better adapted beings. Statistics teaches us that we are not special; just a point on a bell curve. Psychology teaches us how flawed we are in interpreting cause and effect, thanks to our brain’s tendency of seeking patterns resulting in cognitive biases.
In short, there is a real possibility that there is no meaning of life. We are simply happy accidents amidst the course of the universe’s timeline.
Yet we cling to the idea that we need to find our purpose. We cannot bear the thought that we have no celestial guidance as we navigate through life, or that our choices and actions play no role in how the world spins on. We fear that without purpose, we are worthless. The thought that life is meaningless invokes existential dread and we wonder what’s the point of doing anything in life.
However, consider the opposite. If we are not bound by fate or some calling, then our lives are truly ours. We are not chess pieces following every instruction of an unseen player. Instead, we have the freedom to make our own choices and write the story of our lives however we want. This is no doubt scary, because we have little guidance along this journey. Nevertheless, it is our story, our choices, our life.
Instead of lamenting that we serve no purpose, we can create our own purpose. We won the lottery and got to experience consciousness. How will you use that gift? Will you waste it away by doing nothing, or will you make the most of it by enjoying it? If we don’t have some mission to accomplish, then we can use our time to enjoy our passions (given that it does not harm anyone) and challenge ourselves to be better people.
The pursuit of happiness, to be the best version of yourself, to help others lead a happier life… However you want to make use of your life, as long as you are content with it and accept that it is your choice, that is the true meaning of life. Hopefully, it is something positive and constructive, rather than something harmful or something that you would regret in your final moments.
You are not worthless because you have no purpose. You are priceless because there are no expectations or plans or predestined path for you. Life is like a blank canvas with little restriction on what you can do with it. You might as well get the most value from it by painting the best damn picture you can – something for you to smile upon and be proud of, while inspiring others to paint their own beautiful pictures.
Enjoy the meaninglessness of life.