Recently I read an article in the NY Times called, “The Meaningfulness of Lives.” The author argues that the meaningfulness of your life consists in whether or not your life tells a compelling narrative. What makes a compelling narrative is subjective and objective value.
A compelling narrative must be compelling both to you and to others. This makes it valued (subjectively, to you) and valuable (objectively, to others). It must feel worthwhile and also be worthwhile, i.e. it must have subjective and objective worth. As long as you really give yourself to what you are interested in or passionate about and it seems a worthy endeavor to others, then your life becomes meaningful. In short, live your life to the full because the only meaning to life is the meaning we confer on it.
In responding to this article, I first asked myself, is talking about the meaningfulness of lives different from talking about the meaning of life?
How the author describes a meaningful life is how I would describe a significant life. Meaningful is different from meaning. One is subjective, the other objective. No one is going to argue that the lives of Einstein, Gandhi, Princess Diana, Fidel Castro, or the Rolling Stones were insignificant. They all contributed to society or changed the world. At least the world was different after they lived. But did they achieve the meaning of life? How can one say if there is no objective standard?
How could a purposeless cosmos cater to individual self-fulfillment?
-Carl F. H. Henry
Before addressing the meaning of life, discerning the meaning of the universe is a must. If the universe has no meaning, then our individual lives can’t have any real meaning. Are our short and spatially unassuming lives the island of meaning in the vast sea of meaninglessness? If your life is meaningful to a meaningless world, doesn’t that end up being meaningless? And taking the above approach to define the meaning of the universe apart from God, how could the cosmos tell a compelling narrative? Who would it tell it to and to whom would it be compelling? Another universe?
If something came out of nothing apart from a Creator, then the universe is meaningless. If the universe is meaningless, then there is no meaning to human life.
Only something that is eternal has true meaning. Otherwise once the context of its meaning goes away, so does the meaning itself.
The good news is that life is indeed very meaningful. Your life is not only meaningful to you but also to God.
You must be born anew. -John 3:7
John chapter 3 tells the story of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews, a teacher of Israel, an accomplished and moral man. Jesus pointed out his need to be regenerated, to receive the life of God.
Regeneration is a must. Not because mankind is fallen or morally depraved but simply because mankind is mankind. It’s human to need God, not religious. Regeneration is a universal must for everyone, apart from any moral viewpoint. Without God, you unmoor your life from the reason of your existence. Man was created by God as a vessel to contain God as life and then express God.
God’s life is definable only subjectively, by experience. When we experience Christ as lif we become a definer of Christ as life. Without our experience of it, this life is mysterious and beyond definition. We as Christians are a progressive definition of God as life with universal proportions. The universe awaits this living definition.
- Atheism and Nihilism (patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson)
Well put Kyle. One time I was taking a class on the sociology of science, I was struck by the fact that scientific progress has been gradually, continuously converging into a specific body of truth. That ultimate truth is the meaning of the universe. There are different fields of studies, but they are just different vantage points of that same big picture. Like we all have learned, science may tell us ‘how’ but the Bible has told us ‘why’ it is so.
Check out the slideshow on this post: http://www.simplykatherine.com/2011/03/buzzword-paradigm-shift.html
I loved the slideshow! Graphics are always helpful to me. Enlightening too. It seems that science is always one step behind the Bible. It’s interesting too how philosophy is always brought to science’s aid to interpret the data. Why then do intellectuals have a problem with interpreting the data with God? If true science is objective only, a presentation of data points should be enough. But this isn’t compelling to anyone and I don’t think we expend so much effort to tinker with the universe just to gain another dot on the graph. An explanation is necessary. However, philosophy has yet to give a compelling explanation.
Hi Kyle, may the people see it is not just a meaningful life in a human sense, but a life that is according to the meaning of human life according to God’s eternal plan for man. This light needs to reach the people sitting in darkness. Keep speaking and blogging God’s economy!
Very true. I think defining “meaningful” is a very necessary first step. There are many levels of meaning to any life, but apart from a transcendent reality or even life after death, meaning doesn’t add up to much.
Roger E Olson had a great post recently on atheism and this same sort of thing. The post is a great read and the comments possibly more so. I added the link to the related articles on this post.
I’ve been considering the “meaningfulness” versus true significance of life for weeks now, and this post expounds it and really packs a punch. Great lead-in to the gospel.
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