4th Tenet of the Shin Dao Philosophy
What is the meaning of life? A lot of people would probably consider this a topic of interesting discussion, rather than a scientific issue. Yet, while there are no absolute answers, science does provide some insight that may help you find meaning to your existence.
For thousands of years philosophers have been searching for answers to the meaning of life and our reason for existence. In today’s modern world with fast societal changes, this question becomes even more relevant and takes many different forms, such as “How was the universe created?”, “Why do I live?”, and “What is the purpose of existence?”
The number of different answers to the same question, “What am I here for?” is almost mind-boggling! People might say, “To find happiness”, “To live my dreams”, “Watch my children grow up”, “Travel around the world”, “Have as many new experiences as possible”, or “Learn and become more knowledgeable”. The variation in answers may be influenced by religious beliefs, metaphysical theories, or yes, even science.
Science and the meaning of life
The different sciences focus on different aspects of this topic, and consequently they provide different answers.
Researchers in psychology often study factors that lead to life satisfaction, and how people find meaning based on something larger than the self. The terror management theory (TMT) focuses on people’s awareness of the inevitable death. The anxiety caused by mortality is a major motivator behind many human behaviours, including the search for the meaning of life. The fundamental fear of death leads to the development of different values, which allows people to escape from the mental reminder of death.
Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s the determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.Mario Andretti
From an evolutionary perspective, the motivator behind human existence is to survive and reproduce, passing on the gene pool to the next generation. According to evolutionary science, the meaning of life is to increase our fitness and develop traits, motivations and emotions that are designed to increase our chances of reproduction and survival.
Other biological approaches, such as neuroscience, focus on reward, pleasure, and motivation in terms of neurotransmitter activity, especially within areas of the brain that are connected to emotions. From this perspective, the meaning of life stems from basic human instincts, such as maximizing pleasure and seeking out positive personal experiences. Humans also tend to construct value systems, often based on religion, that give directions about how to achieve personal pleasure and general well being.
Sociology is more concerned with values at the societal level. The meaning of life is understood as the construction of social norms, often made to make people adhere to social pressure from society. People will conform to norms that increase the chances of being accepted by society. According to the French sociologist Emile Durkheim, a society may find itself in a state of anomie, or normlessness, when the norms that guide people have broken down, and people do not know what to expect from each other. The ultimate result is a lack of purpose or meaning.
Find out how inquisitive and trusting you are.
Many people think that religious belief systems are adequate to fill their lives with meaning. Being a “True Believer”, however, requires that you give up your own identity for the identity of the collective. Conflicts and mid-life crises inevitably arise when the concept of ‘self’ determined by religious dogma conflicts with the true self. Being inquisitive and trusting of your own intelligence and intuition is the first step to finding your true self. Self-revelation requires letting go of societal and personal preconceptions to let your true identity emerge.
Seek without prejudice.
The universe will unfold and become clear when you seek knowledge without prejudice, that is, without preconceived notions about what is truth. Knowledge is not a destination, but a journey. Human knowledge is imperfect. A ‘fact’ is defined as “a truth known by actual experience or observation”. This means that facts can change as our powers of observation change, or as our experience changes.
Understand yourself, the universe, and your place in society.
Take time to be with yourself, to get to know who you are and what your talents/gifts are. Become aware of what and how you think around certain questions. In silence, contemplation and meditation you are able to separate the noise of language and society from the true sound of yourself. Your destiny, your reason for being here, becomes apparent when you know who you really are, as opposed to who you were told to be.
You have the possibility to create your own reality, to define for yourself what brings meaning to your existence. Your meaning for life will be different from everyone else’s.
A good indication that your life is meaningful is that you no longer fear death, getting old, or the various travails everyone encounters. You experience Contentment and bliss.