Chapter 31 - The meaning of life|
The problem with the religious perspective is that it squanders the meaning of your time on earth. Many religious people believe that this is the "meaning" of their lives right now:
Think about where this sort of thinking can lead:
It is a fact that God is imaginary. You have proven that to yourself beyond a shadow of any doubt. What, then, is the meaning of life?
The meaning of life is simple and comes in three interlocking pieces:
What should you do with your life? You should pick whatever it is that you believe in, or whatever it is that makes you happy, or whatever it is that is most important to you, or whatever it is that you most enjoy doing. Then you should work to make it happen. Choose the thing or things that you want to do with your single, unique, precious, human life, and make them happen.
It does not matter what it is that you choose to do -- do whatever is important to you:
The fact is that you, and only you, give your unique human life its own, personal meaning. You can choose to do absolutely anything you like. Each life is unique to the human being who designs it, and the way you define your life's meaning is up to you. This is how it always has been, and how it always will be.
Having said that, there one caveat that you should keep in mind: You can do whatever you want with your life, as long as you stay within the boundaries of what your fellow human beings will allow. It's got to be legal. For example, if you decide that the goal of your life is to murder as many people as possible, then the rest of us will do our best to stop you. The reason for that is simple -- your goal terminates the existence of other human beings. As in any game, there are rules that make it possible for the other players to play. The game of life has rules as well, established by your fellow human beings to keep things fair. See this chapter for details.
The power of working together
You might also keep this in mind: As discussed in chapter 30, it is a fact that people often get more accomplished when they work together. Let me give you an example to help you understand how that works.
A hospital puts human life into clear perspective. My son David has seen more than his fair share of hospitals and with him I have met sick kids of every possible description -- retarded kids, paralyzed kids, kids with amputations, kids in wheel chairs breathing from tubes, kids with cancer getting chemotherapy.
The kids with cancer are bald. They often vomit as the drugs are administered because the drugs are so toxic. There are babies, toddlers, kindergartners, teens. For some, their IV lines snake up their shirts to permanent sites in the chest because they are hooked to IVs so much.
A hospital shows us something important about human beings. A hospital is a facility designed to help other people. In a modern hospital there is a remarkable array of technology, and medical science understands more and more every day. All of that technology is designed to help people. We've built all that by agreeing it is important, and by working together to attack the problems that diseases create. When we put our minds and our resources to it, we can build amazing things.
The thing is, we see that same kind of cooperation throughout America. Let me give you a few examples to help you see what I am talking about.
I have food, clothing and shelter. At this moment I am warm at 72 degrees despite the outdoor temperature of 40 degrees F. I am able to drive less than two miles to three different shopping centers and over two dozen restaurants, including three all-you-can-eat buffets that cost less than $8 per person. I can shop in several grocery stores stocked with thousands of food products -- the most variety ever seen by humanity.
A huge array of products are available that make life easier and better:
My point here is simple: We take it completely for granted, but life in America is utterly amazing. Absolutely, utterly, amazing.
Who created all of this? Did God? Certainly not. People have created all of this by agreeing to work together. We have come together to create an orderly society that gets better and better through cooperation.
Think about the allies coming together World War II to fight evil. Or the space program in the 1960s and 1970s, where thousands of people came together to accomplish the impossible and go to the moon. Or any big political campaign that wins against the odds. Or a business that has a fantastic mission and vision. Or any charitable organization focused on accomplishing something good and worthwhile. When people are involved in projects like these, their lives are richer and fuller because they are working toward a common purpose with a group of fellow human beings. In those experiences we can find a powerful message about the meaning of life.
The meaning of your individual life is bounded by the accomplishments of our species. Although each of our lives is fleeting, our species as a whole is a chain stretching back thousands of years and stretching forward for an unknown distance. You are one link in that chain. Each of us contributes to the world. Our children inherit the world that we create.
What is the meaning of life? It is about loving and being loved. It is about helping and being helped. It is about giving and receiving, asking and accepting. It is about working with other people and allowing them to work with you. Life is about dreaming of something better, and then making it happen. For all of us now. For our children in the future. Life's meaning is about what we do today and tomorrow with the time we have available. It comes in thinking about that time -- that precious moment that is your life -- and making the most of it in a way that is unique to you.
The next time you are sitting at a traffic light, look over at the person next to you. Smile. That person is a fellow human being. You and he and six billion others mold this planet and create the future for our children. Together we create the path of our species.
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