What is the purpose of life?

Ask a man who is walking towards the gallows, to pay for a crime he did not commit.
Ask a mother who is sitting by her son, as he draws his last breath.
Ask a soldier who has just been shot at by enemies plundering his country.
Ask a guy who was planning to propose his lover during dinner, but is now
lying on the ground, blasted by a terrorist bomb.
Ask a man who has just had deadly accident, while his wife, children and aged parents are waiting for him to bring the day's food home.

These are some things conveying the point of living. Live because:

  • Experiencing emotions is a privilege given only to a living soul. Love and be loved. Enter into a relationship.
  • Journey is more important than destination. Work for one dream that you saw as a child. Or even better – fulfill your parents' dream.
  • There are millions out there who want to live. Give them a life. Educate an underprivileged child, donate to charity and do social work. Remember that money can buy happiness too.
  • You have still not overcome fear. Go for an adventure and overcome a fear. Afraid of heights? Go bungee jumping! And die brave.
  • Science is still limited when it comes to solving deadly diseases. Develop cure for AIDS, cancer, etc
  • Technology still can't protect Earth from global warming. Innovate and protect this world.
  • Quora still needs people who give awesome answers and ask deep questions 😛
  • And most importantly, it's only while living that you can wake up in the morning, hear the chirping of the birds, smell the fragrance of the flowers, feel the touch of your beloved, see the brilliance of the sun, and tell yourself as you look into the mirror, that life is the best thing that ever happened to you.

You might like this too: Life: What is something every person should experience at least once in a lifetime?

19 Replies to “What is the purpose of life?”

  1. Life is a process that involves cell divisions (except for single-cell organisms), cell specialization, gestation, birth, growth, decay and death — and many other things. But it is a PROCESS.

    A process can't have any intrinsic purpose, though people can give it one, either by choice or because they can't help thinking of some process in terms of a purpose.

    For instance, wind doesn't have an innate purpose. It's not as if there's some cosmic book that lists the purpose of wind. And it's not like wind thinks "my purpose is…" Wind is a process.

    But humans can USE winds to propel sailboats. A sailor might say "the purpose of wind is to push my boat," but that's just means he only cares about wind — a process — in-as-much-as it's boat pusher.

    Purpose is only something that a sentient being can have. People can have purposes in their minds. Rocks can't have purposes. A rock will never think, "My purpose is to…" because rocks don't have minds. Of course, a person might have a purpose for a rock, because people DO have minds.

    Life can't have a purpose, because life is a mindless process. Some living BEINGS have minds. Humans have minds. But humans aren't the process of life. They are the result of that process.

    The only way it makes sense to say that life has a purpose is to say "sentient being X's purpose for life is…" If you're a theist, X might be God. If you're an atheist, X might be "some guy." Since anyone might have any personal purpose for living, there's no single purpose.

    Personally, I have no purpose for living — no overall unifying goal. I have tons of individual things I enjoy, want, want to avoid and want to get done. But, as-far-as I can tell, they don't connect into some grand plan.

  2. Usefulness. Not happiness.

    For the longest time, I believed that there’s only purpose of life: And that is to be happy.

    Right? Why else go through all the pain and hardship? It’s to achieve happiness in some way.

    And I’m not the only person who believed that. In fact, if you look around you, most people are pursuing happiness in their lives.

    That’s why we collectively buy shit we don’t need, go to bed with people we don’t love, and try to work hard to get approval of people we don’t like.

    Why do we do these things? To be honest, I don’t care what the exact reason is. I’m not a scientist. All I know is that it has something to do with history, culture, media, economy, psychology, politics, the information era, and you name it. The list is endless.

    We are who we are.

    Let’s just accept that. Most people love to analyze why people are not happy or don’t live fulfilling lives. I don’t necessarily care about the why.

    I care more about how we can change.

    Just a few short years ago, I did everything to chase happiness.

    • You buy something, and you think that makes you happy.
    • You hook up with people, and think that makes you happy.
    • You get a well-paying job you don’t like, and think that makes you happy.
    • You go on holiday, and you think that makes you happy.

    But at the end of the day, you’re lying in your bed (alone or next to your spouse), and you think: “What’s next in this endless pursuit of happiness?”

    Well, I can tell you what’s next: You, chasing something random that you believe makes you happy.

    It’s all a façade. A hoax. A story that’s been made up.

