I don’t think I’m unique when I confess I spent some time as a young man asking why I was here, what was I here to do…looking for the answer to the big question: What is the meaning of life?
All I can say for certain is I didn’t find the meaning of life in religion, or in beer, or in the baser pursuits. I’ll confess I have as yet to find a satisfactory definition, and I envy those who find meaning in religion. But, I’ll also confess the big question didn’t seem to matter so much after my children were born. I knew then what my job was: to nurture, to protect and to love my family. For a time that seemed enough.
My questions about the meaning of life didn’t really emerge again until after my children were grown. For a time, when they began to bring me grandchildren, I set the big question on the back burner again. But as my grandchildren mature and have children of their own, my “job” becomes less and less necessary, and I find I’m back again searching for the meaning of life again.
I buy books with catchy titles like “Chasing Mystery,” or “Man’s Search for Meaning,” or “The Lost Years of Jesus.” Good books written by people who might just have caught a glimpse of the answer to the big question, but who can’t really explain their insights to me. I read and ponder and still come up dry.
I don’t despair, because a lot of people brighter than I am have spent a lot more time in the same search. But if forced into a corner by logic and by intuition, I finally confess I believe the meaning of life is defined by how we choose to lead our lives. Who we marry, gives meaning to our lives. How we choose to deal with adversity and loss gives meaning to our lives. How we deal with success and failure gives meaning to our lives. How we love others also gives meaning to our lives. And what we value gives meaning to our lives.
One man who glimpsed the meaning of life is Viktor E. Frankl, a concentration camp survivor. He was a bright man who’s last edition of his story of life in a concentration camp is called, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” It’s not about the horrors of concentration camps, but how some people rose above the squalor and degradation. It’s available on Amazon at a reasonable price. If you are among those still chasing an answer to big question, you might find his book very useful. In the meantime, if you already have the answer to the big question, I’d love to hear from you.
In God We Trust