Thursday, September 05, 2002

The other day, just kidding around, someone asked me, "What is the meaning of life?"

Didn't get a chance to answer.

Surprisingly enough, I know.

The question is a little misleading. There is no one meaning of life for everyone. Making meaning is one of the things people do, and people make meaning out of different things: raising a family, loving and being loved, teaching children, singing songs, getting revenge, gaining freedom or equality or a decent standard of living, building bridges, serving your God, easing pain, winning races, buying a yacht, ending hunger, exploring space, healing minds, killing enemies, outdoing the Joneses, saving the redwoods, saving the whales, studying DNA, policing the streets, being famous, doing a good day's work, helping others, finally getting that promotion, reaching the top of the charts, getting high, making sexual conquests, dying bravely. People have made meaning out of all this and more.

Not that all these goals are equal.

Whatever other differences there may be, notice this. Some of these goals, if one person achieves them, no one else can. Some of these goals improve the lives of many, some only for a few, some for only the one who holds them and perhaps not even that one. Some can be achieved once and for all (and then what?), some always lead you farther on. Some leave a legacy, and some are evanescent.

So, if you find your life meaningless, find a goal and give it meaning. (I won't say choose a goal -- the heart has inclinations about what it can give meaning, and your effort will be much harder if you go against them.) Better it be one that is non-exclusive, improves more lives than your own, and leaves a legacy.

After all, isn't that the meaning of good works?

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