    Did Aristotle lie to us when he said:

    “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”

    I think we have to look at that quote from a different angle. Because when you read it, you think that happiness is the main goal. And that’s kind of what the quote says as well.

    But here’s the thing: How do you achieve happiness?

    Happiness can’t be a goal in itself. Therefore, it’s not something that’s achievable.

    I believe that happiness is merely a byproduct of usefulness.

    When I talk about this concept with friends, family, and colleagues, I always find it difficult to put this into words. But I’ll give it a try here.

    Most things we do in life are just activities and experiences.

    • You go on holiday.
    • You go to work.
    • You go shopping.
    • You have drinks.
    • You have dinner.
    • You buy a car.

    Those things should make you happy, right? But they are not useful. You’re not creating anything. You’re just consuming or doing something. And that’s great.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love to go on holiday, or go shopping sometimes. But to be honest, it’s not what gives meaning to life.

    What really makes me happy is when I’m useful. When I create something that others can use. Or even when I create something I can use.

    For the longest time I found it difficult to explain the concept of usefulness and happiness. But when I recently ran into a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the dots finally connected.

    Emerson says:

    “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

    And I didn’t get that before I became more conscious of what I’m doing with my life. And that always sounds heavy and all. But it’s actually really simple.

    It comes down to this: What are you DOING that’s making a difference?

    Did you do useful things in your lifetime? You don’t have to change the world or anything. Just make it a little bit better than before you were born.

    If you don’t know how, here are some ideas.

    • Help your boss with something that’s not your responsibility.
    • Take your mother to a spa.
    • Create a collage with pictures (not a digital one) for your spouse.
    • Write an article about the stuff you learned in life.
    • Help the pregnant lady who also has a 2-year old with her stroller.
    • Call your friend and ask if you can help with something.
    • Build a standing desk.
    • Start a business and hire an employee and treat them well.

    That’s just some stuff I like to do. You can make up your own useful activities.

    You see? It’s not anything big. But when you do little useful things every day, it adds up to a life that is well lived. A life that mattered.

    The last thing I want is to be on my deathbed and realize there’s zero evidence that I ever existed.

    Recently I read Not Fade Away by Laurence Shames and Peter Barton. It’s about Peter Barton, the founder of Liberty Media, who shares his thoughts about dying from cancer.

    It’s a very powerful book and it will definitely bring tears to your eyes. In the book, he writes about how he lived his life and how he found his calling. He also went to business school, and this is what he thought of his fellow MBA candidates:

    “Bottom line: they were extremely bright people who would never really do anything, would never add much to society, would leave no legacy behind. I found this terribly sad, in the way that wasted potential is always sad.”

    You can say that about all of us. And after he realized that in his thirties, he founded a company that turned him into a multi-millionaire.

    Another person who always makes himself useful is Casey Neistat. I’ve been following him for a year and a half now, and every time I watch his YouTube show, he’s doing something.

    He also talks about how he always wants to do and create something. He even has a tattoo on his forearm that says “Do More.”

    Most people would say, “why would you work more?” And then they turn on Netflix and watch back to back episodes of Daredevil.

    A different mindset.

    Being useful is a mindset. And like with any mindset, it starts with a decision. One day I woke up and thought to myself: What am I doing for this world? The answer was nothing.

    And that same day I started writing. For you it can be painting, creating a product, helping elderly, or anything you feel like doing.

    Don’t take it too seriously. Don’t overthink it. Just DO something that’s useful. Anything.

  3. Why are we so scared of the vacuum? What’s so scary about our existence not having a purpose, a meaning, a raison d’etre? Why does the emptiness of it all cause us so much terror?

    Now, that’s a question for the ages. I don’t know the answer. But I do know what we do in the face of such a gap.

    We try to fill it. With something. Our minds abhor a vacuum. Anything is better than nothing when it comes to the “why” of our lives.

    I’ll give you an example. Ask someone if they believe in God. The first thing you’ll get is a pause as they try to fathom your intentions. They may even get defensive. But if you can reassure them that you ask out of curiosity, you might get an answer similar to the following:

    “I’m not religious, but I do believe there’s something out there. I mean, there’s no way this world can just have happened.”

    This is a simplification of the intelligent design argument. The argument posits that things such as the human eye cannot have just evolved. The world is so complex, it’s components so inter-dependent on one another, that it can only have come into being by design. The world is staggeringly complex, so it cannot have happened by accident.

    Except it did. That you are living, breathing, reading this, is just a miraculous, brilliant accident.

