The Meaning Of Life?

There are many faiths and none; many beliefs about the world to accompany them. I am an atheist, anti-theist, materialist, nihilist, and general all around good person. I speak for no other and no other speaks for me.

I do not find any meaning or purpose in life and need neither to be handed to me. For me, any meaning to existence must be true for all people in all places at all times or it is not truth. It must be true for the best of us and the least of us. It must be true for your great grandparents and the ants out in your garden. If it is not true for all life, it is imaginary. The subjective values we hold and then call ‘meaning of life’ are not truth, rather they are simply the best understanding that an individual can hold given their place in existence and the knowledge available to them.

Go ahead, pick holes in that.

In the long journey to the labels I now claim pertain to me I pondered the thoughts of many beliefs and people. Those who claim to be spiritual and find that there must be a mystery behind existence, that we have a destiny or predestiny for some unspoken plan always amazed me. It’s an intriguing tale woven with the threads of awe, inspiration, and child like acceptance that there is something out there watching over us.

What if in this grand plan, the entirety of the meaning for your life was one of the following scenarios:

 

There is more than one and the cats get in on the action too, check it out
On a sunny day you are outside and a bee comes buzzing by. Rather than panic, you pause and wait and it spends a moment investigating your brightly colored clothes before moving on. In that instant you saved the life of that bee. What will become of that bee? Will it go on to fulfil a higher purpose?

Sitting on your front porch one day, a weary dog, worn from the weather and heat, stops by to rest in the shade and drink from a puddle where you have been watering the flowers. Watching this dog, you pause a moment and think he must be hungry. Thinking quickly you offer him part of your ham sandwich, placing it carefully on the pavement. He eats it cautiously and then looks at you slowly. You offer another sizable piece. He eats it, and seeing the plate empty returns to resting in the shade. Compassionately, you go inside to get more food. On your return the dog is gone.

 

There is more than one

You’re on your way to dinner and pass a beggar on the street. You walk past him but as you get to the corner store you think again. You go inside, buy a sandwich and a soft drink, stick the $10 change inside the bag and take it back to the beggar. He looks at you with cautious eyes and then digs in, saying thank you with a mouth full of food. Dinner tastes much better that day.

And then there is this story from The Wolf  Set Free … perhaps that one moment of compassion is the entirety of your purpose or meaning in the master plan of the mystery of life? What about the rest of life then? Does that mystery plan have more in store for you than one moment of passion? Does it hold more mystery for you than not killing a bee? Is it important for that plan to have more purpose for you? Can you live with it if all you are meant to do is feed a stray dog?

The next time you encounter someone experiencing chronic hardship, remember that behind their exhausted, expressionless face and icy eyes, their heart is melting at the sound of your warm voice and they won’t forget your kindness.  Your faith in them is the best gift you can bestow. — The Wolf Set Free

 

Can you live you life with no more purpose to it than that? For all that have faith, do you know that your life is more important than that one moment? Can you live your life as if that is the only meaning for your life? Can you live each moment as if it is the one test of your worthiness?

If you can’t, I personally think you’re doing it wrong no matter what your beliefs are or are not.

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  1. Hey myatheistlife (can I just start calling you “mal” from now on? You can call me TGA),
    I question whether you are truly a nihilist, however. Aren’t there ideals or institutions which you subscribe to? In my understanding of nihilism, you must reject all institutions and ideals to be a nihilist. From our conversations, you don’t seem like this sort of person 🙂 Perhaps you subscribe to a mild form of nihilism?

    • Yep, Mal works fine for me.
      Nihilism is never the bad thing that people make it out to be. All of us can visit an art gallery and decide what a painting means… sometimes it’s just paint on a canvass.

      A definition from wikipedia:

      Nihilism (play /ˈnaɪ.ɨlɪzəm/ or /ˈniː.ɨlɪzəm/; from the Latin nihil, nothing) is the philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more putatively meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.[1] Moral nihilists assert that morality does not inherently exist, and that any established moral values are abstractly contrived. Nihilism can also take epistemological or metaphysical/ontological forms, meaning respectively that, in some aspect, knowledge is not possible, or that reality does not actually exist.

      The term nihilism is sometimes used in association with anomie to explain the general mood of despair at a perceived pointlessness of existence that one may develop upon realising there are no necessary norms, rules, or laws.[2] Movements such as Futurism and deconstruction,[3] among others, have been identified by commentators as “nihilistic” at various times in various contexts.

      Nihilism is also a characteristic that has been ascribed to time periods: for example, Jean Baudrillard and others have called postmodernity a nihilistic epoch,[4] and some Christian theologians and figures of religious authority have asserted that postmodernity[5] and many aspects of modernity[3] represent a rejection of theism, and that rejection of their theistic doctrine entails nihilism.

      I do not believe that life has objective meaning, purpose, or value. Further I stand firm in belief that morality is always subjective and context sensitive – wholly contrived by the observer.
      What more need I do to be nihilist?

