Life is finite, as everyone knows. And in this finite amount of time we have got in this world, what should we work on? With whom we should spend our precious time? Answers to these are mostly subjective, there is no right or wrong answer, but let’s try to think about it.
Some of you may know about the belief of Nihilism which conveys that, almost everything in life is meaningless. There’s no point in doing anything as eventually nothing matters. Basically, kind of a pessimistic view of life. Let’s see if there’s a better way to look at it.
As we Homo sapiens grew from Homo neanderthalensis and Homo erectus, we learned that there are billions and billions of other things in this universe and our Earth is like a dust particle in the full picture. We learned that we are made of many little dead things called “cells”, which make up bigger things that are not dead for some reason.
We learned, in awe, that we live on a moist speck of dust(i.e. Earth) moving around a medium sized star, in a quiet region of one arm of an average galaxy, which is part of a galaxy group that we will never leave. And this group is only one of thousands that, together, make up a supercluster. But even our supercluster is one in thousands that make up what we call the observable universe.
So, we’re super tiny on the scale of the universe, but so what? Rather than being sad/unsatisfied by looking at things we don’t have, or can’t have, we should be happy/satisfied by looking at things we do have or can have. Why should we be happy? Because life is finite.
In this limited time, we have two choices, either to be happy and enjoy things till we die, or be sad no matter what we have achieved.
While not all things are in our control, some things are. We get to choose what we want to do in our life. If we make bad decisions, we are free to learn from them and move on.
The freedom of choosing our own future is not a small thing to be grateful for. If the universe has no goals, the only goal is what we decide on.
If the universe has no purpose, then we get to dictate what it’s purpose is.
One day, we and all the people we know are going to die, but before that, we get to explore ourselves and experience happy moments with others. We get to experience feelings, food, books, sunrises and being with each other.
The fact that we have the ability to even think about all these things is already kind of incredible! We are truly free in the universe sized playground.
There are billions of stars to visit, diseases to cure, people to help, happy feelings to be experienced and video games to finish. There is so much to do.
If this is our one shot at life, there is no reason not to have fun, and live as happy as possible.
One other interesting fact to notice is, it’s all relative. Whatever you have right now may be low from your point of view, but very much from some other people’s point of view.
There is a concept called “Hedonic Adaptation“(aka Hedonic Treadmill) which conveys the tendency of humans to quickly return(or adapt) to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.
In other words, there’s no one thing that will keep you happy forever. You will come to a normal level of happiness as the time goes. Eventually, you will get used to it and need something different.
We take things for granted as the time goes, that’s how the human brain is wired. Gratitude is a solution for that. Meaning, to be truly thankful for what we have.
And that again leads to being satisfied with what we have. As we know that, no matter how much we will achieve, we will never be satisfied if we are not grateful for what we have.
And if being gratified and grateful is all that matters, then we can be gratified now itself, with whatever we have today.
Being satisfied does not mean we should stop the progress once we have enough food to eat and a shelter to live in. Once we have the basic needs, the goal of striving more and more should be to explore new things out of curiosity. Not that we are dissatisfied with what we have, but we have curiosity to explore more and more. That way, you’re not attaching yourself with the result.
And if we don’t achieve more, that’s fine. Our sole aim was just to explore and try new things. We were not looking to achieve anything in the first place.
At the end…
Imagine yourself on the death bed. You’re about to die, at that time, what matters to you? What’s going on in your head? That’s the meaning of life for you. For most people, it will be all the happy moments they have spent with people they admire. Happy moments and experiences with their children, partner, parents, and friends. People that they have helped with honest intentions.
Mistakes you’ve made will not matter in the end. All that matters is, how much you have truly enjoyed the limited amount of time you have got. Bonus points if you have made other people’s life happier and joyful!
According to me, meaning of life is:
- To truly enjoy things while it lasts.
- That does not mean to party all day and not worry about the future.
- To be gratified with what we have.
- That does not mean we should not strive to expand the limits of science and humanity.
- And to selflessly help other people in any way possible.
But, there’s also a kind of contradictory & interesting point of view which is,
Life is actually meaningless. We bring meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be, or the meaning of life is whatever you make of it.
Which totally makes sense. There’s no meaning in life. But, we have freedom to choose our meaning.
Going to the next level, finding the meaning of life itself can be the meaning of life. We discover many things while trying to find the meaning of life. So, the journey to find meaning of life itself, can be a meaning of life.
And there’s also another point of view which says, questions like “what’s the meaning of life?” are not meant to be answered. We explore many different concepts, theories & views while trying to find the answer to such questions. And no matter if we find the meaning of life at the end, we learned a lot along the way.
Checkout this similar post, on Are we living in a Simulation?, in which I basically try to convey the same point that, answers to these questions are may not possible to get, but along the way, we discover so many things, that it makes it worthwhile to pursue the journey of finding the answer.
Here’s another similar post on the topic of “The Gray Zone” in which explore the fact that, almost everything in life is not either good or bad, life much more complex and nuanced that, we can’t attach a label of good/bad or black/white to anything.