What is The Meaning of Life? The Quiz
Life is already quizzing us on it. So we just made it into an actual quiz. Can you take it?
“The meaning of life” might just be the biggest of the Big Questions.
(As we just explored here.)
This seems pretty important one to really get right.
After all, there seem to be plenty of areas we can utterly screw up in life where really, eventually, things still wind up perfectly fine.
But if we get this one wrong – the whole "meaning of life" thing – if we bluff and bluster and BS our way through this one, eventually winding up in a sprawling, awkward, messy, face-plant of an answer that nobody believes, not even ourselves – then, well, we'll go out on a limb and say that’s probably not a good thing.
If there’s one thing we want to really get right, it’s probably this. After all, a lot of our happiness, success, relationships, mental and emotional health, general experience of life and so on seem to depend on really answering this one really well.
Yet some folks seem to put more time into thinking about their cell phone plan than their answer to the whole “meaning of life” thing.
Let’s not do that. If it’s important, let’s actually spend some time and energy on it.
Let’s try to hunt down the best possible answer.
The “best possible answer,” for you. Which might be different than the answer for me. Or, maybe not – the answer might be the same for both of us. We don’t know at this point. We don’t even know if there is a “best possible answer” at this point. But that’s what we’re wanting to find out.
Sounds great. But how?
Well, there’s the “asking the question” part (Phase I). We’ve already done that here. Then there’s the “looking for answers” part. (Phase II). That’s where we are now. (The main index for all of it is here.)
This little quest entails, first of all, gathering all the answers we can find from all over the globe and collecting them in one place. After all, no need to reinvent the wheel or start from scratch when plenty of smart people have already done a lot of work we can benefit from.
We – your trusty and cuddly LiveReal Agents – have done this, below.
For your comfort, pleasure, and convenience.
Then there’s Phase III, which is the “sorting through the answers” part – organizing, categorizing, and simplifying things. We do that here. (There are a few more phases after those. But we’ll come to those soon enough.)
So, sharpen your pencils, get comfy, and grab your cheat sheets. The quiz is about to begin.
We hope you enjoy it.
What is The Meaning of Life?
A) The meaning of life is to get rich.
B) “The Ultimate Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything is...42!” - Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
C) The meaning of life is to get famous.
D) “What must I know to know the meaning of life? You must know your origin, your nature, and your destiny. Where did you come from, what are you, and where are you going?” - Peter Kreeft
E) The meaning of life is to enjoy it.
F) “The literal meaning of life is whatever you're doing that prevents you from killing yourself.” - Albert Camus
G) The meaning of life is to know, love, and glorify celebrities. (Celebritheism)
H) “For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.” - Viktor Frankl
I) The meaning of life is to get followers and “friends” on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
J) “There is only one meaning of life: the act of living itself.” - Erich Fromm
K) The meaning of life is that there is no meaning. (Nihilism).
L) The meaning of life isn’t that there’s no meaning, because that doesn’t seem right, but then again, nothing else really seems right either. (Soft Nihilism).
K) The meaning of life is to feel good all the time. - Kramer
L) “There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.” – Anaïs Nin
M) The meaning of life is to be entertained and amused as much as possible, for as long as possible.
N) “…self-respect and the desire for the respect of others… A life that partakes even a little of friendship, love, irony, humor, parenthood, literature, and music, and the chance to take part in battles for the liberation of others cannot be called 'meaningless' except if the person living it is also an existentialist and elects to call it so. It could be that all existence is a pointless joke, but it is not in fact possible to live one's everyday life as if this were so…” - Christopher Hitchens
O) The meaning of life is whatever you want it to be.
P) “I am at the end of my rope. I am nauseated by life; it is insipid, without salt and meaning. If I were hungrier than Pierrot I wouldn't eat the explanation people offer. Where am I? Who tricked me into this whole thing and leaves me standing here? Who am I? How did I get into the world? Why was I not asked about it? Why was I not informed of the rules and regulations? How did I get involved? Why should I be involved? If I am compelled to be involved, where is the manager? I have something to say about this. Is there no manager? To whom shall I make my complaint? - Soren Kierkegaard
Q) “It is only when we realize that life is taking us nowhere that it begins to have meaning.” - P.D. Ouspensky
R) “If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.” - Viktor Frankl
S) The meaning of life is to do whatever you want.
T) “The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.” - Joseph Campbell
U) “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” - The Dalai Lama
V) “What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good.” – Aristotle
W) “The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.” – Leo Tolstoy
X) The meaning of life is to get as much status as possible, which is to say, it's all about what other people think of you.
Y) “The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.” – Alan Watts
Z) “The human race is a monotonous affair. Most people spend the greatest part of their time working in order to live, and what little freedom remains so fills them with fear that they seek out any and every means to be rid of it.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
AA) The meaning of life is to experience as much pleasure as possible.
BB) "Mankind was not meant for idle pleasures." - Henry David Thoreau
CC) The meaning of life is to love and be loved.
DD) “The ultimate aim of the human mind, in all its efforts, is to become acquainted with Truth.” – Eliza Farnham
EE) “It is man’s purpose to be happy on this earth and lead the way to felicity and preach its gospel wherever he goes.” - Khalil Gibran
FF) “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
GG) “The man who is born with a talent which he is meant to use, finds his greatest happiness in using it.” ―Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
HH) “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” - Albert Camus
II) “A man should conceive of a legitimate purpose in his heart, and set out to accomplish it…He should make this purpose his supreme duty, and should devote himself to its attainment…Even if he fails again and again to accomplish his purpose (as he necessarily must until weakness is overcome), the strength of character gained will be the measure of his true success, and this will form a new starting point for future power and triumph.” - James Allen
JJ) “This is the true joy in life - being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you consistent.” - George Bernard Shaw
KK) The meaning of life is about acquiring and holding as much power as possible.
