Friday, April 16, 2010

The Meaning of Life

"People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life.  I don't think that's what we're really seeking.  I think that  what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive."

- Joseph Campbell

"I help myself by making a distinction between the idea that 'we make everything up' (which I don't think is accurate) and 'we give meaning to all that we consciously experience' (which I do think is accurate). . . . Each of us has to create our own frame of reference, which ultimately means only I decide if I am acceptable, if my accomplishments are adequate, and if my life matters. . . . [Some have] connected the idea that 'there is no inherent meaning' to the idea that 'it's all pointless'.  Not for me.  The point for me is that I have to get from here to the end of my life and how I do so matters to me. . . . So for me the question is . . . who will define meaning? If I give other people the power to define meaning for me. . . then I guess the point is to live according to the meaning they define.  Or, I can exercise the power within myself to define meaning for myself. . . . But, based on what?  I answer this by considering what I value.  For me that's the point.  What do I value?  I value being a good [partner]. Now I have meaning in my life. . . . I value being smart. Now I have meaning. I value deepening my way of relating with those closest to me. Now I have meaning. . . . and so on."

- Jake Eagle

Having lost faith in Mormonism, I have been questioning what is the meaning of life if it wasn't The Plan?  If there is no God, as I increasingly believe, is there a meaning to life?  These quotes have given me a lot to ponder.  I think that as we recognize those things that we value and then live our life in harmony with those values, we will find that rapture of being alive and joy in our existence.  And I think that just might be enough.


  1. People who can't find enough meaning in relationships with their loved ones, in their life's work and in their efforts to better the world and community are just being greedy. There's plenty to occupy our hearts and imaginations during our brief stay on this small planet.

    But then, I'm the sentimental nonbeliever.

  2. one day at a time

  3. There is a meaning to life: It's what you make of it.

    (Leave it to me to come up with a cheesy cliché.)

  4. I have often wondered why people's sense of "meaning" falls apart if/when they stop believing in God.

    For me, I have always perceived meaning and value. It was not tied to God at all. So, arguments such as, "if there is no god, there can be no meaning. There is meaning, therefore there is god." seem flawed to me. There is meaning, yes, but there can be meaning without god, because meaning is something *we* perceive and project, not something handed to us.

  5. I think I bought into the Mormon propaganda about how "The Plan" provides purpose to life. Never having been taught how else to find purpose, I wasn't sure where to look. But the principles in these quotes really resonate with me.

  6. MC: Thanks much for sharing the Campell and Eagle quotes.

    WARNING: New Order Mormon style thinking directly ahead!

    Not only can we seek and find meaning, we can also choose our rituals and what meaning they have. A few years ago I discovered DC 88:7 "...[Christ] is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made."

    Which has led to this ritual: I go outside on a sunny day and sit in the sun and feel that I am taking Christ into my body and soul. Kind of a combination of the Mormon sacrament and the Catholic idea of transubstantiation.

    Does it matter whether Christ is literally in the sunlight, or even if Christ is a literal being and the creator of the sun? To some, perhaps. But to me the idea alone is powerful, and for me it has become a meaningful personal ritual. Works with puns, too, like Son-bathing.

    I would enjoy hearing about the rituals you have and are discovering that bring meaning to your life as a husband, father, student, gay man, and questioning Mormon.

  7. Love this post and the comments. Experiencing "resonances within our innermost being and reality" and feeling "the rapture of being alive" sounds like joy to me. And it seems like the best way to get there is to focus on our relationships with each other as human beings. It all comes down to how we treat each other.