mardi 19 mars 2013

The Meaning of Life

"When we talk about meaning, what are we talking about? What kind of answer are people looking for when they ask, "What's it all about?"

I think they're looking for a story. I think they want somebody to frame what's happening to them as something other than just a random sequence of events.


When people say they want to "make a difference", that's what they're talking about. They want their actions to move the plot of some important story. They want that story to reach a better conclusion because of what they did.


Because I might die at any moment, the stories I think I am in the middle of may never conclude in any satisfactory way. And even if my life is not cut off prematurely, then eventually I arrive at decrepitude and senility. What kind of climax is that?


One solution is to work an afterlife into our stories. Then death doesn't cut the plot short, because we get a sequel in Heaven. And old age is just a temporary hardship on the way to a glorious eternity.

It's a fabulous plot device. For Humanists, though, it has just one problem: It's too transparent to be believable. Of course I want to believe that I will live forever in bliss, that all my questions will be answered someday, and that my relationships will work out perfectly and then continue forever. Who wouldn't want to believe that? It's a wonderful fantasy.

The problem is that I can't believe it. It's like the story that tomorrow will be a good day because I'm going to win $10 million in the lottery. Good as it sounds, that story doesn't motivate me or give me a sense of meaning (no matter how many times I repeat it to myself), because I just can't believe it."

The solution?

"If the prospect of death makes it harder to tell an authentically motivating story about your life, some important part of the story of your life needs to be bigger than you -- not because God demands it and not even because that's how good people live, but because you need to envision yourself as a positive contributor to a story that will not end when you die."

Source: "Living Without an Afterlife" by Doug Muder (

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