LL) “The very best and highest attainment in this life is to remain still and let God act and speak in you.” - Meister Eckhart
MM) “Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.” - Joseph Campbell
NN) Buddhism: the meaning and purpose of life is awakening, or liberation from suffering, ignorance, and rebirth, breaking free of samsara by attaining moksha
OO) Hinduism: the meaning and purpose of life is self-realization, or moksha, or freedom from samsara or illusion
PP) Taoism: the meaning and purpose of life is to conform yourself to the Tao
QQ) Judeo Christianity: “Q1: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism)
RR) Political Correctness: the meaning and purpose of life is to make sure every group of individuals statistically reflects the population at large as measured by a few particular traits, and that no one ever thinks any thoughts that ever offend anyone else.
SS) Socrates: the meaning of life is to do philosophy, to examine life, to become wiser or less ignorant.
TT) Plato: the meaning of life is to exit the cave and to enter The Real.
UU) “Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves lone – we find it with another.” - Thomas Merton
VV) “The truth is here! Go where you will – to Benares or to Mathura; until you have God in your soul, the whole world will seem meaningless to you.” - Rabindranath Tagore
WW) "The Meaning of Life is to see." - Hui-neng
XX) "Each man must look to himself to teach him the meaning of life. It is not something discovered; it is something molded." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
YY) “Become aware of what is in you. Announce it, pronounce it, produce it, and give birth to it.”
- Meister Eckhart
ZZ) “Because children grow up, we think a child's purpose is to grow up. But a child's purpose is to be a child. Nature doesn't disdain what lives only for a day. It pours the whole of itself into the each moment. We don't value the lily less for not being made of flint and built to last. Life's bounty is in its flow, later is too late. Where is the song when it's been sung? The dance when it's been danced? It's only we humans who want to own the future, too. We persuade ourselves that the universe is modestly employed in unfolding our destination. We note the haphazard chaos of history by the day, by the hour, but there is something wrong with the picture. Where is the unity, the meaning, of nature's highest creation? Surely those millions of little streams of accident and wilfulness have their correction in the vast underground river which, without a doubt, is carrying us to the place where we're expected! But there is no such place, that's why it's called utopia. The death of a child has no more meaning than the death of armies, of nations. Was the child happy while he lived? That is a proper question, the only question. If we can't arrange our own happiness, it's a conceit beyond vulgarity to arrange the happiness of those who come after us.” - Tom Stoppard, The Coast of Utopia
AAA) “As soon as you look at the world through an ideology you are finished. No reality fits an ideology. Life is beyond that. … That is why people are always searching for a meaning to life… Meaning is only found when you go beyond meaning. Life only makes sense when you perceive it as mystery and it makes no sense to the conceptualizing mind.” - Anthony de Mello
BBB) “The secret to life is meaningless unless you discover it yourself.” - W. Somerset Maugham
CCC) “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8
DDD) Christian Spiritual Formation: Give birth to Christ in your heart, take on the heart and mind of Christ, make real the Christ who is in each of us.
EEE) “Thus the movement of understanding is constantly from the whole to the part and back to the whole. Our task is to extend in concentric circles the unity of the understood meaning. The harmony of all the details with the whole is the criterion of correct understanding. The failure to achieve this harmony means that understanding has failed.” - Hans-Georg Gadamer
FFF) “A humble self-knowledge is a surer way to God than a search after deep learning.” - Thomas a Kempis
GGG) “God became man so man could become God.” – Athanasius of Alexandria
HHH) “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 with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” - Joseph Campbell
III) “Each man must look to himself to teach him the meaning of life. It is not something discovered: It is something molded.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
JJJ) “The meaning of life can be revealed but never explained.” - Kenneth Rexroth
LLL) None of the Above
MMM) All of the Above
NNN) Some of the above _______________________
OOO) Other __________________________
Your Answer: ________.
When you finish your quiz, please pass your papers to the front.
Please note: This is a quiz that, whether you know it or not, you're kind of already taking;
And you will probably be graded, but may not be; we're not sure when or even if you'll ever find out what your grade is, and we might know who will or won't be grading your papers. But then again, we may be wrong.
OK, so now what?
As you can tell, there are plenty of "answers" here.
Lots of them are great, as they should be. After all, the above is the fruit of many great minds over thousands of years.
Everyone seems to have their personal favorite, and new ones (often very clever), are invented every day. Many are contradictory. Some thinkers even contradict themselves (Joseph Campbell seems to hold the record here.) Many seem great, but then are incompatible with others that also seem great. But in our fragmented, postmodern, bumper-sticker philosophy culture, these snippets are often the closest things to answers that we can often find.
The whole matter can easily become confusing and overwhelming.
But luckily, your trusty, cuddly, and vigilant LiveReal Agents are on the job.
We've clarified the problem (Phase I). We've gathered as many answers as we can for now (Phase II, above). Now, it's time to make sense of what we've gathered.
Most of the answers above can be organized and grouped into a few general categories.
This makes a potentially unmanageable and overwhelming situation much easier to handle.
And this is where we can take the next step into Phase III.