For some, finding the answer to the meaning of life is akin to finding the female orgasm; on paper, the issue appears deceivingly straight forward, yet in practice, the search usually ends in a cul-de-sac. Which is why, I think, religion is still strong in this modern and scientific epoch. Fabricating a Higher Omnipotent Power (or the plural), must have been a comfort to our earliest ancestors. Their undeveloped brains (as compared, of course, to our modern super brains) must have found the notion of simply living with no purpose unfathomable. Thus, the first gods were created to alleviate any fears of the unknown, life’s purpose and ultimately, death. I have a theory that the first time this intriguing question was asked, it was asked in response to an earlier, even more enigmatic question. Picture this: our ancestors were one day enjoying their normal everyday life, grunting and pounding their chests and what not, when a strange, flightless bird crossed one side of a foot-beaten path to the other side, identical to the first. What was the reason for this strange phenomenon? Why did this bird choose to ‘cross the road’ so to speak? Wait, thought our noble ancestors. What is the meaning of the existence of this strange animal? Which of course led them to our question. For animals, the meaning of life is straight forward: find a mate, produce offspring, eat and sleep, usually in this exact order of priority. They don’t care for intricacies and metaphysics. As long as they eat and pass on their genes to the next generation. The study of animals’ priorities in life soon provided early philosophers with an answer: the meaning of life must be to perpetuate our existence by reproducing! This ‘eureka’ moment only went to show humanity’s chief desire, a vicious vice in my opinion; immortality. Yes, we all want to live forever, and those who pretend otherwise can pick up a gun, turn off the safety catch, place the barrel in their mouths and pull the trigger (n.b. make sure the gun is loaded to achieve maximum results).
As we developed as organisms, and our brains grew in size, and our understanding of the world improved, some of us broke away from the-meaning-of-life-is-to-perpetuate-our-existence-through-reproduction school of philosophy to more thoughtful observations. Now, belonging to a ‘Big Three’ religion, I personally believe in God. I also believe in the theory of evolution and the Big Bang. This may seem extremely paradoxical, but I shall explain myself another time, in a blog about religion. But I digress. Back to the point, when the first of the Big Three came in, Abraham being the harbinger/father, the meaning of life reverted to that of our earliest ancestors. The meaning of life, is of course, to please God on this Earth in order to gain membership to that exclusive empyrean club! Simples.
This was too simple for some, and thus the atheists and agnostics (euphemisms for infidels) were born. Fast forward through Jesus' and Muhammad’s time, through to the medieval period, philosopher’s continued relentlessly in their search for the meaning of life. Others, like the Arab philosopher ibn Sina (known as Avicenna in the West), came with answers that were agreeable with religion and profoundly sensible. However, what pleases one does not necessarily please another, and this was discovered after much annoyance. So the search for The Answer continued.
Despite their overwhelming knowledge, the philosopher’s seemed to have missed something. They did not seem to notice that each proposed answer to The Question was logical. They did not seem to notice that each new answer simply built on the last. In short, the philosopher’s were essentially saying the same thing for the past aeon, but with different accents. And if there was a radically different new answer, all the better! Humanity was developing. Even more important, individually, we were developing, both philosophically and emotionally. Thus, surely through experience, the meaning of life is self-development? Until the day we die, we endeavour to better ourselves, to increase our store of knowledge. After all, knowledge is power.
Think about it. Take five minutes off the screen, close your eyes, and try to find some fault with my philosophy.