What is the meaning of life?
This question has plagued humanity since we became intelligent enough to ask it. I can’t ever see humans finding a definitive answer, but I have 2 theories that I’d like to share. The first being a large scale, universal theory based on maths, the second a small scale theory based on my experiences for a personal or individual level.
The Mathematical Theory
At a glance
When I look at it from a purely mathematical point of view, I can’t find any grand meaning to life. There was nothing (represented by 0), then the big bang created the universe and gave birth to life as we know it (represented by 1), but no matter what we do or don’t accomplish as a species, in the grand scheme of things it wouldn’t have mattered if never existed (represented by the final 0).
Even if there is a next level for the human species to progress to; mastering interstellar travel and becoming a universal species, manipulating the space-time continuum or transcending to a Godlike status, it all arose from nothing, and nothing can’t equal something, as 0 cannot equal 1.
So we have the start of the universe (0), our time spent alive and effect our species has on the universe (1), and the output of all our experience (0).
Here is a Sine graph. Take the X axis (Θ) as time, and the Y-axis (f(Θ)) as the amount of life in the universe. For now, ignore the curve from π to 2π.
For the sake of the argument we’ll assume that everything that has happened from the dawn of time, until now, has happened between 0 and π. We’ll also assume that universe as we know it comes to an end at π.
After π/2, or the peak of life, we can see the curve starting to make its way back to 0, as the amount of life in the universe starts decreasing. This is the point where the universe starts dying, or changing its state. When the curve reaches π, everything that ever existed ceases to exist, rendering everything that ever happened the value 0.
If you believe in Ying and Yang, or the theory that everything has a balance, from π to 2π could be life existing in a state of anti-matter. The whole process can repeat indefinitely for an infinite fluctuation between 0, 1, 0, -1 and 0. Looking like 0=1=0=-1=0=1=0, but it will always end with a 0.
At an Individual Level
The beauty of this mathematical theory is that if there is no grand answer to the meaning of life, which means life is what you make it. Personally I choose to look at life as the finite amount of time each individual spends alive, at least in this realm or level of consciousness.
Many people struggle to find their purpose because they spend their life looking for an ultimate answer, and life passes them by while they’re searching. I think that only after people stop searching for a meaning will they realise that it comes from within.
As everyone is unique, we all have to find our own purpose and have our own unique way of finding it, however there are any similar trends that people seem to follow. Most people will go through different stages before they find their own meaning. These include developing the concept of their ideal self, discovering what their goals are and what they want to accomplish and finally discovering how to live the life and spend their time in a way that fulfills these criteria.
Remember, we can’t take anything with us when we die, but our memories, especially these days with social media, will live on forever. Documented for our grandchildren, and great grandchildren for as long as we exist as a species.
Here are some common ways people choose to spend their life. None of these are right, as different things make people different happy. These are the most common ways I see people choosing to spend their life.
The Experiencer – These people believe that life is all about the experience. They tend to be laid back, friendly, live in the moment and take risks. You’d know if you’ve met one because they have the most incredible stories, some which sound unbelievable. They love to travel, immerse themselves in other cultures and push the boundaries of their comfort zone.
Many people are often envious of these people as they don’t really follow the general guidelines society sets, and don’t care if they aren’t accepted. Money isn’t high on their priority list and the only reason these people work is to fund their adventures. They generally have “the time is now” as their motto, and put having experiences in front of long term priorities, at least while they’re younger.
They don’t generally make a difference on a large scale, but can motivate people to break out of their comfort zone, and can have a huge impact on the lives of people they meet.
The Progress Maker – These people push humanity forward. Many become entrepreneurs or are on the cutting edge of research in their respective fields. Their lives are dedicated to their careers which are often spent solving humanities economic, social, technological and environmental problems. They also don’t often care about money, as long as they are making a difference.
They are the kind of people that work hard for years and live day by day before their venture makes them seem like an overnight success. They are motivated by their quest for knowledge and the thought of improving people’s quality of life. They make a difference on a global scale.
The Follower – From my experience, this seems to be the most common form of person out there. After high school, these people will either work full-time or go to university. They may or may not ever receive a qualification and eventually earn enough money to do some travelling.
