The Meaning of Life: A Brief Introduction to The Ultimate Question
Why asking "why?" is a good idea.
What’s the point?
Why get out of bed in the morning? Why fight gravity all day long, just to stay upright?
Is life just a long, hard road that leads nowhere, a relentless struggle just to end as a dirt nap in your best suit or dress, a burst of drama between birth and death, full of sound of fury, but signifying nothing?
These are simple questions.
But they aren’t easy.
This isn’t just small talk or bull-session fodder. This takes us to the heart of things. As Ron Burgandy might say, it’s “kind of a big deal.”
This letter conveys it well.
Imagine a happy group of morons who are engaged in work. They are carrying bricks in an open field. As soon as they have stacked all the bricks at one end of the field, they proceed to transport them to the opposite end. This continues without stop and every day of every year they are busy doing the same thing. One day one of the morons stops long enough to ask himself what he is doing. He wonders what purpose there is in carrying the bricks. And from that instant on he is not quite as content with his occupation as he had been before.
I am the moron who wonders why he is carrying the bricks.¹
We’re all carrying bricks of some kind.
Why should we persist in the relentless struggles of life? What’s the reason to endure and brave the slings and arrows life throws at us? When you stack all the pains of life up against all the pleasures, how do they measure up?
We all have a brief few moments between birth and death where we have a chance to make a few moves.
So, what moves are worth making?
These questions are worth asking.
Some folks disagree with that statement, but luckily, not many. Most folks see “the meaning thing” as the biggest of The Big Questions, the most important question we can ask.
If you approach it properly, it leads not to an intellectual goose chase, but a deeper life. It's less of a casual, mild curiosity, more a matter of life and death. (At least in some cases.) Not something you can choose to answer or not - you can't not answer. The only question is the quality of your answer.
It's a matter some of the most brilliant and influential individuals throughout history have been obsessed with. And billions of others as well.
Seems to us that this is a question worth looking into.
Asking questions like this can lead you on a quest.
In a way, it’s a quest for priceless treasure. (Not to be too dramatic or anything.) It’s not a quest for gold or diamonds or an ancient Indiana Jones artifact. This is more of an inner quest, where the “treasure” is a game worth playing, a fight worth fighting, a mission worth taking.
It's a quest each of us is already on. The only question is whether we’re doing it consciously and deliberately or unconsciously and accidentally. After all, we all struggle, suffer, and die. But the trick, it seems, lies in finding something worth struggling, suffering and dying for.
This quest seemed to us, your trusty and cuddly LiveReal Agents, like one worth embarking on.
How do you explore this kind of thing?
Well, the problem these days isn’t that nobody has answers to the meaning of life.
The problem today seems to be that everyone has floods of answers to the meaning of life. They range from the classic to the newfangled, the universal to the custom-tailored, the simple to the absurdly complex. Everyone seems to have their favorites.
But in this environment, the issue at this point becomes not finding answers, but sorting through the avalanche of answers that already exist, digesting them, and putting them in some kind of order.
That can sometimes seem a bit overwhelming.
So, our first job here is to simplify.
We can get rolling first by just gathering all the answers we can find into one place.
We'll call this - the "gathering" phase - "Phase 1."
"Phase 2," then, is simplifying and categorizing all these answers into a few basic groups.
And then the fun really starts. "Phase 3" is giving these answers a full, in-depth, white-glove body-cavity probe. The goal there is to see what's real and what's not, what holds up and what collapses.
Then, we can find ourselves, quite possibly, with a higher caliber of answer than what we have right now.
Let’s get probing.
Next: “What is The Meaning of Life? The Quiz” >
- or if you'd rather skip ahead:
1 Irvin Yalom, Existential Psychotherapy, New York, HarperCollins, 1980), 419.)