• Question: Is there any meaning to LIFE?

    Asked by Mr.MagicalMisterMan77 to Stephen, Maria, John, Daniel, Claire, Amy on 22 Jun 2018.
    • Photo: Amy Pearson

      Amy Pearson answered on 19 Jun 2018:


      Im joking (thats from a book called Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy).
      I would like to think so. Even if there isnt a meaning to ‘being alive’, your own life can be really meaningful. Try to have the most fun you can, be kind to people, and thats the best you can do really.

    • Photo: Daniel Jolley

      Daniel Jolley answered on 19 Jun 2018:

      Interesting question – I’d say we will be asking this forever. I agree with Amy, though – your life can be really meaningful in so many different ways. You can mean the world to those around you.

    • Photo: Claire Melia

      Claire Melia answered on 19 Jun 2018:

      This is a really interesting question! I would definitely say that yes, there is a meaning to life. However, what the meaning is will be different for everyone. For some people it’s earning lots of money, for some it’s their career, whereas for others it’s all about the time they spend with people and the memories they leave behind. So yes, there is a meaning, but it’s different for everyone depending on what is important to them.


    • Photo: Stephen Baillargeon

      Stephen Baillargeon answered on 19 Jun 2018:

      Jeeze, you are not going easy on us with these questions, I love it! Meaning is a really tricky thing, ironically because it’s hard to tell what anyone means by it. However, a lot of people can relate to an occasional idea of something feeling meaningful, or identifying with a sense of purpose and there’s a few reasons that is that I’m going to get waaay too into, so feel free to move on to the next answer if you don’t feel like reading and thinking.

      I approach most of psychology from an evolutionary perspective. This means when people do things like find a mate and have babies, or eat, or do things that directly leads to them passing on their genes, those behaviors make sense to me. But it raises some questions too. Why do parents tickle their children? Why do we listen to music? I think about these questions literally constantly. If I were to rephrase your question into something that gives you the information you’re looking for but is answerable, I would say “what has given rise to mankind’s desire to feel a sense of purpose and how can we use that to make our lives feel meaningful?” I hate to not answer the original question you asked, so for the sake of answering it, I’m just going to say no, meaning is subjective and there is no objective purpose to existence or life or anything. But that leaves some loose ends, so I’m going to dig deeper into my version of the question.

      So the reason I suspect we perceive certain lifestyles to provide us with more meaning than others is because of a special kind of evolution called ‘group selection.’ In regular natural selection, the tall giraffe eats the leaves so it passes on its tall genes and giraffes get taller until it’s pointless to grow any more. Group selection applies to animals that travel in groups. It is in the genes of wolves to attack a moose, even though when a wolf attacks a moose, it almost always dies. This seems like its genes would not get passed on and wolves who attack mooses would all die out in favor of more cowardly wolves. However! Since wolves always travel in groups, if they all attack the moose, they all survive, passing on all their genes. This means that in social species that like tribes or groups, some traits that don’t seem to have any function to individuals actually get selected by the environment and passed down to the next generation.

      Humans evolved in groups so group selection applies. So if one group of people were each individually pretty good at hunting, gathering, carving weapons, inventing new tools, and whatever else cavemen did, they’d do fine. Everyone could do a little of everything and they’d survive. However, if a group divided their efforts better, they could do more than fine. If there’s one guy who sucks at hunting but is awesome at carving weapons for the guys who are awesome at hunting, then you have something efficient. This requires that people have a strong sense to become amazing at a unique skill to the extent that they are useful to the people in their community.

      It is in our genes to want to develop a unique skill that is helpful to the people in our community.

      This desire manifests itself as a sense of meaning. If you look at the people who claim their lives are meaningful, they’ve mastered something. I feel like my life is meaningful because I developed unique skills (psychological research) and I’m using it to help the world by making people more rational and happy. This makes me feel like my life is meaningful and that I’m not a useless pile of meat.

      This means that in order to feel like your life is meaningful, you’re going to have to commit to something and practice it until you’re indispensable. The bad news is that this is extremely difficult, but the good news is that it’s possible. Everyone can do something. We’ve even evolved to have some natural variety in what people are genetically likely to be good at. I biologically have decent math skills, but would never be able to hunt, work at a restaurant (I’ve tried, I’m terrible at it), or honestly the majority of important tasks. I’m good at my one thing, and that’s all I need. Being a part of a team can provide this sense of meaning, even if you’re not the absolute best at the thing you’re doing. Find a team you think is doing something great for the world and develop a skill you think would benefit them, and bam! Your life will feel a little more meaningful.