      • What about the belief in certain institutions? I believe that, for example, freedom of speech and democracy are inherently good for humans. This is a kind of belief that I would think nihilism would reject. Am I wrong? Am I considering a different form of nihilism? To be honest, I’ve never looked deeply into nihilism because I feel that I do have certain beliefs about humankind, but maybe I’m a nihilist to an extent without realizing it…

        • The thing is, at the core of our brains (we are meat robots) evolution has given us a thing or two which manifest themselves as the law of reciprocity and empathy (the ability to imagine another person’s position ). These things are unavoidable. If there is to be a universal human truth, I hold that it is these two things. From these all else is borne. Evolution did not give it just to us hairless apes. Many mammals seem to have both.

          To deny there is objective meaning, value, or purpose to life is not a rejection of these two programmed things. I do not reject empathy or the law of reciprocity. There may be no purpose to life, but I see no reason to destroy life as a result. Rather I see that what I do is my own. I take responsibility for all my actions or lack of. I am a meat robot, not a meat puppet. I have free will, and I exercise it as I choose. Nothing imbues life with meaning or purpose except in the sphere of my life where I decide what has meaning or purpose for me. All meaning and morality then is subjective and context sensitive. I am the decider. Where I decide to interact with others I am free to modulate my values to fit in or cooperate. Many think that this ability is what gave us hairless apes an advantage that put us at the top. Still, as is easily shown, we do not need to cooperate or even value the values of others. That we choose to more often than not is evidence of free will and empathy.

          Seeing something that you and I both value as good does not mean we share values… only that our values overlap in some respect. The illusion that there are objective values comes from many people with greatly overlapping value systems. Being nihilist does not invalidate this in any way.

          I value life does not mean the same thing as life has objective value.

          • Quite enlightening 🙂 Thanks. One thing though. I used to believe in free will; however, Sam Harris broke that illusion for me. Check out his book “Free Will” and this speech he made. He lucidly demonstrates why not only scientifically we are realizing that the concept of free will is untenable, but also philosophically. Further, he shows that in our ordinary subjective experience, we are deceiving ourselves when we believe that we have free will. Quite fascinating! Check this link out:

            • Yes, I’ve seen/heard the Harris stuff about free will. In my opinion he completely misses the point. Ask him to explain what happens when you are put under anesthesia. He doesn’t know and I’ll tell you that he does not understand emergence nor the idea of multiple processes working in tandem to create what none of them can be on their own. Its a topic that needs far more time and room than I can give it here.

              Last week research was published on how anesthesia works (or seems to) When reading this article, remember that for almost all people, when they go under, until they are awake again there is no memory, no dreams; the person seems to just stop. http://www.latimes.com/news/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-general-anesthesia-may-disrupt-communication-between-brain-areas-20121105,0,1408053.story?track=rss

              If the brain continues to function ( we don’t die) then the system is working at minimal levels, but consciousness is gone; completely gone. Where did it go? Why did it stop? This article elucidates the reason that I think Harris has it all wrong. His argument fails if you realize that consciousness is an emergent property founded on the communications between various processes in our brains. We are in effect a hive mind. We are meat robots. I am a mechanical atheist. What would a AI robot do if found out it was just a robot? I know what it might do. I also know how hard it may work to deny the facts. Harris almost talks like consciousness is some magical spark that we have no control over. He is wrong. In the edge case, we can choose suicide, and it is not the only choice that we have which demonstrates control of our will.

              In the philosophical sense, if we are but decaying energy from the big bang and have no more control than does the flame of a match on the twists and turns of our existence, the universe would not need consciousness. Without free will we get into deterministic ideas. Recently scientists have declared that many mammals have consciousness like our own. A predetermined universe does not need consciousness. It is of no consequence that our individual will can only impact the atoms with which it is in contact, The butterfly effect will example how this small impact does affect ‘the timeline’ so to speak.

              Harris is respected and educated. This does not make him automatically right. That he does not understand how we human apes make decisions is not a valid platform to argue in other directions. He is, in effect, making an argument from ignorance which does not account for the facts as we know them. Without arguing epistemology, Harris _should_ know better than that. Apparently not. He seems unwilling to admit that we are meat robots like every other form of life on this planet and perhaps everywhere in this universe. We cannot logically argue that life (bio chemistry) sparked itself into existence AND that it contains some special spark from outside the universe we know. The materialist view demands that the answer be found in the material world. Harris foregoes this and simply argues that there must be something else involved since he doesn’t understand complex processing machines.

              I am a meat robot, a mechanical atheist. When you stop looking for meaning in everything, suddenly the meaning of everything comes into focus.It’s not what you were hoping for.

  2. Great dog saves dog video, by the way! (This would insinuate that you aren’t really a nihilist, wouldn’t it?)

    • The insistence that I believe there is no intrinsic objective value to life does not mean that I don’t enjoy it or celebrate the wonder of it. Far from that. Life and all its quirks fill me with transcendent feeling every day. That you and I converse like this is in itself a wonderment. I am still a materialistic nihilistic anti-theistic atheist. There is no objective good or value to going to an amusement park… but we all like to go to them… amirite?

  3. This is just the kind of thing I’ve been rummaging for! Great and thanks!

    [[ This might be a kind of spam, but it links to a youtube video that is surrounded by similar items. Not that I think it’s what everyone should like, but it’s kind of cool. One of the things that I like about the Internet is the ability to run across way random stuff. Go have a listen for a bit of interesting diversion ]]

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