“I have one life and one chance to make it count for something…My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.” – Jimmy Carter.
In 21 of the last 23 blogs, we looked at the question of whether it is reasonable for us to expect life to be meaningful. Our analysis has looked at whether the question makes linguistic sense or should be reformulated, what defines meaning and what criteria apply to make life meaningful, the relevance of a deity to the question, the challenge of nihilism, and a systematic argument in favor of our lives as having the potential to be meaningful. We even considered whether we should want life to be meaningful.
Our conclusions were that most of us will decide that grammatically the question is meaningful or can be rephrased as a cogent inquiry, that human life meets all requirements of definition and possibly all the criteria of valid significance, that the existence of God is not essential or perhaps relevant, and that nihilism can be discredited. As for appeal, a meaningful life seems to be highly desirable even if having a grand purpose may be unattractive because it constrains other features of happiness.
The most difficult facet of the question comes down to whether any person can have objective cosmic or eternal significance. I have offered transcendental possibilities such as (1) life as infinite present moments and continuance within the phenomenal experience of being, (2) human perpetuity within the universe via persistence of mental energies, the chain of causation we initiate, and participation in space-time, (3) our unique participation in the two eternal aspects of the universe – the indestructibility of the subatomic particles that compose us and our knowledge of the sempiternity of the universe as a whole, and (4) our unique participation in the two poles of being – nothingness and ultimate being – the existential summit within the universe.1
At the end of the day, the desire for a more tangible cosmic meaning derives from our egocentric nature, itself biologically derived from the instinct for survival in a self-conscious creature. This expectation is a mere illusion; logic informs us that no one entity in the universe has that kind of cosmic significance. Wisdom includes distinguishing the value of oneself as an individual from immature self-importance and the desire for egomaniacal impact on the world. The meaning of one life is exactly that and nothing more; it cannot and should not rival the meaning of the cosmos.
1See post on this website, Human Mortality – Conclusions, date 7/5/2019.