The Meaning of Life? – It’s Right Here!
Posted by evanescent on 21 March, 2008
Welcome again, gentle reader! This post might take a little longer than I’d like, so please bear with me. Rest assured, this has nothing to do with my ability as a writer and everything to do with your ability as a reader. To this end, I’ll try not to use too many big words, as I appreciate this can be somewhat incommodious and cumbersome. If there’s any part of this article that you don’t agree with, feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.
There must be something worth living for.
There must be something worth trying for.
Even some things worth dying for.
So go the words of Beth from Jeff Wayne’s musical version of the War of the Worlds. Granted, some of our real life problems actually feel worse than being invaded by Martians, especially to those who live in Manchester. Big, ugly, slimy beasts with lipless slathering mouths and writhing tentacles, Mancunians do have hard lives – but that’s not the point.
I was in the pub the other night, drinking with friends. A pint of Guinness, thanks for asking. Yes, yes it was nice. Thick, dark, and with a rather large head, the bartender is known for serving a good pint. Towards the end of the evening one of my friends (after I’d paid them extra for staying a little longer) despondently mused “is this all there is to life?” His point was basically along the lines of: if I die, and I’ve contributed nothing, and left nothing, does it really make a difference whether I was alive or not? I should point out that although he might have held this opinion, I believe he was playing Devil’s Advocate somewhat, and saying that even if you or I are optimistic, some people would have every right to feel that way.
Is he right? Is life pointless since it is undoubtedly the end?
Before I answer that, let me give my reason for why many people can and do feel this way – as I was once one of them. I may be wrong, but I’m not. What I’m about to say will get a little philosophical, so if you’re under 12 / not very intelligent / a fan of reality TV, feel free to close this window and get back to watching Big Brother repeats or TabooSexStories.com (page 20 is a good one). Actually, that’s a bit harsh of me, since if you’re a fan of reality TV shows you’re automatically either one of the other two options anyway.
Morality. Morality is a branch of philosophy that attempts to deal with the questions: “how should I live my life? What is good for my life and what is harmful?” Unfortunately, philosophy in general today is in terrible hands, because the “intellectuals” who teach it are riddled with perverse anti-rational anti-human anti-moral contradictory notions. I’m not going to go further into this here, but as an example, how many times do you hear the experts tell us that we cannot know anything; that reality is subjective; that man can never achieve certainty?
Getting back to morality: society in general (as a result of famous philosophers and especially religion) holds one thing as its standard. What I mean is, the measure by which an action is considered virtuous and noble. That standard is: sacrifice. It is the belief that the more an action is directed towards others, and the less it is directly for personal selfish benefit, the more moral it is. The more you serve and live for others, the better a person you are – so says society in general. This is because the underlying philosophy on which this morality is based is the following: your life is NOT an end to itself. Your life has no purpose, and has no meaning, and cannot be given one by yourself. Therefore, the only reasonable worthwhile thing to do is live for others; give up what you have; sacrifice for the good of others; create a legacy, make the world a better place; disown yourself.
I’m not saying ignore others, and don’t better the world, and don’t help people, and don’t be kind and generous – the difference is this: one morality tells you to act with OTHERS as the primary beneficiaries of your life. The other tells you to act with YOURSELF as the primary beneficiary of your life, your actions, your choices.
Humans can die. We are mortal beings. In order to live, not just as animals do from one moment to the next, seizing whatever meal comes along and never planning ahead, you must realise that there are things that are of objective value to your life as a human being. It is precisely because you are mortal that things can make a difference in your life. It is your mortality that gives rise to values – and a value is that which one acts to keep or gain. It is only because the possibility of death is present, that you MUST constantly act in accordance with the antithesis – life. And whether you like it or not there is no alternative here. You are either moving toward life or moving toward death. Life is a constant process of self-generated action. Even if you stand still, you move toward death.
Inasmuch as you choose, implicitly or explicitly, to live – you must discover those values that your life as a human being, as a rational being, needs. But, this would require a morality that tells you to act in accordance with those values – to NOT sacrifice them. But whose values? YOURS!
Those who ask the question: “what does it matter what I do if I just die?” have already conceded the argument – they have already given up their morality. Those who say that your life is not an end to itself, that you have no right to live, that the best thing you can do is give your life to the service of others (like a man on a street returning a wallet that didn’t belong to him) – they have already won. They believe that life is pointless because their lives have no point. They believe life has no meaning because their lives have none. They teach that only having kids is the answer, only giving all your money to charity is the answer, only spending your life in the service of others is the answer, living like a priest and walking to work and never polluting the air is the answer, doing something that “makes a difference” is the answer. Notice the premise they have smuggled in? “Make a difference” – to whom? “What does it matter” – but to whom? “Mortal life is pointless” – to whom? The premise they have smuggled in below your radar is this: other people are the standard for right and wrong. Other people can judge your life as a success or not, even after you’re dead. And no matter how you live your life, you are forever striving after the ethereal recognition, the approval, of others.
This, is the “morality” that you need to reject. This is the subjective capricious code of “ethics” that takes other people as the standard – which also goes by the seemingly harmless and benevolent expression “altruism”. Which people? Doesn’t matter – just others, and the more the better. Until this backward evil premise is rejected, people who ask the questions we began with will never understand how life can have meaning, because they are looking for OTHER people to give it to them.
The moral person knows that their life is an end to itself. That the admiration and consent of other people does not equal morality. That giving away your values is not the key to happiness but the destruction of it. That your life is not the means to the end of others. That your life belongs to you and no one else. That we are not just the product of an evolutionary process that implies: be born, procreate, die. That the highest moral purpose you can pursue is not the happiness of others, but the happiness of yourself.
But it takes a break from convention and an objective rational philosophy to ground one’s morality on these foundations – the exact sort of “radical” unconventional thinking that society today denounces.
Rather than being the “me me me” attitude that this may appear, it is actually the only proper way to live your life. By acting with your life as the ultimate value, you will take care of all the other values that make it possible: your health, your money, your family, your friends, your lover, your music, your car, your holidays, your books, your hobbies, your pets. These values you must discover for yourself – and they are selfish. Selfish, and good. And don’t let anyone tell you differently.
That is why the question: “if we’re just going to die, what does it matter?” can be seen for how vacuous it is. For a start, “what does it matter?” – well, my life matters to me! And it matters to those people I value and those who value me. The rest, I’m not too bothered about!
There is only one way to live – to value your life and act accordingly, and that is how to achieve happiness. If you don’t choose to pursue happiness, you are not choosing to pursue your values. And since values have their ultimate goal in life – the rejection of values, of the pursuit of happiness, has only one other goal: death. If you can’t see the point in being happy, you might as well kill yourself now, otherwise you’re living a contradiction. If you live, pursue happiness. It’s your right. In fact, there is no other purpose in life.