|The Meaning of Life
||[Oct. 3rd, 2005|11:55 pm]
My daughter returned from school tonight and informed us she needed a short essay from each of us for her sociology class, the subject being The Meaning of Life. So here's mine.
What is the Meaning of Life?
This is the question which has puzzled theologians and confounded philosophers since the dawning of human intelligence. Of course, one answer would be "a very funny film made in the 1980s starring most of the original cast of Monty Python's Flying Circus." But that would be an oversimplification. William Shakespeare had it right, I think, in Hamlet's soliloquy:
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all...
In short, Life is painful, nasty, distressing, uncomfortable, inconvenient, unpleasant, disordered, tedious and so on and so forth. The cumulative effects of aging upon the human body and mind alone are nothing short of obscene. What right do we as individuals and as a species have to expect otherwise?
Yet, just to be able to survive, to endure generation after generation, I think the human mind must therefore attempt to derive some sort of greater Purpose from such absurd circumstances. On one level, I would say possibly Humor and Religion, and on another Philosophy and Art strive to bring a sense of understanding, or at least of appreciation, to that which is beyond the understanding of the puny collective mind of homo sapiens. So, having a personal affinity for the writing of Douglas Adams, I will venture to say that the Answer to the Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything is, naturally, 42.