Why am I here? What will happen when I am gone? Why is there so much pain? What is the meaning of my existence? Why do some people seem to have it all and others have next to nothing? Why do we hurt each other?We are carbon-based organisms, fortunate to have evolved into sentient, cerebral creatures. However, the capacity to comprehend does not lend any more purpose to our existence than has an ant, a fish or a bird. Our purpose in life is, quite simply, procreation. Yet, we have the capacity to do more, to act in ways that benefit others. We have the capacity to appreciate our existence, manipulate our environment and improve the lives of others. We can be moral people. Some of us use this gift. Others discard it in egocentric nihilism.
Some of the most beautiful and gifted people perish at a young age. Some of the most terrible monsters enjoy long comfortable lives. There is no rhyme or reason to the great symphony of life. It is tragic, exciting, wonderful, and terrifying - all at the same time. Yet we are not confined to exist as observant passengers throughout the passage of time. We can act in ways that benefit society. And, we can teach this value to our progeny. While that might not be our destiny, it can offer meaning.We do not exist to do something or to be someone. Randomness plays a critical role. We are born to wealth or we are poor. Our parents love us or beat us. Sometimes both. But, we create our own destiny by making decisions. It is the only true freedom that any of us have. The consequences of our decisions create or deny opportunities. We can overcome severe impediments by virtue of our ability to reason and act wisely. This is not our purpose. Rather, it is a gift. The randomness of our birth condemns us to poverty or places us in circumstances of great wealth; we receive superior guidance from a loving family, or we are thrown into the cold, dark world as orphans. Yet there are those who overcome travesties of unfortunate circumstance. Some of the most depressed people are wealthy beyond avarice. Others are physically beautiful. Conversely, some of the most unattractive, deprived people are also the happiest. A metaphysical explanation for death, heaven, God, other dimensions or a parallel universe is not required for us to feel fulfilled. Happiness has little to do with ideations of conscience or delusions of morality. The Torah teaches us that whoever saves a person saves the whole world in turn. If there is any meaning in life it is that we have the capacity to help others. We can touch people and make their lives better. The context of this morality is love. It enobles us and allows us to become more than we were. We can then teach our children to be good people by helping others. The human soul does not thrive on value (Neitzsche). It thrives on love. We have the capacity to grow beyond our self-centered ego. What we do with our lives echoes through eternity in those who remember us. The doorway to this reward is just and moral behavior. Yes, it is subjective. But reason and logic alone leave us wanting. Environmental conditions and strength of purpose allow someone with a short, miserable life in painful squalor to become happy and fulfilled. Both have appeared meaningful in my life. I live in constant, crippling pain from a congenital spinal abnormality. I will likely continue in this decrepit state until my death. Yet, I will always think of myself as very, very fortunate. My father was the most kind, gentle, wise, loving and brilliant person that I've encountered. He set the definition for being a good person through morality and strength of purpose. I inherited my degenerative disease from him. Yet, I wouldn't trade him for any other father with a normal spine. If I can be half the person that he was, I will die knowing that I did some good things - that I touched someone's life in a positive way. And, despite my constant agony, I am happy because I know that I am loved. Fulfillment comes from the knowledge that your presence in life improved the world in some way; that you helped someone or made their life better. A search for further meaning is extraneous. The fact that we have only one shot at life makes each moment, each interaction, critically valuable. There is no second chance. The currency of life is love. The more we give, the more we receive. Anyone can be wealthy in this regard.Why do we fear death? Death is not good, bad, right or wrong. It is only the normal end to life. It is a release for many and a desire for those who suffer. We mourn lost loved ones. The gaping emptiness is almost unbearable. Yet, through the sadness and mourning, despite the certainty that they are gone forever, we can rejoice in the way that they touched our life. We can remember their love and then try to pass it along to others.
The noblest effort in our meager existence is to teach our progeny to be good people. If we do, then our lives will be fulfilled. And, when we are gone, they will rejoice in the way that we touched their lives. This is the meaning of life - to touch others in a positive way and to be remembered as a good person.
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