The meaning of life

The Meaning of Life




Atheism, Buddhism, Existentialism

and the Argument for an Upright Life



Speaking from my own experience I can say that every person that I have ever met is like myself in that they would say that their life means something. I would say that my life at this moment and the life I would have lived after having passed away ought to be viewed as a statement about what life is and what life means. In other words, our human life is a kind of commentary to existence itself. What do you say?


I want to talk a little about what I have come to believe about the meaning of life.


There are several fundamental things that gives life meaning. First of all, the idea of life having a meaning is meaningful.


“Having meaning” itself in this context “means” that one’s life has a quality of expressing one's own essential character and experience and a flavor - an experience of a life as a meal that is worth the effort put in to having lived it.


Foundational amongst the fundamentals of life is “the meeting of one's own needs”. And immediately after learning to cry out for food, solace and cleaning up a new born child learns to count its fingers and toes and as it begins to grow through childhood it then learns and takes very much to heart the degree to which he or she feels embraced into their life by their own family and their own community and the degree to which they are provided with an education into assuming some role to play in their community.


And this foundational fundamental is like a backdrop to the expression of our inherited natural instincts and desires.


Such biological behaviors may be more fundamental being written into out DNA, but they are always experienced in this social context of our own idea of where we are in life. For that see the point previous to this one.


You must meet your needs of protection from danger, (in the form of other human beings and animals). You must meet your needs of protection from the elements and from the want of food and water and tending when you are ill.


So to have fulfillment in a wholesome context, in a secure community, comprise together in one life - a meaningful life. The degree to which you are part of your social fabric is a fundamental meaningfulness of your life. This meaningfulness can be described as an ENJOYMENT BY MEANS OF APPRECIATION of the texture of life. This is a good thing. A Real Thing.


Next we must consider an important issue of self-definition that determines how we interpret the world we walk in. People who have experienced a great shortfall in love or nurture or shelter are marked in their character formation by this shortfall. Such a shortfall can become the measuring stick by which we measure our own success and the value of people and events to us.


We human beings seem born with an inborn expectation of a nurturing relationship with our own family and a location as an actor in our community - and those of us who have experienced a great shortcoming as far as shelter or the provision of food and support often react by developing a strong fixation with the idea of, not only meeting these needs, but even going so far as to measure one's self-worth in our ability to have more of these things than we need - the more the better! More for the sake of more as an aesthetic of life.


So growing out of this fundamental fabric of belonging and needing a person can develop an idea that their life only has meaning in the context of pursuing the acquisition of what we have had too little of at some time in our growing up.


Such a pursuit it self is an ENJOYMENT IN THE NATURE OF ACCELERATION that as a perceived constant increase in momentum can give a sense of having meaning in one’s life. This joyriding enjoyment of life is a mixture of good and bad. It is a great good to overcome deprivation and obstacles - yet the character structure of a person molded to get meaning by advancement and advantage is on that can lead to an emptiness in accomplishment on the one hand, and an aggressive and hostile attitude towards others on the other.


This pursuit can turn into a race that has no end because it is the sensation of an increasing acceleration in momentum that we identify as the ratification of our existence. It is not just a perception of momentum that matters. What has been achieved is as nothing itself once it is gained. It is the feeling an increase in speed that is the designated goal. But beyond the obvious neurosis of getting carried away on the wave of this mindset, their is a cause for wholesome celebration.


A shortcoming when one is younger can provide a sense of meaning one's whole life. It provides a “theme” we can use as a pole star and a measuring stick. It is something we can call ours.


This level of meaning comes from a kind of deep biological level. So it makes for s deep, intractable character feature. It can lead to leaders who drive nations like chariots to destruction in the abyss of consequences of a global lifestyle grounded on this!


The next level of meaning one can get from one's life is the reaffirmation of yourself that you get by living up to your parents expectations or gaining in status and esteem in your community. Such a pursuit and a goal one's whole life can either come from of perception of shortage in one's youth, or simply be a creation of one's pleasure at ratification by one's parents or community. In other words it can come from either a sense of inadequacy or a sense of vanity. In both cases this level of meaning stems from feeding the ego.


Yet, as a spice, human applause and respect - it is vital to make the meal of a life … it is only when it becomes the meat and potatoes of the meal that it becomes toxic. It is by believing in people’s opinion as a creation of a fictional landscape we can move into and dwell that we become our own false gods and trample the real earth in the pursuit of the sugared flames of fame. 


A little bit higher on the levels of meaningfulness available to us is the sense of meaning one gets from a conceptual perception of control over one's environment. Control by mentally mapping our world and control gained by actually becoming master of people or events in the world.


