Down the rabbit hole we go.
Let me preface by saying this: I am not a philosopher or a preacher or some self-appointed existentialist expert. I am just a thinking, questioning human being. Over the years, I have grappled with life’s big questions and have come across several popular responses, which I will share in this article.
The most important thing for you to keep in mind is that there is not one right answer. In fact, I think it is wise to be wary of anyone who claims they have the answer. Life is too amazingly complex to narrow your worldview with one absolute conviction. Remain open to questions – it broadens your scope for growth and opens you up for endless learning.
Many achievers encourage the pursuit of becoming your greatest self as a means for fulfillment. This includes doing your best in every situation, choosing happiness, chasing your dreams and immersing yourself in an adventurous life filled to the brim with joy and excitement.
Religion has long been the starting point for those searching for meaning – but that does not imply that it has a monopoly over providing purpose in life. For some, religious beliefs solve the question of life’s meaning. They dedicate their lives to attaining unity with a higher power which provides comforting faith – and the premise of a glorious afterlife. Individuals may choose to practice certain rituals, spread their religion and subscribe to specific ethics.
There are so many jokes about how all you need is love – and Wi-Fi and ice cream. But many people strongly believe that the most powerful human emotion can provide a sense of purpose and direction. This does not just infer that romantic relationships will give you meaning, but that simply the act of loving – which could be your job, your family or your hobbies – brings fulfillment.
4. There is no Meaning
There are those who suppose that there is no intended purpose for human existence. Of Human Bondage, a novel written by W. Somerset Maugham, helps explain this line of thought. In the book, Philip, the main protagonist, spends a lot of time agonizing over the meaning of life. After many years, he finally unravels the proposed explanation – that life has no meaning – by analyzing a Persian rug. He points out that the weaver of a rug has no special reason for the patterns he creates – he merely fabricates a design to his liking. Humans do the same; each individual simply constructs the pattern of their life. He describes the differences as follows:
“There was one pattern, the most obvious, perfect, and beautiful, in which a man was born, grew to manhood, married, produced children, toiled for his bread, and died; but there were others, intricate and wonderful, in which happiness did not enter and in which success was not attempted; and in them might be discovered a more troubling grace.”
Either way, it was all meaningless and he actually took solace in this belief. Philip determined that he would add complexity to his pattern and rejoice in his work of art called life, which was beautiful because it was his own design.
5. Make a Difference
You matter. And many believe that there is no better way to show it than by doing your best to impact the world in a positive manner. Meaning can be found through a variety of actions – adopt a rescue pet, help an elderly person, create art – there is no limit to the amount of good you can do right now. There are also larger projects to be handled in a lifetime; the world needs more impassioned individuals who will create equality, challenge oppression, end poverty and seek world peace.
6. Live in the Moment
Some claim that perhaps one’s true purpose is to live deeply and enjoy every moment. According to this proposition, life can be likened to a breathtaking musical performance. The point of the show is not to get to the end of the production as soon as possible, but rather to savor every soundbite.
As you continue to explore the many proposed answers to life’s intriguing questions, I urge you to ask yourself: What will be the meaning of your life?
Adelle Goldenberg is the Executive Editor of GlamSalad.com. She occasionally watches Netflix documentaries which make her start questioning everything.
Cover photo captured by Averie Woodard.