The Meaning of Life

“At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test,
not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal.”
   You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child or a parent.”
― Barbara Bush, Reflections: Life After the White House

    I put a beautiful woman on the meaning of life page because beautiful women are very meaningful to me and a lot of other men and as a joke but maybe there is something to learn from that.   A world in which women are happy and not afraid to show their beauty or to laugh is a world that has a lot of additional desirable qualities such as freedom that we should all strive for.   Religions such as Islam want to force women to be covered and to subjugate them and to destroy their sexual drive and pleasure by circumcising them. 

   The attitude of Islam toward beauty was demonstrated by the reaction of Muslims to a newspaper article about an upcoming Miss World pageant to be held Dec. 7 02 in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.  A journalist, Isioma Daniel tried to defend the pageant and wrote in the article:

What would (the prophet) Muhammad think? In all honesty, he would probably have chosen a wife from among them (the contestants).

   In response to Isioma's article, violent demonstrators in the northern city of Kaduna burned churches and rampaged through the streets.  Angry Muslims shouting "Down with Beauty" and "Allahu Akbar", rioted and stabbed and set fire to bystanders.  About 175 people were killed and  injured.  This continued until hundreds of soldiers were deployed to restore calm and enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew. (fresnoBee.com World News 11/22/02

   Radical Islam also is against music and laughter.  Anna Mulrine in her article "Unveiled Threat" U.S. News and World Report, Oct 5, 01, quotes a woman named Laila, as saying:

Kites, once a favorite children's toy, are banned.  So are chess, and music, and dancing at weddings...Women are not allowed to laugh out loud-anything that would bring you a second of happiness.

   All these things that radical Islam is against are what makes life on earth worth living.  Part of the meaning of life is bringing happiness beauty and laughter to the world.  

   The theory behind covering women up is that it will make it less likely that men especially married men will engage in immoral behavior.  According to that logic if you would lock all men up they wouldn't be able to do anything immoral either but Muslims prefer to take away women's freedoms.  In places like Saudi Arabia women virtually are locked up, they can only go out of their homes if escorted by a male relative.  The way to prevent immoral behavior is not to take away a man's freedom, unless that man is a criminal because taking away freedom is itself a crime.  Beauty and temptation go together that doesn't mean we should remove all beauty from the world.

    There is a hierarchy of needs which we all try to fulfill starting with our own security and the security of our loved ones.  My  main purpose in life is to do well at my job so I keep it.  That job represents my security and the security of my family.  So maintaining our own security is fundamental to the meaning of life.

   One view of life is that we all have a mission here, which is to make the world a better place than we left it.  One religion where this idea is found is Judaism.  We should strive to make the world a happier place.

    Although we should strive to bring happiness to others we should not forget our own happiness.  We're worth something too.  When we bring happiness to ourselves we are fulfilling the meaning of life just as much as when we bring happiness to others.  I think this idea is not promoted often because of the fear that people will think that they should just do what they want at the expense of others.  That is not the message I'm trying to convey here.  The concept that we should look out for ourselves is also in Judaism.  In Avot, Rabbi Hillel stated "If I am not for myself, who will be? And when I am for myself, what am 'I'? And if not now, when?"  If we are always for everyone else and but not for ourselves we shouldn't count on someone else being for ourselves.  We can help others but we need to help ourselves first.  If we're in a plane and the oxygen masks come down we should put one on our own mouths before trying to put it on someone elses mouth or we may fall unconscious and not be able to help anyone else.

   There is a widespread idea that money can't buy you happiness and that pursuing money somehow makes us greedy, but by pursuing money we increase our chances of having a stable income and increase our power over our lives and our power to take care of those we care about.  We increase our chances of obtaining the beautiful things that we want for ourselves and for others.   If we are earning an honest living we are paid for what we contribute to the welfare of others.  Is not contributing to others part of what gives life meaning?  The more money we have the more we can contribute to charitable causes.  There is something to the speech made in the movie Wall Street that Greed is Good.  Sometimes giving is bad because it allows dependency to grow.  Welfare mothers have more babies because they get more money from the state.  Many of those babies grow up to be welfare mothers who have more babies so they too can get more money from the state.  Soon the state can't afford to pay them all and can't even pay for basic services for everyone including those who pay the taxes.

    Part of the meaning of life may be what we achieve within ourselves.  Louis Mann put it best:

What happens
to a man
is less significant
than what happens
within him

   My life feels the most meaningful to me when I'm with friends and family.  Feeling and giving love may be part of the meaning of life.  I came across a beautiful poem about that.

    The pursuit of truth is important for contributing to the welfare of ourselves and of others and so is meaningful.  This is discussed in the truth section of this website.  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote the following about succeeding in life.

To laugh often and much
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends
To appreciate beauty
To find the best in others
To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

  

c o p y r i g h t   ( c )   1 9 9 9 - 2004 Karl Ericson Enterprises.  All rights reserved

Table of Contents