Giving Life a Meaning

Some years back I worked with a younger man that often said, “The meaning of life is to give life meaning.” At first blush it sounds a bit like gobbledygook to me. If I read those nine words slowly, and with intent, they start to make a bit more sense.

The question of the meaning of life probably goes back as long as man has walked upright. If you google ‘Quotes on the meaning of life’, you get hundreds of thoughts ranging from Aristotle to Michael Jackson. A particularly moving quote comes from Meghan McCain (John McCain’s daughter), “I want to say since my dad has been diagnosed, I really feel like I understand the meaning of life, and it is not how you die: is is how you lived.”

Maybe that thought touched me because I’m once again considering it as I’ve moved from midlife to later life.

I came across an interesting book written by Lin Yutang in 1937. The book is called The Importance of Living. He wrote about the importance of living a life of balance that includes a great deal of leisure, contentment and humor. He argued that he was far more content to live a life that was less philosophical and more practical. He noted that he would not presume that there must be necessarily a purpose, a meaning of human experience. He did agree with Walt Whitman who once stated “I am sufficient as I am.” Yutang went on to write “It is sufficient that I live-and that human life exists.” Viewed that way, he notes the problem becomes amazingly simple and admits of no two answers. “What can be the end of human life except the enjoyment of it.”

Like most (if not all) people, I’m still on this journey called life and making my attempt to make sense of it. I have a few answers, but a lot of questions. I trust some will answers will eventually come and when they do they will bring along with them more questions.

I also came upon another book that in some way seems appropriate to mention. At least the last page of the book is important to mention. It comes from Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther. It is a memoir regarding the death of his son John Gunther Jr. in 1947. The boy died of a brain tumor at age 17. The boy wrote the following poem one year before he died.

Unbeliever’s Prayer

Almighty God

forgive me for my agnosticism;

For I shall try to keep it gentle, not cynical.

nor a bad influence.

And O!

if Thou art truly in the heavens,

accept my gratitude

for all they gifts

and I shall try

to fight the good fight. Amen

Let us all find our own meaning in life and then let us be true to that meaning. Go well, David

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