Saturday, August 27, 2011

What Is the Meaning of Life?

Being alive is a miracle, a mystery, and a gift.  I can't say I think about the meaning of life at all anymore, yet my friend M. says that's the question she thinks about most often.

I stopped wondering about the meaning of life after reading these lines from Joseph Campbell:  "I don't believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive."

The moment I read that quote, I decided that I would try to deepen my students' experiences of being alive.  I left the meaning question to others.

Joseph Campbell continues - People are looking for the experience of being alive so that "our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That's what it's all finally about."

My favourite quote on this question, though, comes from the wonderful writer and therapist, Rachel Naomi Remen:

"We are all here for a single purpose:  to grow in wisdom and to learn to love better.  We can do this through losing as well as through winning, by having and by not having, by succeeding or by failing.  All we need to do is to show up openhearted for class"


  1. Very interesting perspective. I have been searching for the answer to the same question. This will definitely guide me in the right direction. Thanks Lil!

  2. Sergio writes from Brazil: "I agree. Less than a decade ago I decided to quit a promising career as a TV screenwriter because I didn't want to go on working at a plant of insanity. When I came back to Brazil from my PhD program in Toronto, I questioned my decision. Now, the future of that decision is taking shape. I'm a Professor in a city that I wouldn't have chosen to live in and I must be open to the consequences of my choices. The meaning of life is its fulfillment -- after survival is guaranteed of course. Wisdom and love guide my steps. I believe I am on the right track. The other day, listening to my students who will major in Theatre Didactic, I heard from a few really talented ones that they've chosen quite conscientiously to be school teachers because they they don't mind making little money as long as they accomplish the mission of educating the youth by means of the theatre. I was moved.

    I can afford Chilean wine -- at rare times aged in oak caskets. These students can't and are deliberately driving themselves away from that kind of luxury. I am contributing to their training. Therefore, my love for my main object of study and my love for people and the universe are bearing fruit. My knowledge will eventually ferment and age in the oak of openheartedness and become wisdom."