What is the meaning of life?

May 5, 2020

Today's topic might be a bit controversial as it somehow touch bases on religion. I know that this is subjective for everyone, and all of us have our own way of life and beliefs, but let's talk about some classic philosophies that have been around for a long time.


I was watching The Half of It on Netflix a couple of days ago and I can't help but notice that they mentioned Existentialism and Sartre, and it inspired me to write about this topic.


Finding the meaning of life is a process. One has to go through a vast number of experiences before they could fully make sense of it. Some take longer than others, but it is definitely something we all go through.


I don't really have that much exposure to Philosophy other than my Introduction to Philosophy class back in college, but what has always struck me is Existentialism. For sure all of us questioned our existence atleast once in our lifetime.


jean paul sartre, the half of it, plato, aristotle, essence, existentialism, nietzsche, moral, morality



Back in the days, famous philosophers Plato and Aristotle believed that before you are born, you already have an essence, and the way through life is to live by that purpose. So much so like how a knife can have a plastic or a wood handle, but without a blade, it has no meaning. It is for you to find out what's the purpose that has been given to you in this universe.


Eventually, a philosopher named Friedrich Nietzsche  debunked this and instead believed that life is meaningless. Do you know the song by Linkin Park with the lyrics "....but in the end, it doesn't even matter."? Yup, that's it. Whatever you do now, what is it for? We are all going to die anyway. Who knows? My nephew would always tell me this whenever I get paranoid or have anxiety attacks. To be honest, it does help calm me down. Quite dark isn't it?


Then here comes Jean Paul Sartre. He believed that we are all born first before we can have an essence. We make our own purpose. We are born meaningless, and it's up to us to define what do we want to be made for. This school of thought was considered radical especially in conservative societies where they believed that God has already given you a purpose all your life, you just have to find it.


Quick mental exercise: Imagine you are a soldier. You have two options, to enlist in the army and join the war, or to stay at home with your ageing mother. If you decide to go to war, you are not the only person partaking in it, but you are surely being involved for the greater good. If you choose to stay, you may not be taking part in something massive, but you will make a huge difference in one person's life - your mother. Which one would you choose? Comment your thoughts!


In World War II, a lot of people especially the Nazis abandoned their beliefs in an ordered world. Sartre  believed that human beings actually have a terrifying amount of freedom. All we really are are lost beings in a universe that doesn't make any sense. It's up to us to make our own moral codes and invent morality to live by. The authorities that tell us what to do or what not to do (the government, schools, your parents, etc) are no different from us. They are exactly like us, trying to make sense of life.


According to Sartre, in order to live a meaningful life, we should live authentically. We have to accept the full weight of our freedom in light of the absurd.  Our meaning in life is given only by ourselves.


Have you thought about our quick mental exercise? Is your answer the right one? The only answer is what you choose to do. No one can ever tell you which one is right or wrong, but you yourself alone.




I hope you enjoyed our topic today and let me know your thoughts or violent reactions lol. Have a great day ahead!

Photo from unsplash.


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Food for Thought is a blog series where we discover and gain deeper understanding on a certain topic. Everyone is welcome to join the discussion and express their own thoughts.



2 comments

  1. Wow, that's really a lot to think about. I struggle a lot with what is the meaning of life and what is my purpose in life. One thing that has made me think about it a lot lately is that my husband and I really want kids. We are in our late 30's. We have been told it's not going to happen naturally. Even so we are determined to have kids. So it's my belief that we were put on this earth in part to adopt and foster children. Why else would we want to be parents so bad and not be able to have them. It is God's or the Universe's (or whatever you believe in and I for one don't really know what I believe in) way to tell us that we were meant to be parents but never meant to give conceive and give birth but instead meant to accept a child or children into our home and love them like we did concieve them or give birth to them. That we are meant to make a difference in a person's life that we might never had done had we convieved and given birth. It's their way of saying that before we bring more children into the world we have to take care of the ones that are here.

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    1. Thanks for sharing this Kirsten. I was moved when you said before we bring more children to the world we have to take care of the ones that are here. I can feel that you have so much love to give and this will make you and your husband great parents someday. I strongly believe that everyone of us has a purpose, and it's found deep in our hearts - what we truly desire. I wish you all the best in your journey :)

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