Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Meaning

"When people say to me: "How do you do so many things?" I often answer them, without meaning to be cruel: "How to you do so little?" It seems to me that people have vast potential. Most people can do extraordinary things if they have the confidence or take the risks. Yet most people don't. They sit in front of the telly and treat life as if it goes on forever."" - Phillip Adams

"Life is something you measure not in years but in precious moments - and in how you value those moments. The responsibility for making such moments meaningful is yours alone. There are no definitions of failure or success except the ones you specify for yourself. You are the meaning of your own life." - Rabbi Avraham of Sochotchov NULL

"Unrequited love is the meaning of life. We’re here to love but not to be loved, to give but not receive. Our mission in this world is to improve humanity and leave a better history than we found. Only selfless love has such power. Only love without interest or expectation of reward can change human beings... To give love without receiving love is the truest love and brings the greatest happiness there is in life." - Adolfo Barcella

"Man transcends death by finding meaning in his life... It is the burning desire for the creature to count... What man really fears is not so much extinction, but extinction with insignificance." - Ernest Becker

"Life has neither material nor idealistic secrecy or mystery about it. Life is equal to itself only, hence perceiving its meaning is out of the question... The exaggeration of our mental abilities has given rise to what we perceive as “the problem” of discerning life’s purpose... If it is beyond our powers to disembowel love and beauty - we can only ravish them - it means that they are given to us not for cognition but for reflection. Similarly, the freedom of choice granted to man, a freedom denied the rest of the living species, is man’s task, a duty to exercise and fulfill, not merely an opportune option." - Andrei Bitov, fully Andrei Georgiyevich Bitov

"It is our duty to give meaning to the life of future generations by sharing our knowledge and experience; by teaching an appreciation of work well done and a respect for nature, the source of all life; by encouraging the young to venture off the beaten path and avoid complacency by challenging their emotions." - Paul Bocuse

"I had the opportunity to deliver babies... In each of these numinous moments, I knew that life had meaning; each experience was accompanied by an upwelling of gratitude and humility. These moments, which can be called an experience of the self, or archetype of meaning, are akin to the act of finally seeing the Holy Grail after a long quest... It is through these moments of grace and gratitude that we acquire a sense of meaning and a desire to live a meaningful life. The personal challenge is now." - Jean Shinoda Bolen

"The meaning of life is experienced when we are in touch with our unique essence, sometimes called the divine spark within... It is both individual and universal. When we are fully aware of this unique inner radiance, we feel what it is to be utterly alive. We experience unconditional love. We sense complete safety because that spark also connects us to the universal divinity within all things." - Barbara Brennan

"The meaning of life is to become inseparably one with God the transcendental Bliss and God the universal Peace. The meaning of life is to achieve unconditional self-giving and a self-giving will... complete faith in oneself and a birthless and deathless faith in God. Life is love... Life needs a dream and a goal... Transcendence is the glorious beginning of human perfection... Who am I? I am my life’s unfinished God-manifestation." - Sri Chinmoy, born Chinmoy Kumar Ghose

"Search for a single, inclusive good is doomed to failure. Such happiness as life is capable of comes from the full participation of all our powers in the endeavor to wrest from each changing situation of experience its own full and unique meaning." - John Dewey

"We always live at the time we live and not at some other time, and only by extracting at each present time the full meaning of each present experience are we prepared for doing the same thing in the future. This is the only preparation which in the long run amounts to anything." - John Dewey

"The hands that we put around each other in love and the invisible hand that protects all lovers: In their grasp lies all the meaning that this life can bear." - Eugen Drewermann

"What is the meaning of human life, or of organic life altogether? To answer this question at all implies a religion. Is there any sense then, you ask, in putting it? I answer, the man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life." - Albert Einstein

"In this modern time you have to do your best yourself. That’s your answer to “What is life?” You must do it yourself. Your doing, your thinking. The answers to the meaning of life are inside you." - Joe Flying Bye

"The search for truth is, as it always has been, the noblest expression of the human spirit. Man's insatiable desire for knowledge about himself, about his environment and the forces by which he is surrounded, gives life its meaning and purpose, and clothes it with final dignity... And yet we know, deep in our hearts, that knowledge is not enough... Unless we can anchor our knowledge to moral purposes, the ultimate result will be dust and ashes - dust and ashes that will bury the hopes and monuments of men beyond recovery." - Harry Emerson Fosdick

"What are the qualities of Life? It can be shared forever, but cannot be kept forever. When given to another, it brings great joy to all; when taken, the anguish for many is great. It is sometimes maintained by less than the thread of a string and sometimes lost despite the hopes of millions. Its frailty and end are obvious, but its strength and limits endless. So share your life with me while we are together so we can create that which will bring joy to others. When this life is over, let the meaning of our lives be found not on a list of accomplishments, but in the hearts and souls of the people with whom we shared our fragile existence. Let our lives not be measured by what we did for others, but by what we helped people do for themselves." - Mike Gass, fully Michael A. Gass

