Whatever else we seek to do in our lives, we seek to find a meaning or purpose for life itself. The philosopher Nietzsche said, “Whoever has a ‘why’ to live, can accept almost any ‘how.’” So why are we here? What is the overriding purpose for life and living? I offer ten possible reasons or life meanings, and more than one may apply to our lives. Also, there is no reason for assuming that we have or have had only one life to work meaning out. Karma may be real after all, where we work out the consequences of our previous life(s) in this one. Who knows for sure what may have preceded this life, or what might succeed it?
1. No reason: life is simply random. This is also called “nihilism,” the philosophy that there is no meaning for life. We just have to make one up as we go along. In Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth” we find this extraordinary soliloquy about meaninglessness by Macbeth himself:
“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
2. School: We are here to learn some essential lessons, and then move on. We are here in order to “grow up.” Death then signifies our “graduation.”
3. Time and place for “testing”: who are we really, what will we demonstrate? The testing can be for the sake of our proving whether or not we belong in a better place – or are ready for it, since the timing is everything. It can also be to further develop our character. The Apostle Paul said: “And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
4. General Hospital: We are all “dis-eased” in one way or other, and are here to get better and/or healed. Pain and suffering just may be a part of the “medicine” we must endure. And it only lasts for a time.
5. This is “heaven”: The philosopher Leibnitz said, “This is the best of all possible worlds.” For example: life’s being temporary only makes love more intense and poignant. If we lived forever, what would happen to our motivation? Life’s glories are only heightened by the temporariness and fragility of life itself.
6. This is “hell”: This is the place for suffering, for seeing what you want but not have not been able to have, from plenty to prestige, love and friends.
7. This is “purgatory”: We are here to gain our freedom and be purified from our sins and/or negative karma. We are here to “purge” ourselves of our evil ways, and to reform ourselves as preparation for what is to come.
8. Story creation: We are here to live out and create stories, as in “The play’s the thing.” Who knows but that God is the great Storyteller and Story Creator. And once on the other side, what if God should ask you, “So tell me your story”? Like it or not, we all find ourselves necessarily embroiled in a story, beginning with our own family of origin.
9. We are here to do something: we are on some mission. We may not know what it is or even when and whether we have accomplished what we are sent here to do, but we will find out on the other side how we did.
10. We are here for “love generation”: The bees have their honey, and we have our love and love relationships to develop. In this sense, you can possibly “take it with you,” relative to love relationships. If God is love and we can actually increase the love in this world, then we could prove of value to God as well as humanity.