Trail Marker

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Many times I ask myself “so — what is the meaning of life?”

This puts me in good company because many of the great thinkers believe that the question of meaning or purpose is the most important one. But its also a question that makes people wince and cringe. Isn’t it pretentious? Aren’t we just trying to impress when we pose this question? In my case – no — I’m really interested. What about you?

Some religions teach that the meaning of life, in part, is to know and love God (Catholic, Bahai). In fact Bahai’s are taught that God is the “unknowable essence” so to them the meaning of life is to know the unknowable.

Many great people believe that service to humanity is the purpose of existence. Emerson taught that each of us is part of what he called the Over-Soul. It is our job, he implied, to be a member in good standing of the Over-Soul.

Emerson also wrote that everything in Nature is a reflection of a truth that is more substantial than the physical reality of Nature itself. Thoreau was most at peace and at home in Nature, preferably by himself. Bahaullah, the founder of the Bahai faith, taught that the physical world is a reflection of what he called “the world of reality.” True meaning lies in that world, not this physical one.

Maybe the question “what is the meaning of life’ is too big and clumsy. A more managable one might be “where is meaning in life?” Does Nature provide inspiration and lead to some kind of meaning or is it just there? Or is it in people and our relationship with them that we should seek inspiration?

Where is meaning in your life? Do you think in such abstract terms? Do you think it is helpful to do so? Or is asking such a lofty question just thinking too much? Or is not asking it living ‘the unexamined life?’

What do you think?