Friday, January 18, 2008

What Gives Life Meaning?


Great minds have struggled over the question of “ The Meaning of Life”. That subject is beyond my petty brain, so I just disregard the question as an interesting, but a useless academic exercise. A more relevant question to me is “What gives life meaning?”. What conscience choices do we make to give our existence a raison d’etre?

As I spend more time in Samoa, I begin to realize that the answer to ‘What gives life meaning” characterizes both individuals and societies. For Samoans, praising and glorifying God/Jesus gives a meaning to their life. It puts into focus their daily actions. It is their measure. I don’t mean to infer that meeting the physical and biological necessities of life aren’t important, but they seem secondary. It helps me to understand why so much of Samoan time, energy, and resources are devoted to the church when according to my thought; they could be put to more practical use.

What then gives my life, meaning? Is it the accumulation of wealth? Does the person with the most toys win? Is it raising a family? Helping others? What is the lifelong theme of my existence?

As a biologist by training, maybe what I am meant to do is encoded in my genes. Reproduce. Perpetuate the species. Make sure the precious light called life is not extinguished. Life’s other activities may simply be invented fluff to disguise the crass fact that I really don’t have any choice in giving my life some meaning. But there are millions of other permutations of life to keep life’s fire lit. Why can’t I be the exceptional species to define what I think is important?

Life to me is serendipitous. I don’t think you can determine the path to a meaningful life. However, I think there are some guiding principles you can choose as the winds of happenstance blow you from one trail to another. The main rule is to try your best whatever you do not to mess up others during your earthly trip and to recognize you really don’t know very much at all.

At the end of my journey, I would like others to say, “He was an OK guy. Not too good; not too bad. The world may not be better off; but not any worse. At least he made the effort. Let’s give him credit.” That’s meaningful enough for me.

As I do my daily activities, I am finding just being an OK guy is a tough job.

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