They may or may not travel, but if they do it’s generally on a contiki or hotel somewhere local and common. They’ll party like kings and have some incredible experiences in this time of their life, but this will generally be where these kind of experiences stop. When they get back home they will probably start looking to find a partner, buy a house and settle down. They’ll continue to go to nice bars and clubs for many years.
Many of these people often feel like they are in a rut, and will keep up to date with technology and always strive for the newest or best things. Materialism is a high priority for these people and they can be competitive when it comes to it. The purpose for buying all the fancy things is to fill the void that they are feeling from missing out on experiences. This works in the short term, but the toys get old and are eventually replaced. This cycle continues until, if ever they realise the true issue.
Eventually they’ll have a child or two and their main focus will change bring up their kids. This will be the most profound thing to happen in their life. Eventually the kids will grow up, they may pay off their house and then they’ll retire. Finally, they can relax and start enjoying their decades of hard work by going on holidays.
The Giver – This can be characteristic of all the above character types, but in their own individual ways, however there are people who truly want to do everything they can to improve the world, regardless of the scale. These are the kind of people who find themselves in professions such as aged care, nursing, physiotherapy or other medical professions. They may also do charity work, go on holidays to volunteer in other countries or participate in local volunteer work.
The Disciple – These people devote their life to God, Jesus and their church. They live by their chosen bible and often do a lot of volunteering for their church. They generally follow their church guidelines for life and do not risk steering off course. They generally follow the characterises of The Follower however live for the church as much as themselves.
The best thing about these kind of life templates is that none of them are forever. They are only as suitable for you as they are in that moment. As I said earlier, people have to find their own way, and the most common way of doing that is by trying something, deciding if it’s for you, and if not changing it.
Even people that feel stuck in their life can find a way to live the life they want to. Sometimes it comes down to sacrifices, other times it doesn’t. Many people that want a change, or to break free of the rut will do something radical. Some may sell their house, buy an RV and travel around the country. Others may give up their career and start backpacking; or find God after the majority of their life has passed, and devote the rest of it to God, or the travellers may hang up their shoes and decided to settle down.
For me, I have had a long road to finding myself and what life is about, but have finally settled on living my life, at least for the foreseeable future as an experiencer.
I grew up a Catholic but knew early on that religion wasn’t for me. After high school I tried to study at university, which I soon found out I wasn’t ready for. I deferred and got and started an apprenticeship. About 1.5 years in to it, I was asking myself the question, is this what life is? This couldn’t be all there was to life. I was stuck in the same boring routine, and it depressed me to think that my life was a flowchart, and all I was doing was killing time before the next milestone.
During my apprenticeship, I was fortunate enough to have a little taste of travelling when my family decided to visit Malta, my first overseas trip. I felt alive, and awoken to the world. It made me feel small, yet in control at the same time and seeing a different culture was incredible.
It was like a switch in my flicked and I felt I knew what life was about. Travelling the earth and seeing all it has to offer, learning about things that interested me, meeting people and creating memories with them, both at home and while travelling.
After returning from the holiday, I began saving for my next trip. Just before I was going to book my ticket, I reconnected with a girl and fell in love. I chose to pursue the relationship over travelling, something I will never regret. I ended up buying a car with my travel fund and eventually started living life as the follower, although not a happy one.
After I got my qualification I quit my job and started studying back at uni, now that I was ready. I began planning out my whole future with my girlfriend, but soon after that we broke up.
So there I was, a single student with no job, no money and feeling stuck. I had my studies which I dedicated a lot of my time too, as I had a new appreciation for university and what a good degree can offer. Eventually I fell in to a deep rut again and couldn’t figure out what life was about. I did however start stepping outside my comfort zone, which did a world of good.
I know I keep writing about it, but I went to a couple of music festivals which completely changed my outlook on life. Camping out in nature, with music, LSD, MDMA and like minded people did a world of good. I met 2 specific people that inspired me to live my own version of the life they were living. Travelling on the cheap, experiencing different cultures, making friends and sharing time to create incredible memories.
From then on I have decided to live my life in the moment and backpack around Europe. As I used to be a meticulous planner, I have decided do this completely based on what I feel in that moment. No itinerary, no timeframe, nothing. Only my ticket there and back. The only reason I booked a return ticket is because I am still going to get my degree and need to be back before semester starts, but I’m determined to find my ideal balance between career and travel.