It is not that life has not meaning, but that it has no predetermined meaning. This requires us to confront our own responsibility for creating meaning for ourselves.
Whether or not `life has meaning’ is to an important extent determined by the quality of one’s experience… Meaningfulness, then, appears to be the more appropriate category, and rather than asking, “what is the meaning of life?” it seems more helpful to ask, “under what conditions can life be experienced as meaningful?… intrinsic value without loss of content.
The world is full of paradox. For example, [in Buddhism] though no notion of a creator is entertained, great stress is laid upon the need for faith and piety. By faith is meant not trust in a benevolent diety avid for love, praise and obedience, but conviction that beyond the seeming reality misreported by our senses which is inherently unsatisfactory, lies a mystery which, when intuitively unsatisfactory, lies a mystery which, when intuitively perceived, will give our lives undreamed-of meaning and endow the most insignificant object with holiness and beauty.
How we view life is ultimately that which gives us meaning, value and purpose… Our worldview determines how we solve these problems: What are we? Where did we come from? What does it mean to be human? What is truth? What is the meaning and purpose of life? Why is there so much evil in the world? How should we live? What happens when we die? Does it matter?
We live in a culture that is morally adrift, desperately searching for meaning and absolutes to anchor the soul.
If there were a good cause for believing that the earth would be uninhabitable in A.D. 2000 or 2100 the doctrine of Progress would lose its meaning and would automatically disappear.
Once you have given an emotional meaning to an event, you are less able to be fully aware of the next moment because you are caught up in emotion. You will not be able to see your play clearly, only through the mists of fury… negative statements become self-fulfilling prophecies.
However complex the background of a so-called meaningful life, the meaning itself is directly experienced. And the ultimate ground or place of meaning arising is the individual human being, in the specific situations of his or her life. While the sources of meaning are almost predictably outside the individual self, the experiences of meaningfulness are necessarily someone’s experiences.
Just as life is defined as biological change and death as its lack, so meaning in life is characterized by the application of stable patterns to changing circumstances and the replacing of old patterns of understanding with new and exploratory ones. Meaning is found in the losing of it, the searching after it, and in the finding of it again. The meaning in your life is in flux and is to be found in the flux (the flow) of meaning, which is therefore itself a source of meaning in your life. All this does require, however, the developing of a tolerance for ambiguity, of a willingness to accept the inevitability of change and the precariousness of your present vision, and of an openness to the unending richness of your experience of the world in its manifold variety and diversity.
The achievement of meaning in life is akin to the gaining of knowledge: neither can be simply handed on; we all must gain each for ourselves
The enrichment of meaning is the enrichment of feeling, and the genuine enrichment of feeling capacity is both quantitative and qualitative. We must enhance our emotional life quantitatively and qualitatively.
The meaning of life is to be found in the living of it, and even for the individual a considerable range of possibilities and an unending flow of reflections upon your life constitutes part of that meaning. Play has no ultimate goal, no serious goal that will bring it to an end, but rather renews itself in constant repetition, with no repetition being an exact repeat of a prior instance. Living has a series of goals and is serious as well as playful, and yet the goals are always in transformation, or at least always in doubt. Circumstances are often similar, but it is not easy to specify exactness in your lived experience, even with someone with whom you have lived most of your life.
We are capable of finding unending meaning in a world of constant, shimmering, sometimes threatening change. The task is to keep the question of life in question, and to find in it an unending source of joy and possibility, even in the darkest of times. It is within the constant overcoming of our own limitations and habits, and of the established views of our age, that passive happiness and unreflective contentment are lost, then to be replaced by joyful activity and a glimpse of a broader, more enriching, and more responsible awareness than we have been capable of before.
Whether or not you decide to emulate that which you have come to understand through empathetic identification, you will never be quite the same again. In learning to think and to feel, to understand and to value more like another you will have grown in your own self-understanding and in your capacity to speak and interact with others. You, and that which you are now able to embrace, may well find in one another nurture, respect, protection, and enrichment. It is in such qualities of living that true meaning will be encountered, however tentative and fluctuating that meaning may be. It is in the very midst of the flux of the meaningful that its perpetuation and its renewal is to be found.
Be not forgetful of prayer. Every time you pray, if your prayer is sincere, there will be new feeling and new meaning in it, which will give you fresh courage, and you will understand that prayer is an education.
It is the inner values by which men live that give meaning to life.
The essence of the Jewish concept of life seems to me to be the affirmation of life for all creatures. For the life of the individual has meaning only in the service of enhancing and ennobling the life of every living thing. Life is holy; i.e., it is the highest worth on which all other values depend.
A grand meta-narrative is a story of the development and purpose of human history in which we as individual can find a place and play a role. Four basic meta-narratives: (1) Platonic Christian is the idea of life as a journey to another unchanging realm. (2) Hegel’s view that history is the unfolding of the consciousness of God. (3) Marx’s notion of another revolution ushering in a new era. (4) Nietzsche’s idea that there is no “beyond” and that the only meaning comes through creative activities through which we shape a life for ourselves.
An important way to distinguish philosophy from religion is that philosophy, at its best, raises questions, whereas religion provides answers. Answers can sometimes lose their force, however, if the questions to which they provide answers have somehow been lost, muted, or superseded. But philosophy can never end. As long as we live, we are going to ask ourselves about the meaning of life. Some have written about the “end of philosophy.” It has been thought that philosophy exists only if you can construe life as a journey traveling to a new and different dimension. Some have said that the cognitive sciences, linguistics, neuroscience, and so forth will advance so much that traditional technical problems of philosophy will diminish. Insofar as philosophy is a pursuit of the art of living providing (often conflicting) guidance for living, there is a future for philosophy.
In the axial mode, human life is understood as involving a journey in which those who are successful move from a Lower to a Higher Realm. This journey is central to the meaning of life. Through an elevated mode of knowing, the world as we ordinarily experience is largely left behind, deemed less if not illusory, and the domain of reality itself is approached.