Is life meaningless?

Tony asked:

What is the reason for existence if life is temporary, has no true purpose, and can be erased so easily?

Answer by Jürgen Lawrenz

The first thing to say about your question is that all three of your presumptions are mistaken.

Life is not temporary: It has been present on earth for upward of 3 billion years, and there is no sign of it disappearing in a hurry.

Nor can it be erased easily. Some life forms are so tough, they can survive inside volcanoes. It would take a lot more killing than we can do, to erase all of it, even with total nuclear warfare.

As for purpose, if you can’t think of what to do with your life, it may be that you are spoilt by too much affluence and ego gratification. As far as I can tell, all life on earth has the distinct purpose of keeping Project Life going, if only to ensure that consciousness, intelligence and intentionality have a place in the universe and give some meaning to this colossal morgue of dead matter.

I suspect however, that your question on purpose is rather more narrow and merely the common doubt born from a self-centred perspective. When you worry about life being temporary and easily erased, it is probably the shortness and vulnerability of your own life that bothers you. But you could take this on as a challenge to be creative with your little gift, rather than waiting for a meaning or purpose to be handed to you on a silver platter.

Alternatively, you could devote a little of your life to studying biology. You might find your respect for this unique condition of existence growing on you. This too is a good tonic for people whose life might not seem to be very purposeful.

At the very least, however, you should read Camus’ little book called The Myth of Sisyphus. It’s all about this issue, and he begins by asking why you should not suicide immediately, if life appears as senseless as you imply. You might find it curious that Camus is of the opinion that each of us bears an individual as well as collective responsibility for the meaning of life.


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