In the previous Page, “The Qualitative Meaning of Life”, it was stated that our purpose in life is to know God. What options exist with respect to how we are to live our lives and how do these appear? The choice is twofold – a life of Meaning or a life of Means. While there may be some overlap and difficulty distinguishing between the two in some cases, they are characterized by marked differences. Treating of the former, a life of Meaning entails existing objectively according to ethical or moral principles based on God’s existence. This consists of thought and action directed towards fulfillment of a higher belief, cause, ideal, or value and is therefore spiritual in nature. Those who live a life of Meaning display gratitude, humility, and Love in thought, word, and action. Examples include charity, family, justice, knowledge, military or public service, peace, and religion.
A life of Means, on the other hand, entails existing subjectively according to our own material desires and preferences. This consists of thought and action based on oneself as the end of all means. A life of Means is characterized by self-centeredness, greed, and pride in thought, word, and action. Examples include fame, money, sex, and power.
Things that are sought as part of a life of Meaning are of an immaterial spiritual nature. Even seemingly tangible undertakings, such as military or public service prove to be the domain of the immaterial and spiritual upon closer consideration. Take, for example, military service. This is material and tangible in the sense that we can physically account for it – the service member wears a uniform, he reports to duty at 0600 hours, has a superior, and follows and fulfills his orders. But there also exists an immaterial spiritual component to the service member’s constitution. He fulfills his call to duty out of a Love for country and his fellow citizens. He acts selflessly and in service to others, sometimes paying the ultimate sacrifice for his devotion with his life. He exists objectively in accordance with the higher ideals of equality, freedom, and justice.
As is the case with most things, however, subjects don’t often fit without effort into the categories assigned. Take, for example, family. Although classified above as part of a life of Meaning, in some cases it is more appropriate to consider it as part of a life of Means. In itself, family does not always take on any of the benefits usually associated with it. The mere fact that one exists does not necessarily suppose that family is a part of a life of Meaning. However, when view of its context changes from an end in itself to, instead, a means to a higher and more significant end, it is thereby possible to include family as part of a life of Meaning. This requires consideration for how members of the family view and relate to one another. If their co-existence is based on a life of Meaning’s qualities of gratitude, humility, and Love, then family can rightfully be viewed as part of a life of Meaning. But if the interfamily relationships are based on a life of Means’s self-centeredness, greed, and pride, and their corollaries selfishness, avarice, and manipulation, then it is more appropriate to consider family part of a life of Means. Thus consideration need be given to how something is related to and employed by a person when identifying whether the things in their life are more consistent with a life of Meaning or Means. In addition to family, other examples can easily be thought of such as knowledge or power. These too depend on how they are related to and employed by the person.
Our choices to live a particular type of life are few, although the details of that life can be numerous and varied. Will we choose a life of meaning or means? Will we objectively elevate our thought and action to higher immaterial and spiritual beliefs, causes, ideals, and principles? Or decline to a worldly state of subjective and material desires and preferences and their correspondingly inherent self-centeredness, greed, and pride?
How do the ideas of lives of meaning and means relate to the big picture? It has already been identified that our actions of immaterial spiritual meaning, although superior to material worldly means, is still a means nonetheless. The end ultimately pursued, of course, is happiness. So then, what is its relation to lives of meaning and means? Can those who lead lives of either sort attain true happiness? Testimony from individuals of both groups indicates so. Those who lead lives of meaning speak of a profound sense of accomplishment and fulfillment as a result of their deeds. People who live lives of means relate great pleasure and enjoyment on account of their actions. But the different descriptions are technically synonymous. One person’s sense of accomplishment is another’s pleasure. One fulfillment is another’s enjoyment. Despite the contrast between the details and particulars of of their lives, those who are satisfied with either type describe their feelings towards them remarkably similarly. Thus, not surprisingly, different things make people happy and it is this matter on which we will now focus.
As human beings, we all similarly share the same purpose – to know God. Yet the reality is that we seek very different things in our effort to find happiness. Varied are the details and particulars of our lives. So are the levels of recognition among us of why we lead the types of lives that we do. Some pay no mind to their purpose or that they have one. Of these, some are surprisingly able to choose wisely. More likely, these individual’s choices result in their missing the mark. Others do take their purpose into consideration. Of these, some are ill informed; others accurate. With regards to the latter, similarly, some are successful in result while others are not. Interestingly, there exist some who have effectively identified a purpose to their lives, yet will self-sabotage their existence by consciously disregarding it. Having identified a purpose to their lives, and in some cases being correct about what that purpose entails, these individuals find fulfilling it either impossible or not worthwhile. Remarkable is the thought that a person knowingly disregard of ignore their purpose in life. Yet this is sickeningly common. I am fortunate to have finally realized this but I understand that mere knowledge of my purpose is far different from actually fulfilling it. It is now up to me to align my thoughts, actions, and way of life with the reason for my existence. The future Pages and Posts of this Blog will primarily address my quest to fulfill my purpose in life through the sowing and development of a loving spiritual relationship with God.