It’s a question that we all must have thought about one time or another. For some, it has a deeply spiritual effect as it causes them to truly wonder why we are here. Others may decide to drastically change their lives in response to pondering upon the question. Many more may quiver in existential dread when acknowledging the scope of the question. One truth is consistent every time the question is asked though – there is never one definitive answer to the question. How can there be? A question as all-encompassing as this cannot be answered with a simple: “We are here as a test from God” (though that is a valid answer). A question such as this would likely have many different possible answers, or perhaps none at all.
To a good percentage of the world, this question does not invoke any confusion or fear though. Everyone who has a religion of some kind will already know how they were placed on this earth, why there were placed here, and what happened after. With this comes a kind of comforting feeling and is perhaps a leading reason why religion is so attractive to people. It saves them the bewilderment of answering those sorts of questions themselves. For the less faithful though, the question is still a gaping hole in their understanding of the world.
Many might say that there is no meaning to life. That we are the result of a perfect cosmic storm and that there was an equal chance of us not being created at all. Given this perspective, it makes sense that the only meaning of life we have is what we create. This is when people say that we should all try and live a ‘good life’. What is a good life? Hedonists may interpret the notion as a way to give themselves the most pleasure possible by partaking in things like gambling on some slots or drinking and taking drugs. The more self-sacrificial among us may decide that a good life is characterised by putting others before themselves and giving to charity. These are both valid answers but is illustrative of how divisive the question can be.
The rise of secularism and science seem to have transformed the dominant, religious answer to the meaning of life to the one that claims life has no meaning at all. The discovery of dark matter and dark energy were major scientific discoveries that allowed us to understand the universe more and realise our insignificant status in it. Normal matter makes up just 4% of our universe, and if we were truly made in the image of God, why are humans such a tiny speck in the cosmic bowl?
There is no doubt that the meaning of life is a question that cannot be definitively, or satisfyingly, answered. Our knowledge is not great enough and there are too many interpretations, too many sides to the debate that are all equally valid. But then again, perhaps none of them are.