i. What is the Meaning of Life?
ii. The Journey Begins
iii. Reading to Find Meaning
iv. Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (A Humorous Twist)
v. Intellect vs. Emotion
vi. The Role of the Emotions
vii. My Time in the Desert
viii. The DEW Principle
ix. More to the Principle
What is the Meaning of Life?
For me life is continuously being hungry. The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer. (Arnold Schwarzenegger)
The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity. (Leo Tolstoy)
I think essentially the meaning of life is probably the journey and not really any one thing or an outcome or a result. I think it’s kinda the process and I think that if you can find happiness in the process then maybe that’s it. (Charisma Carpenter)
Varying opinions have erupted over many years concerning this journey called life. The questions ‘What is the meaning of life?’ ‘Why do we exist?’ ‘What is my purpose in life?’ all scream at the same thing but just worded differently. And sometimes your investigation into the answers may often leave you more confused than you initially were.
What is the meaning of life? I remember the first time I asked this question. I was on the phone with my best friend – she being a devout Christian. But the whole idea of Jesus dying on a cross just didn’t seem logical to me. It didn’t make sense to me that one person could die for another’s wrongdoings. That just didn’t sound intelligent enough to answer my questions. I had posed the question to her over a hundred times ‘What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? How should we live?’
I took it upon myself to investigate this. Perhaps, I thought, if I spent the rest of my life figuring out the answer to this question it would be an accomplishment well achieved.
The Journey Begins
My journey included engulfing myself in various idealogies and even movies such as Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. I also studied various worldviews – Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Atheism and Evolutionism. But these cumulative studies did in fact drive me much farther from the answer I was looking for. Though somewhat coherent, none of them seemed to convince me wholeheartedly enough and I could never bring myself to adopt any one of these as authoritative in my life. So here I was with even deeper questions in my hands – Were we created or did we evolve from something? What must I do to make it to heaven? Is hell here on earth? Why do good people suffer? Is anyone totally good? The quest seemed unending and the more I learned the more depressed I became.
Reading to Find Meaning
I read the history books to identify trends that could shed some light. History only showed me that some of the greatest minds that walked this earth have also dedicated their entire lives into finding a perfect answer to this same question. NO ONE as far as I know has come up with a totally objective answer to what is perhaps one of life’s most common questions. This quote by the American mythology professor Joseph Campbell did pique my interest though:
“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.”
We will return to this quote later on.
Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (A Humorous Twist)
As I searched Google for answers I seemed to find this 1983 musical comedy in my search results. It was almost a 2-hour movie and I wasn’t sure I was ready to add another worldview of life’s meaning into the current ones I was still dealing with. But there was something different about the way this movie presented itself. It did not have the severe intellectualism that the religions and philosophers had. Instead it had humor.
I got the movie, watched it and laughed through it. It was hilarious. Contrary to the title it wasn’t a movie answering any questions about life in itself. Instead it was focused more around the various stages we all go through in life which most people are familiar with – birth, growing up, fighting, aging and death. There was nothing new that I got out of it intellectually but what made this movie stand out from any other resource I had come across was that it tackled the question of life’s meaning from a humorous standpoint. I did not have to do as much thinking as I did when studying the tracts of the great philosophers and preachers, but yet this movie seemed to make me see life from a totally different angle. My reasoning capacities were placed in the backseat and my emotions took control.
Intellect vs Emotion
Blaise Pascal said ‘The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.’ For the first time I began to see that maybe the meaning of life could not be found through our logical faculties but our emotional ones. Maybe life as we know it shouldn’t be taken as serious as most of us (especially myself) do. I began to see why it wasn’t possible to merge the various religious and philosophical viewpoints together. The emotional attachment they have aroused in their followers is almost impossible to break.
The emotions have some longings that are satisfied only by a particular resolution. When thirsty we need fluids. When hungry we need food and when depressed, we need encouragement. So it seemed with the religious/philosophical worldviews – Christians feel they need grace and they seek Jesus for it. Buddhists feel they can attain perfect peace so they strive for nirvana and Muslims feel a call for total submission to Allah. Note that all viewpoints are originated from the emotions.
