I recently had a conversation with a friend and we were discussing the purpose of life. I am very passionate about people finding their purpose. Everyone needs to find their purpose and meaning to life, no matter what their faith or beliefs. I found one happy guy who spends half his time on the beaches of Costa Rica and the other half on the slopes. Is that a lasting formula for happiness? Kudos to Surf for Life who have found a way to combine service to others and surfing.
I recently watched a video about a lady who nearly died of cancer who had a near death experience. The passion for life and purpose and intent was so incredible.
As I write this I’m watching a little TV. My wife follows a number of shows and tonight she’s watching “The Apprentice All Stars,” and you can see even Hollywood folks that they want to find real meaning and purpose in their lives and in helping others. I use to enjoy the end of the Extreme Home Makeover, it was great to see the light in the eyes of the family being helped out, often it was a disabled child with a single parent with piles of bills and worse, but also in the people who were bringing the good news of a new or rebuilt home.
What is the meaning of life?
Since I was young I have read scriptures that have discussed why we are here, and offered up answers “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” [2 Ne. 2:25]
In Sunday school, I learned we came here to gain a body, to essentially have a physical experience. We wanted more. God had a plan, and part of that plan was for us to come here on this earth that was prepared for us. We came to be tested and ultimately to return to him having gained experience. He wants us to obey him and keep his commandments. Those commandments were given to us to help us return to live with him. They aren’t designed just to be difficult, but to help give us guidelines and to show our love for Him. In Christianity, Christ plays a MAJOR role in that plan of happiness in showing us the way to live, and in ultimately sacrificing his life to atone for our sins. He acts as our mediator with our Heavenly Father in our quest to be with him.
This understanding of knowing we can be saved through this act by accepting him as our Savior and by keeping his commandments is what brings peace in this life. These are the simple truths I’ve found. (John 10:15–18; 1 Cor. 15:51–57; Mosiah 15:6–9; Mosiah 16:7–8.)
More of this plan of happiness is laid out in an article with many references titled “The Purpose of Life.” Something I like about the article is that it also addresses the flipside of the plan, and why God allows bad things to happen to good people. How can you really be free from pain and sorry if we hold onto sins and pain of the past? People who dwell on the past and find themselves victim have a hard time finding peace.
Amulek the great Nephite missionary orator laid out an amazingly well articulated view of the plan of salvation or redemption as he encouraged his people to not procrastinate the day of repentance. I have personally found repentance is one of the keys to happiness.
“31… for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.
33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity”
I’ve found that most of the world’s religions and even science will teach a person to try to be happy and enrich their life, but often it’s not enough. It is important for a person to fill their life with things that help them continuously grow. I reflect on the YouTube videos for kids who struggle with being different and struggle with life challenges. “It gets better” is their message. I’d echo that to anyone who is looking for meaning in life or struggling with life’s challenges. I’d also encourage anyone that is having trouble finding meaning in life, that they are more likely to find meaning in life by loosing it in the service of others. The times I’ve volunteered at a soup kitchen, or helped someone out, and in my travels looked for someone who needed my help… their is joy and peace in true charity and pure love. I gathered a few quotes and thoughts from a decent collection of quotes and lines on the Wikipedia article on the “meaning of life” as I have recently done. I’m finding that some of these references are looser than I’d prefer, and really you need to go a couple of layers deeper in analyzing the world’s religions in understanding them and this does over simplify the messages.
“In Platonism, the meaning of life is in attaining the highest form of knowledge” [and good]
“Because mankind is driven by both positive and negative influences, Confucianists see a goal in achieving virtue through strong relationships and reasoning as well as minimizing the negative.”
“Life’s purpose in Christianity is to seek divine salvation through the grace of God and intercession of Christ.”
In Islam, man’s ultimate life objective is to worship the creator Allah… Earthly life is merely a test, determining one’s afterlife
To Bahá’ís, the “purpose of life is focused on spiritual growth and service to humanity.”
“By using free will, people must take an active role in the universal conflict, with good thoughts, good words and good deeds to ensure happiness and to keep chaos at bay.”
Existence is conceived as the progression of the ātman (similar to the western concept of a soul) across numerous lifetimes, and its ultimate progression towards liberation from karma
The potential of human life to end suffering, for example through embracing (not suppressing or denying) cravings and conceptual attachments. “Attaining and perfecting dispassion is a process of many levels that ultimately results in the state of Nirvana.”
Sikhs balance their moral and spiritual values with the quest for knowledge, and they aim to promote a life of peace and equality but also of positive action. “The Lord dwells in every heart, and every heart has its own way to reach Him.”
“Science may or may not be able to tell us what is of essential value in life (and various materialist philosophies such as dialectical materialism challenge the very idea of an absolute value or meaning of life), but some studies definitely bear on aspects of the question: researchers in positive psychology (and, earlier and less rigorously, in humanistic psychology) study factors that lead to life satisfaction, full engagement in activities, making a fuller contribution by utilizing one’s personal strengths, and meaning based on investing in something larger than the self.”
A favorite irreverent comedy that my parents wouldn’t approve of:
In Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, there are several allusions to the meaning of life. At the end of the film, a character played by Michael Palin is handed an envelope containing “the meaning of life”… “Well, it’s nothing very special. Uh, try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.”
I hope that is something obvious here as you study this. I don’t see anything in here about getting your own way and harming others who are trying to do good. I hope we can respect others of all faiths, and live together in peace and help each other to always look on the bright side of life.