This likewise can come from an early sense of not having control, and it likewise, can also can come from the dangerous desire of obtaining a narcissistic control of other people and their environment. 


This map of meaningfulness is mediated and expressed through the vehicle of creating a conceptual scaffolding for the world. This kind of scaffolding is a kind of conceptual framework that you impose on the world derived from an ideology.


There is a danger with this goodness too. When religions become institutionalized they transfer their center of gravity from being cultural toolkits for personal spiritual contact with the world to being ideological scaffolding's of social control.


The internal consistency of an ideology is an algebra of scaffolding that is based on the mechanical internal connections of language-based concepts.


Language-based concepts have a great shortcoming is that internal consistency is like mathematics, it has a beauty and a completion schedule that really is internally validated by language-based reasonings and not validated by their own nature in confirmation in reality. 


In other words, there is always the aesthetic impulse to make theoretical consistency a primary goal in an ideology. And this leads, (because we are human), to prefer to rationalize away any inconsistency between ideology and reality because trying to change your entire scaffolding of ideology is great deal more difficult and daunting than simply creatively inventing a “workaround” for inconvenient contacts between theory and practice.


This is why any true spirituality has to come home again and again to the principal of empathy and kindness as an internal and external principal. 


Empathy creates acceptance of reality based on contact and the value of being. Kindness is the natural conduct of the unselfish momentum of empathy.


All religion, when it becomes socially institutionalized, becomes ideological, and thus resistant to becoming criticized by reality - and soon the very diversity of humanity makes religion an enemy of empathy as a natural antipathy of an establish order to the natural human state of disorder. Being human is to be innocently incorragable.


The true spiritual meaning of life is a sense of validation that our own being itself has a natural empathy relationship to our own experience of ourselves and our community in the brief time we live on earth.


This means that ultimately all reality returns to the personal embodiment of non-conceptual experience of connectedness.


In practice this means that you have to understand that all social relationships, beginning with your own ego relationship to your personality, and continuing to your relationship with your family, and your community, and the governments and religions that are their institutional tools, has to be one of an objective recognition that the greatest nation itself comes and goes but once and when gone is gone forever, while the fundamental things of life like holding one's child, or the sense of satisfaction of providing for oneself and one's family and community in a manner that marries both self-esteem and empathy, is reborn in each person in every part of the world in all moments of time.


What I am saying is that as great as a government may seem it his less in some important way than the way a fork is shaped in the kitchen or the way water is embraced by a glass.


The things that serve us more fundamentally are closer to empathy and deserving esteem.


The farther social institutions are up the ladder of scale in size and justification in ideology the farther they are from humanity and any possible anchor for reality.


The next highest level of meaningfulness in life is extrication from a meaning of life anchored to a trauma in a shortcoming of biological need or social need or a conceptual picture of the universe like the one provided by a religion or a ideology of the political control of man.


Meeting one's own needs for a esteem and provision and connection to our own personality and our family and our community with the greatest degree of independence of mind is a liberation from all of our levels of structure that actually frees us to be free operators no longer at war with being embedded in our biological or our personal or social scaffolding.


In other words you are free within what is real.


For me, Buddhism has a history of reinventing itself and then being devoured as a source of spirituality back into socialization and the tomb of institutional religiosity and needing to be reinvented again. But that's nothing but a particular expression of the same fight that all human beings fight on all levels and in all parts of their life.


The emergence of awareness is a mindfulness that is reborn with every glance taken with the intention and an open heart.


It is amazing to some that overcoming our attachment to our passions of mind and our habits of mind does not orphan us from our bodies and our experience of the world - but merely removes the course and opaque egotistic and obsessed tentacles of neediness that actually obscure our sensuality and our spirituality by trying to wrestle people and events into being like planets circling the sun of our ego. When that kind of grasping is dissolved, our sensual experience and our empathy and our experience of meaningfulness naturally emerges from the dualism that egotism imposes to join into us as part of our fabric of illuminated experience of being.


It comes from my experience of being a poet that I am the most myself when I am lost in writing a poem. I am a doing not an object itself.


A lineage of healing naturally it understands the convergence of physical well-being and the satisfaction of our basic passions and appetites, our social networks and our efforts to educate yourselves about the world on one hand and liberate ourselves from self-centeredness on the other. The convergence of all of these things is the natural flower of our humanity.




2,155  Words by Leo Rivers, the garage house, cottage Grove, Oregon, Wednesday, April 11, 2012 1:56:14 PM

 © Leo Rivers 2013