If life must make sense on a universal level, then we must all assess life using the same faculty. It cannot be the intellectual faculty because not everyone can see things intellectually but the emotional faculty is much more universal. It must be something that common human beings can relate to which is – our ability to feel.
Thus, in searching for the meaning of life we must look to our emotions not our intellect. This was my first finding.
The Role of the Emotions
I never could get my mind off that quote by Joseph Campbell because there was something very pure and original about it: “…Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life…” With the conviction that my emotions were the core of my being, I began to follow Joseph Campbell’s advice to search for my own meaning of life within myself.
The process began with me seeking answers to some of the deepest emotional gaps I felt within. I always believed there was a Creator but the nature of this Creator, I would have to find in one religion. It must be a religion through which I could see the rest of the world with. A religion that not only has withstood the test of time but also has transformation power. I believed that if the emotional state of a person is affected deeply, then that person’s life must be changed somehow and the greater the emotional impact the greater the change. These were some of the signs I looked for as I embarked on my journey to find life’s meaning.The search would be a long one but the reward is pricesless.
My Time in the Desert
For 6 years, I was studying and learning more about myself. I call this stage of my life – My Time in The Desert. I was separated from the fast pacing world that I knew, separated from my family and friends. It was in the desert that I felt a transformation power come over me. I learned about a Man called Jesus and almost like a storm I was carried away by His teachings, charisma and His life. He suddenly became an authoritative figure over my life.
C.S. Lewis said “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” I definitely felt the same way and as I continually read on Jesus and early Christianity, I learned that the recognition of a Higher Authority over you is essential to finding the meaning of your life.
The DEW Principle
After learning the importance of the human emotions in finding life’s meaning; and the importance of a Higher Authority in my own life, it was important that I reach out to anyone who is seeking to find the meaning of their own life. You do not have to go through the same strenuous journey that I went through. The sleepless nights, worrisome headaches and 6 years in The Desert. I had to devise a universal method by which anyone could find their true meaning in life. After much thought and self-realization, my findings led me to develop what I call The DEW Principle.
Simply stated, the D.E.W. Principle refers to:
D = Doors
E = Emotions
W = Word
For a person to find meaning in life, they must first be attune with the open Doors or opportunities around them; they must also listen to their Emotions (some people refer to this as their gut or inner feeling) and they must have a Word or command from a Higher Authority that affirms what they are feeling. Once these three factors are in place, then you can be sure that you are on track to living out your true purpose on earth and ultimately finding meaning in life.
There is no particular order in which one must realize these factors. I have seen cases where the Emotions were ignited since childhood but the Word and Opportunities only came after the person was 60 years old. Sometimes this could be as a result of delay from the person’s part or it could be a matter of timing.
More to the Principle
There are always certain rules that one must live by in order for the Principle to have its full effect. For example, in order to live out my true purpose, I must not only obey one particular command from my Higher Authority. I must also be willing to obey every other command that my Higher Authority deems necessary. This is because rules depend on other rules to become effective. And the more obedient I am to the rules the clearer the picture towards my goal. If your Authority is your Dad, for example, then you must be articulate in understanding his character because whatever he tells you would stem from his own view of the world. So you must first understand his worldview. Theshape your life according to it before his Word(s) can begin to take shape in your life.
Another thing you’ll learn about the D.E.W Principle is that it does not only apply directly to your overall meaning in life. You will also find its application useful in various smaller elements along your journey. My article on The DEW Principle elaborates more on this.
The essence of life itself cannot be found anywhere else but in yourself. The display of our various talents, gifts and purposes is what gives life its meaning. The more people find out who they really are, the less we ask that question: “What is the meaning of life?” Perhaps it’s more important for us to spend our days living out our true purpose than anything else because our relations with anything else is really dependent on what our purpose is. Jack London said it best:
“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”