What is the meaning of life?


Of course I don’t have a ready-made answer to this daunting question that, since time immemorial, philosophy, science and religion are trying to answer to! However, everybody recognizes that the path of life is not an easy one and that pain is a large part of the experience.

I like this quote from an unknown author that says:

“Don’t envy my smile, it took a lot of tears to earn it. Don’t envy my love, it took a lot of pain to grow it. Don’t envy my life, I’ve gone through so much to appreciate it…”

Life looks quite unjust when dealing with us. Nigerian writer, Elnathan John, captures this rightly when he notes:

“The world is not fair. It will not protect you from hurt because you didn’t hurt others. Do it because you think it is right. Not for reward.”

On the other hand, some people will be of the opinion that bad Karma is affecting your different rebirths.

In any case, suffering seems to be a constant element of our experience. However, the hurt appears bearable, because except for those who end up taking their own lives, a majority of people are not willing to leave this earth at all. And as you become older, this gets truer, possibly because of the fear of death!

I was intrigued by this legendary Japanese ancient tradition that is called “Ubasute”, and that tells the story of this supposed place in Japan where old people were made to go on top of a mountain to die. There is a film about it, Ballad of Narayama by Keisuke Kinoshita, that shows that even if they have accepted this tradition, when time comes to leave, the two old people in the movie are not so ready to go anymore and even prefer, for one of them, enduring all kind of hardship his family put him through, like not feeding him again.

The French author, Voltaire, also gives a fair summary of what life is all about, in his philosophical tale, Candid, where one of his characters asks: “what is more painful in life? This unbearable boredom or actually […] having your bottom cut […], and being flogged and hanged […]?”

This is my own translation, and I had some parts removed from the quote as Voltaire can be quite offensive if you are not reading the book in its entirety, or you don’t bear in mind that he was writing in the eighteenth century and that the way he refers to black people was the norm at the time.

His views on life however meet mine, as I am convinced that boredom is a surer killer than suffering, and makes us question more the meaning of life!

What Voltaire is saying, and I agree with him, is that life is pretty much a combination of boredom and hardships!

But at the end of his tale, Voltaire gives us a way out of the dilemma, as his advice is: “to cultivate our garden”. In other words, to work!

To work, as in sowing seeds and tending crop, in a very hands-on way, but also, more metaphorically, to work on yourself, to work with others, to engage in the community you are a part of, to read, to think for yourself, to work at a better you, at a better world.

You are here anyway, so why stay in misery?

There is so much to do in order to give a meaning to one’s life, to paint it with happy colours other than the grey of boredom or the red of pain!

Although I am still rather reluctant to engage fully with social media, I must say that for those who are not yet ready to get involved in real life, exchanging on blogs or on twitter for example, is a good opportunity to be more aware and to share with other human beings. The discordant factor however is the tendency to show off and the reign of superficiality. Competition for likes and followers can also be harsh!

Some of us find solace in God or in trying to discern and follow the laws of the universe. But not everybody is so inclined.

Even if they can be deceitful at times, I think that engaging with people is one of the best ways to be happy, as the popular quote says: “People are the true treasure”.

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