"The meaning of life is discovered through creativity and the knowledge that we are interconnected with the entire natural world. When we deny this, meaning is shattered." - Marija Gimbutas

"Maybe the purpose of life is not as important as the process of growth that’s integral with being alive... In answering the question “What’s the meaning of life?” maybe the people who have taken the challenges of life as meaningful are the best ones to ask... These are the people who have appreciated and taken advantage of the possibilities life has to offer. They find life precious." - Philip Glass

"We cannot read the meaning of life passively in the facts of nature. We must construct these answers ourselves - from our own wisdom and ethical sense. There is no other way." - Stephan Jay Gould

"The meaning of man's life lies in his perfecting the universe. He has to distinguish, father and redeem the sparks of holiness scattered throughout the darkness of the world. This service is the motive of all precepts and good deeds." - Abraham Joshua Heschel

"The purpose of my existence as I climb is to adapt my personal dimensions to the environment around me at each moment. I become an active player sharing some of the responsibility for my own destiny, achieving a heightened sense of awareness and seeing the direct result of my efforts; either I fall or I reach the top. But the meaning does not come from conquering the rock. Purpose comes from moving in harmony with nature, rather than destroying it or altering it for my immediate satisfaction. What gives life meaning is the fulfillment of directing energy in a way that brings a higher order to, and harmony with, the environment I live in... The ultimate meaning of our lives is relative to how much we have given to others. The ultimate meaning of our lives is connected with death... I would like to know that I have inspired people to go beyond self-limiting stereotypes to experience and nurture the true richness of their passions." - Lynn Hill, aka Lynn Hill-Raffa

"A thing in itself never expresses anything. It is the relation between things that gives meaning to them and that formulates a thought. A thought functions only as a fragmentary part in the formulation of an idea." - Hans Hoffman

"We are here for communion with God who is Love, the One in whose image and likeness each one of us is made. We find this communion by loving as God loves us... The miracle of all miracles is the ability to transform through love the smallest, seemingly insignificant detail of the routine drudgery of everyday existence into paradise; the ability to become ourselves, at each moment, a fresh paradise to those around us, thereby becoming “gods by grace” for those who are “gods” to us. Each person accepts or rejects communion with God in his or her own unique manner... The act of communion comes always as grace. For those who know it, it is not life’s meaning, purpose or goal. It is life itself: God with us making us what God is." - Thomas Hopko

"We are created by God for union with Himself... That’s really the meaning of heaven too: fulfillment, wholeness... Though no man has seen God, we have to learn how to love God through loving one another." - Trevor Huddleston

"Each is driven by the most relentless, persistent instinct man possesses: the instinct for meaning, transcendence, wholeness and truth... Reality is a continuum that extends from thinking to the denser world of physical form." - Arianna Huffington, born Arianna Stassinopoulos

"I began to accept that the meaning of life, even the purpose of the pain that accompanies it, would be found not in the question I asked of life, but in the questions life asked of me." - Arianna Huffington, born Arianna Stassinopoulos

"The chief and most confounding objection to excessive skepticism, that no durable good can ever result from it; while it remains in its full force and vigor. We need only ask such a skeptic, what his meaning is? And what he proposes by all these curious researches? He is immediately at a loss, and knows not what to answer." - David Hume

"Our current neglect of Law is yet another of the many indications that twentieth-century educators have ceased to be concerned with questions of ultimate truth or meaning and (apart from mere vocational training) are interested solely in the dissemination of a rootless and irrelevant culture, and the fostering of the solemn foolery of scholarship for scholarship’s sake." - Aldous Leonard Huxley

"A person gets from a symbol the meaning he puts into it, and what is one man's comfort and inspiration is another's jest and scorn." - Robert H. Jackson, fully Robert Houghwout Jackson

"In civilized life... it has at last become possible for large numbers of people to pass from the cradle to the grave without ever having had a pang of genuine fear. Man of us need an attack of mental disease to teach us the meaning of the word. Hence the possibility of so much blindly optimistic philosophy and religion." - William James

"The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it." - Carl Jung, fully Carl Gustav Jung

"In surrender we can both give and receive. Relationships take on a different meaning. We learn to be in someone’s life without being in their dance. A relationship becomes important not because it satisfies personality needs but because it’s the pathway to wholeness." - Gloria D. Karpinski

"Moments of total transcendence are what give meaning to life... reaching entirely beyond yourself." - Wolfe Kelman

"Relationship means to respond. The root meaning of that word, not what we have made of that word, is to respond completely to another, like responsibility. Do we ever respond totally with each other, or it is always a fragmentary response, a partial response?" - Jiddu Krishnamurti

"Life is based on limitation and compromise. The fact that we forget the meaning of life is the meaning of life. Being in a state of partial awareness allows experience and life to progress. God, as an omniscient being, is not an “experiencing being” because his or her experience is not new. If You were going to start a universe, what would Your options be? You could choose to remain totally stagnant, but that wouldn’t amount to a true universe. You’d need entities that experience it, entities that are fragile and temporary and not omniscient. That’s who we are and why we’re here." - Jaron Lanier, fully Jaron Zepel Lanier

