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As a matter of fact, it is not to late to remind everyone of views of Solomon - one of kings of ancient Israel. He was one of first to have put his views about purpose and meaning of human existence on public record. His dissertation on subject, if you do not know, is titled Ecclesiastics (one of wisdom books in Old Testament). What was his answer? Well, let me paraphrase it for you. He said that life is actually for nothing at all. And let me assure you that he was not singing sour grapes either. He had a high intellect, political power, financial wherewithal (he taxed his people rather hard for his new Temple of God), not to say ladies and servants in waiting. It is not until one gets to one of his closing remarks that one realizes why he was so nihilistic. He said that after human body returns to dust, its spirit therein will have to be returned to God. From a statement such as this, it seems rather clear to me that he did not really believe that persons would persist as souls with memories and self-identity intact in hereafter. That may also explain why he had to whine and grind so much about futility of being human.
Be that as it may, I, for one, would think that baby should not be thrown out with bathwater. In eyes of any helpless parent, being able to hold onto some of remaining bits and pieces may still be better than none. In this connection, I think that some of ‘existentialist’ insights of Friedrich Nietzsche and Jean-Paul Sartre, not to mention those of Kierkegaard and Marin Heidegger, are indeed more appropriate. In very commonsensical and simplistic terms, what they said was that life is not a Chinese dinner party where everyone must wait to be served (i.e., with meaning and purpose). It is more like an outdoor BBQ where one must choose and make one’s own. The purpose and meaning of life is something that everyone must try and cook for himself, in terms of what he wants and decides to do, as well as what one actually managed to get done. To just respond obediently to dictates of another (either human or divine), or surrender completely to programming of popular culture (religious or secular), is not a meaningful way to live.
To this, I should also like to add three further notes of my own. One is that as every life is bound to undergo various stages for reason of physiological changes and unforeseen circumstances, meanings and purposes of a life are in fact many - not just any ‘this and only’ as it is usually mistakenly taken to imply. Another is that worth of any life (or success, if one must use word) is not confined to any one top or bottom that one may have managed to conquer or endure. It must also be defined in terms of total distance and nature of terrains covered. Even if one had to limp through in end, I would rather think, is still more worthy of respect than quitting midway. Last but not least, it is perhaps more appropriate to think about purposes and meanings in life, or its worth if you like, rather than of it. There is no justification for anyone to write off former simply for lack of latter – that is, if one would not want to be so honest and uncouth as to say that from biological point of view, meaning and purpose of life is perhaps to eat first and be eaten later.
====================================== What is role of religion in an agnostic (with respect to supernatural) and neuroscientific (or soul-less) world? http://www.geocities.com/philosophyofreligion_pmkchan/index.html ======================================
Author of two books copyrighted and published in the United States: The Mystery of Mind (2003) Soul, God, and Morality (2004)