Life is inherently meaningless. If you accept that life is meaningless in the cosmic sense, and that this is applicable to all humans and other life forms, you liberate yourself from religious dogmas and other superstitions and create a clear path to discovering the best, most effective and fulfilling kinds of meanings and purposes for your short existence: A life of bountiful meaning and purposes, despite being cosmically meaningless and inconsequential. Oh joy. Oh happiness.
Our species, Homo Sapiens, goes back about 200,000 years - a blink in cosmic time. Consider - Earth is 4.6 billion years old; the universe, according to the International Planetary Society, is about 14 billion years. Unlike the vast majority of species that ever existed on Earth, we're still here. But, hold your hat - we're doomed, as well.
How long do we have?
That depends. Countless natural or man-made calamities could drop the cosmic curtain. Examples include asteroid strikes, thermonuclear wars, worldwide pandemics, a supernova or something bizarre, like the election of Donald Trump.
But, even if we or our descendants hang on for a few billion years (not likely), resistance is futile. In time, Ecclesiastes' lament will come to pass - “all is futile, utterly futile.”
Why? Because eventually our sun is going to die. At first, it will start to expand, getting hotter and hotter. Earth will become a giant desert, only insects and bacteria will remain. Later the oceans boil off and everything will catch fire. When the sun explodes, Earth and our solar system will be gone with nary a trace.
Big deal. Just look on the bright side. You’ll have been dead a long time before such things come to pass.
This reality invites a bit of perspective on our place in the grand scheme of things, or would if there were such a thing. What’s needed is an insight not yet recognized by billions around the globe, starting with the fact that there is no grand scheme.
What’s more, there is no divine plan, no overarching design. Your existence is totally meaningless. You have no preordained role. You are inconsequential, like everyone and everything else. We are alone, all of us, with no loving or angry deity or savior to reward or to punish us. There is no sky god doing favors for prayers or inflicting harm if we don’t adhere to what the priests, ayatollahs and preachers insist god wants us to do, or not do.
There is no heaven above or hell below - no afterlife of any kind - period.
As the great 19th century orator Robert Green Ingersoll put it, “Life is a narrow vale between two cold and barren peaks. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We call aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry.”
Your momentary presence on this planet as a somewhat advanced life form is a cosmic accident. It’s highly improbable - and a true wonderment. This life is it. IT is not going to last very long.
Try to include as much joy, art, music, drama and love into life before you die. The end is near - get on with it. Make no mistake - all of this is good news. In fact, it's an incredibly liberating perspective.
So set a course that will guide you to live well and die happy. Celebrate - and shape your own meaningless existence in ways that are precious for you and everyone you love.
In no way will this perspective lead you ignore the well being of others. On the contrary, we know from Viktor Frankl, Irving Yalom and scores of existential philosophers who emphasized meaning in this life, that service to others is the surest path to happiness.
Many who could afford lavish self-indulgence have chosen causes and varied avenues of service to their fellow men and women, and derive personal satisfactions and passions in life from doing so.
The list is long - examples include Carter and Clinton, Gates and Buffett and Bono and Jolie.
Here’s what Apple CEO Tim Cook told a graduating class on May 17:
“There are problems that need to be solved, injustices that need to be ended, people that are still being persecuted, diseases still in need of cures. No matter what you do next, the world needs your energy, your passion, your impatience with progress. History rarely yields to one person, but think and never forget what happens when it does. That can be you. That should be you.”
Consider three pieces of advice:
1. Adopt and fine-tune a lifestyle focused on well being; “normal” is mediocre. Master the basic skills in the four dimensions of REAL wellness, as shown in this image.
2. Workout vigorously every day - physically and mentally.
3. Free yourself from dogmas; find meaning and purpose of your own design.
To paraphrase Robert Green Ingersoll, “the Great Agnostic” 19th century orator, Seek out and pick up every jewel of joy that can be found in your path...know that the highest possible philosophy is to enjoy today, not regretting yesterday, not fearing tomorrow...the time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here and the way to be happy is to make others so.
Know that the highest possible philosophy is to enjoy today, not regretting yesterday, not fearing tomorrow.
Be well. Celebrate. Make a life that is epic and triumphant.