March 15, 2016

What is the Meaning of Life, Really?


We’re reviving an ancient concept these days.

The concept is that death is imminent so we should live each moment to the fullest.

A lot of spiritual leaders have embraced this concept as their own, when in fact the prospect of death has been in our psyche ever since we developed the ability to contemplate the concept of it.

As with all spiritual and new age concepts, it has been in our lexicon for a long, long time. What is curious is not how powerful the concept is, but rather how we forgot about it in the first place.

There are best-selling books and popular movies based around this underlying realization, as though it were something ground-breaking and novel. We are being sold recycled philosophy.

The earliest written reference to the idea of “eat and drink today for tomorrow we die” is contained in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament which is attributed to King Solomon, purportedly the wisest man that ever lived. This concept is echoed throughout the Old and New Testament, in the Book of Isaiah and 1 Corinthians. It is also echoed in the teachings of Buddha, Epicurus, and the Roman poet Horace (Carpe Diem). In other words, it is a concept which has been handed down from our earliest beginnings through our oldest traditions.

Popular films such as “Bucket List”, “Henry Poole is Here”, and “The Fountain” dramatize the concept that life is fleeting and therefore we should do whatever we can to live it.

I have had many near death experiences—too many. So whenever I feel stress, all I have to do is remind myself that there are no alternative to life and I relax.

So many of us spend so much time and money searching for our purpose and meaning in life.

Have we considered that our purpose could be just to be here and the meaning of life could be just to live it?

I fell off of a five story building onto a brick wall and was knocked outside of my body. I had my septum pushed into my brain pan and watched from above as they brought me back from death. I have been knocked unconscious more times than I can count. I hear voices who are coming from parts unknown, they may be outside or inside, I know not.

I stopped asking “what is the meaning of life?” a long time ago.

Not only have I stuck my toe in the water of death, I have seen the results of someone putting a bullet in their mouth. If that doesn’t make you step back, sit down, and count your lucky stars nothing will.

Philosophers can debate ad infinitum about how to enjoy life more or how to find the meaning of life. I am simply grateful to wake up every morning, because that is not a given.

I do not care what my purpose in life is. I do not care what my destiny is. I do not care what the meaning of life is.

All I care about is focusing all of my awareness on what I am doing in the moment. I will let those who are more eloquent and educated decide what it all means to them.

The purpose of anyone’s life is whatever purpose they give to it. There is no use in paying someone to tell you what your purpose, destiny or meaning of life is. It is a question that only the individual who asks it can answer.

We pay psychics to ask our ancestors who we are. We pay motivational speakers to tell us how to find meaning in life. We look for the “Secret” to life as if there was a secret to be found. Somehow we think that if we know these things that we will have a different life.

We are asking the wrong questions and getting the wrong answers.

We can’t find the meaning of life by asking what it is. We can only find the meaning of life by experiencing it.

Each of us is the individual answer to that individual question. The purpose of life is to be uniquely ourselves, a thread in the great tapestry of life, a grain of sand on a great beach. We bring to life something that would change life itself if it were not there.

We spend all of our life plotting to get everything we want—and we may or may not get it. The great irony of life is that whether we get what we want or not, we often miss the point of our existence, which is to experience life.

Douglas Adams, who wrote a book called, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, tells the story of an advanced race who build a mega super computer that was programmed to answer the question “What is the meaning of life?” After the computer sifted through all of the known information, knowledge and wisdom of the universe, taking hundreds of thousands of years to do so, it arrived at the answer…”42.”

That is as good an answer as you will get at any workshop. So why don’t we quit going to workshops and start living?

And perhaps instead of asking how we can live the fullest life, we should try asking how we can be more alive.


“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” ~ Albert Camus


Author: James Robinson

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

Image: Alex/ Flickr



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