Based on the reaction to my last post, I still feel that way too many people don’t understand the difference between “the meaning of my life” and “the purpose of my life.” They frequently use words like purpose, meaning, fulfillment, and satisfaction interchangeably. So, let’s start with some definitions:
According to Merriam-Webster, purpose is:
- the reason why something is done or used : the aim or intention of something
- the feeling of being determined to do, or achieve, something
- the aim or goal of a person : what a person is trying to do, become, etc.
One example of a purpose of one’s life is to feed the homeless. Another example would be to express oneself artistically so as to feel fulfilled and satisfied.
With respect to meaning, Wikipedia offers different flavors of the word “meaning” but the one being discussed here is as follows:
- The meaning of life, a notion concerning the nature of human existence
In order to clarify things a bit, perhaps, a few more quotes might be in order:
- “Life has to be given a meaning because of the obvious fact that it has no meaning.”
– Henry Miller
- “Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.”
– Joseph Campbell
- “Everything matters not in spite of the end of you and all that you love, but because of it. Everything is all you’ve got…and after Everything is nothing. So you were wise to welcome Everything, the good and the bad alike, and cling to it all. Gather it in. Seek the meaning in sorrow and don’t ever turn away, not once, from here until the end. Because it is all the same, it is all unfathomable, and it is all infinitely preferable to the one dreadful alternative.”
– Ron Currie Jr., Everything Matters!
For those of you who are religious, I offer you this quote from King Solomon in the Bible: “Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). The reason for what King Solomon said is that God created us for that which is beyond what we can experience (and understand) in our lives. Thus, the attempt by religion to comprehend the incomprehensible.
Going back to Wikipedia, the key element in the meaning of life has to do with the nature of our existence. For example, how did humanity originate and is there a reason why a species like ours exists? Do we have a place in the cosmos?
In that regard, I would offer up the following thoughts:
- What is the nature of reality? I would say that we don’t know. Even Einstein would agree that man cannot grasp the universe. Therefore, if you can’t say what reality is, how can you answer such a question as what is the meaning of life?
- Any definition of the meaning of life has to start with an assumption with respect to the existence of God. Whether you believe in a Creator, or not, totally colors your perception of life – and, therefore, its ultimate meaning.
Perhaps, this extra commentary helps clarify this matter.. or perhaps not. I didn’t mean to muddy up the water…or, then again, maybe I did. Yes, life has meaning…or maybe it doesn’t. In any event, as Ron Currie Jr. said, some meaning is way more preferable to a life of no meaning. That’s why everything matters.