What do we need in life? Is there a meaning? I’ve been thinking about and bothered by these questions for a very long time and I feel I finally have an answer that, at the very least, satisfies me for now.
I was talking to a pastor while I was at school discussing this very thing when I brought up the fact that I sometimes wondered why there wasn’t a purpose and that I would get very depressed thinking about it. I mentioned Freud’s Quote, “The moment a man questions the meaning and value of life, he is sick, since objectively neither has any existence.” (which I completely agree with) He replied back that C.S. Lewis once said that if there is a longing for water we can get water and quench our longing etc. so if we have a longing for purpose we should be able to quench it with something as well. His something was God. I took it and thought about it for a couple minutes after I left the conversation and felt that God (obviously) was not the answer. I knew that I couldn’t really have any meaning but that somehow I felt like I did or at least needed one. As I watched a group of actors do their warm ups I listened to what they chanted at the end. Among a copious amount of other hippie feel good lines there was one that stuck out. “I am cool I’m worth a lot” (repeat) “and you can’t tell me that I’m not” (repeat) “Cause you can’t see inside of me” (repeat) It hit me at that moment that, other than them being completely wrong, your worth and subsequent meaning come from others. It doesn’t come from within; you don’t assign yourself meaning others assign meaning and worth to you. I still wanted to be the captain of my fate however, but after some thought I felt like that metaphor was even more powerful now. You can influence people in negative or positive ways like you man and captain a ship against the rocky seas, so yes, you are still responsible for your meaning and captain of your fate, but it is not you directly who assigns that meaning and purpose to your life; you can’t control the ocean or the wind simply work with or against it depending on the desired results.
More than anything we need other people. More than that we need friends and we need enemies. Both of those groups give us a rounded sense of purpose: to be loved and to be hated but more importantly, to matter to others. We as the humans that exist today and share very basic instincts and needs have a most basic necessity to develop relationships. These relationships are the most elementary and cardinal building blocks of meaning. You can’t assign yourself value/meaning, that responsibility rests on the shoulders of any other human being who has ever known or been influenced by you. This is why I believe we have this longing for relationships; without them, without interacting with people and influencing them in a way that makes them love or hate you, that makes them remember you and forces you to matter to them, then your life is in every sense of the word, meaningless. So very simply there is no real meaning to life, In the sense that most people want there to be a purpose for their existence. The meaning comes from us. And what an awesome thought that is. We, as humans, have so much power as to create or destroy a thing like meaning. If you consider something like a burning bush or a flood impressive...think about that for a second. We have the ability to give other life meaning. But, while you entertain the idea of all that power, also remember that the only person you don’t have the ability to do that for...is yourself. How incredibly powerful and yet how incredibly vulnerable we are. Poetic if I do say so myself. We must rely on others just as they must rely on us. A symbiosis of sorts.
We strive to obtain meaning, purpose. We obtain meaning from the people that we meet and influence on our journey. We develop relationships and find purpose within them. To help or harm. To make suffer or liberate. To fight for or against. In the end all of these decisions shape your relationships and affect others who then assign you your meaning and worth. So make no mistake you have no predestined purpose, no divinely decided meaning. You are all alone. It is up to you and you alone to decide that you are going to mean something and then make it a reality by making your life mean something to others. Work to increase your worth. Because unlike what those actors believe, worth and meaning are not some self assigned amount, they are the product of however much work and dedication you put into them.