"The best thing about philosophy is that it fails. It is better that philosophy fail to totalize meaning for it thereby remains open to the irreducible otherness of transcendence." - Emmanuel Lévinas , originally Emanuelis Lévinas

"Our lives are given meaning by our actions - accomplishments made while we are “here” that extend beyond our own time." - Maya Lin

"Life means love. We are here for love. Only love is real and everything is real thanks to love. We are nomads wandering through illusionary space. How to make it real? Only by destroying limits that separate us from others. No violence, no attempts at escape can help, only love. Too often love is more painful than joyful. The instances of love are much shorter than the periods during which we wait for love to emerge. The meaning of living is mastering the art of waiting." - Georgii Litichevsky Semenovich

"The educated man is a man with certain subtle spiritual qualities which make him calm in adversity, happy when alone, just in his dealings, rational and sane in the fullest meaning of that word in all affairs of life." - James Ramsay MacDonald

"Life really doesn’t have much meaning without death. Death gives each moment its value. It makes each instant precious and meaningful. When you understand how valuable each moment is, you begin to act accordingly." - Elle Macpherson

"At first glance, life appears meaningless, futile, full of contradictions and absurdities. But a deeper, meditating look uncovers beauty, order and harmony, revealing life as a supreme accomplishment of eternal wisdom... All of creation is an act of love and providence, a drama imbued with meaning... In simple words: Life is a mission of awareness and awakening and deep enlightenment. We are here to sense this divine presence beyond all phenomena. We are here to recognize a deep urge in our hearts to act in harmony, in conformity and in love with these divinities." - Mustapha Mahmoud

"The meaning of life is to live in balance and harmony with every other living thing in creation. We must all strive to understand the interconnectedness of all living things and accept our individual role in the protection and support of other life forms on earth. We must also understand our own insignificance in the totality of things." - Wilma Mankiller, fully Wilma Pearl Mankiller

"The meaning of life lies in the oneness of all creation, which combines supreme diversity with supreme interdependence... We are one with creation in time and space." -

"Esteem must be founded on some sort of preference. Bestow it on everybody and it ceases to have any meaning at all." - Molière, pen name of Jean Baptiste Poquelin NULL

"The meaning, the value, the truth of life can be learned only by an actual performance of its duties, and truth can be learned and the soul saved in no other way." - Theodore T. Munger

"Some people ask why the righteous suffer in this world. To a great extent the question is based on a misconception. Often, the criteria people use to judge whether another person is living a good life or not is by his financial standard of living... A truly righteous person by definition lives a happy life. Such a person has internalized the awareness that all the occurrences in his life are for the good, and he has satisfaction from his life. His life has meaning and purpose. His whole being is focused on spiritual elevation. He deeply feels that the good life is to fulfill the will of the Almighty and hence he feels great pleasure in the good deeds that he performs." - Yaakov Neiman

"A great man is one who has conquered himself. He has brought order, discipline and meaning into his life and prevented it from becoming the aimless, self-centered, repulsive existence to which he is drawn by his inherited weaknesses. The process begins when a man brings a center of interest into his life. This interest must be something inspiring and elevating. If you push these requirements far enough, the center of his life can only be God." - Harold Oxley

"If one lives with Nature a little while, he soon recognizes the harmony of creation... Each of us is, therefore, an instrument of God. When one thinks of his humble self in this light, life takes on a more profound meaning." - Alden C. Palmer

"I believe that being true to the self is the most important thing in life - to have a free heart, a pure soul and a pure mind. We all live, or should live, for the fulfillment of the self. We are all mirror images of each other; whatever we feel in ourselves we feel in others. I believe that we create our own lives... Intuition should play the main role in everything we do. Through the creative source of the mind and the unlimited power of the spirit all our deepest wishes come true. For me the meaning is that we are all one, and the only true reality is the spirit. Believing in the power of spirit is simply to have a passion for life, to learn, to grow, to evolve and most of all to love, and live each day and each moment of the day to the fullest." - Tatjana Patitz

"The Perfect Way knows no difficulties, except that it refuses to make preferences. Only when freed from hate and love does it reveal itself fully and without disguise. A tenth of an inch’s difference, and heaven and earth are set apart. If you wish to see it before your own eyes have no fixed thoughts either for or against it. To set up what you like against what you dislike - this is the disease of the mind. When the deep meaning of the Way is not understood. Peace of mind is disturbed to no purpose... Pursue not the outer entanglements, dwell not in the inner void; be serene in the oneness of things, and dualism vanishes of itself... Transformations going on in the empty world that confronts us appear to be real because of Ignorance. Do not strive to seek after the True, only cease to cherish opinions... One in all, All in One - if only this is realized, no more worry about not being perfect. When the mind and each believing mind and Mind, this is where words fail, for it is not of the past, present or future." - Jianzhi Sengcan, Third Patriarch of Zen, Third Patriarch of Ch'an