What is the meaning of life?

Looking for understanding

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Newborn baby

To determine meaning, we must first discuss the difference between objective meaning and subjective meaning.

Does life have an objective purpose? Purpose and meaning are normally subjective in nature. Truths can be objective. One example is the truth that I exist and that I have taken a wife and live in a state of marriage. We are raising four children that I believe our mine. I am assured that they are my children, because my wife tells me they are mine, and I trust her very much. I take these facts to be undeniable objective truths that cannot be disproved.

I think it is helpful to analyze this claim of objective purpose with an analogy to my own life. As stated, I am married with four children. When my wife and I conceived of these children, they obtained the bodies with which they will traverse the state of time we call life. Not long after their entrance to this world I enrolled them in a temporary state called school, where they will be educated and tested extensively. If they do well in the primary school, we will move them to the secondary school. If they manage to do well enough in secondary school, I will send them off to a finishing school to obtain further light and knowledge. If they perform well they will be raised from one degree to another, first the Associates Degree, then the Bachelors, then the Masters, and if they continue on, the Doctorate. After completing the degree to which they are capable (and can afford) they will move into the work force and spend the next 30 years building and creating and/or performing based on their area of study at the university. Normally there is a strong correlation between the degree of education obtained, and the pay they will receive while in the workforce. After 30 years of work, they will then retire to play golf or entertain themselves in the way they wish for another 30 years. Once again, the quality of this retirement from daily labor will strongly depend upon performance in the prior 30 years, as well as other factors such as saving and investing, another skill that must be learned prior to retirement.

So what is the purpose of all this? I could easily tell each of my children that this is why I tell them to study and achieve high marks in school, because the rest of their life depends upon it. I can tell them that the better they do today, the better off they will be in the next stage of life. Am I correct? In most cases, yes, but does any of this constant progress denote an objective purpose in life? Not necessarily.

If my children believe what I tell them about the need to do well in their education, they might take it as an objective purpose, and tell their friends that they should also have the same purpose in life. But let’s imagine for a moment, that one of my children takes up a love of music, and does well playing the guitar and singing. She loves it so much that she spends all her time practicing and spending time with others of the same interests, ignoring her studies. She flunks out of secondary school and never returns. Instead, she forms a band, and they become wildly popular. She is successful artistically and financially. In other words, she defines a purpose for herself that does not include my stated purpose for her. Has she failed? Do I banish her from my life because she did not go to college? Or is the only effect that she has now rendered my declared purposes for her subjective?

What if she never becomes wildly financially successful? What if she finds a cheap little home in Mendocino County to call home base where she plays small gigs at bars and fairs for the whole of her life, nevertheless she is happy and grateful for all she has. Her creative and artistic talents become a process through which she finds joy. Is anyone like that a failure?

Have you noticed that in American society much of the purpose of getting an education is centered on financial security? Is the purpose of education really about money?  Any answers to this question will be a subjective value statement, based on the beliefs of the person answering.

What has happened is that once we progressed beyond the objective truth that I and my wife are raising children, everything else becomes subjective. The same it is with the purpose of life as defined by a belief in God.

My conclusion is this. There may be objective truths, but the meaning of the truth is always subjective.

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