    But still, people remain unable (or more likely, unwilling) to accept that our existence is devoid of purpose. Completely and entirely.

    This doesn’t mean our life can’t have a purpose, just that life itself doesn’t have a reason, a why.

    An individual’s refusal to accept this stinks of fear.

    But let’s invert. What if the emptiness of existence excited us, what if we saw it as an opportunity, an advantage?

    If our life has no meaning, no purpose, then our existence is a blank canvas. But it is a blank canvas onto which we can paint whatever we choose.

    ​We can imbue our lives with whatever meaning we wish.

  4. "You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes." ―Morpheus, to Neo, in The Matrix.

    The red pill and its opposite, the blue pill, are popular cultural symbols representing the choice between:

    • Knowledge, freedom and the (sometimes painful) truth of reality (red pill)
    • Falsehood, security and the blissful ignorance of illusion (blue pill)

    So I did a search on polls across multiple forums, on which pill would people choose if given the choice. As expected, the vast majority of people picked the red pill. It was a landslide of red over blue in every single forum poll I found. People seemed to highly value truth, perhaps the result of human curiosity.

    Yet, everyone wants to be happy. Happiness is preached as the single most important goal of life. Why pick the red pill then? Pick the blue pill and you will be guaranteed to be happy! Sure, you’ll be living in falsehood but you’ll be oblivious to your ignorance anyway.

    The thing is, many people—myself included—who picked the red pill are hypocrites. We proclaim that we seek the harsh truth, but our everyday behaviour indicates the opposite. We are more than content to sit in our echo chamber and shower ourselves with praises from people who agree with us. The moment we receive any criticism or disagreements, we get defensive. We twist logic and statistics to prove our point, to win our argument. We don’t want to learn from the opposition. We just want to crush them. The last time I saw someone admit they were wrong on Quora, Adam D’Angelo wasn’t born yet.

    And this is precisely why we see such a big divide between the liberals and conservatives. Too much circle-jerking in our respective echo-chambers. To the point we start demonising the opposite side. Yet, most of us clicked ‘red pill’ on the online polls. We all seek the ‘truth’—until it starts disagreeing with us.

    Human beings are a confused bunch. Nobody knows what they really want. I don’t know what I want. But if I do meet Morpheus myself, I suspect my hand would just lean ever so slightly towards the blue


    Just kidding. I wouldn’t write this answer, or many of my previous answers, if I’m a blue piller. I will continue to pop my red pills everyday, and flood Quora with a good ol’ dose of cold harsh reality 😉

  5. To live, and by living, die.

    I  know it sounds strange, but as a result of our nature as living beings,  we're slated to die. It's the one appointment everyone gets in the  appointments book of life.

    The key, therefore, is not to worry  about it. It's already confirmed in your calendar. You've got a finite  amount of time left in that world.

    Let's face it. You're not  special. You have absolutely nothing to distinguish you from the herd of  thirteen billion people on one insignificant speck in some backwater on  the wrong side of one galaxy. You are, quite plainly, an animal with a  little extra in the brain department. There are no heroes, no angels, no  silver trumpets to announce that the Lords of Gondor have returned.  You're going to die, horribly and without dignity, and you're going to  rot, and your body is going to return to the earth, and no one is going to remember you when you're dead. You don't matter. Nothing matters.

    In the face of this, I recommend doing something very novel: Make your own purpose.

    We are faced with an uncaring, unfair world and equally uncaring, unfair bastards who will screw us over just for kicks. We could succumb to existential angst and  depression, but honestly, having been there, I found it  most…tiresome. Moping wastes far too much time that could be better  spent on other things. Writing, for instance. Doing something nice for  another person. Buying someone flowers. Tidying up your little corner of  the world.

    Because, you see, if nothing matters, then everything matters. If all things die and burn out, then all things are equally important,  big or small, beggar or liar, gypsy or king. Value then becomes a  personal determination.

    "Events may be horrible or inescapable. Men have always a choice—if not whether, then how, they may endure." – Cazaril, The Curse of Chalion, by Lois McMaster Bujold

    There  are no heroes. Thus it falls to us to make heroes of ourselves.  Conscript fathers, I present to you the portrait of a hero:

    We've only got one shot at life before we burn out.

    Make it a good one.

    (Self-plagiarised, of course. I can't be bothered to do anything more. Milton Lastof's answer to What is the purpose of a human being in the present world?)

  6. “There’s a 99.999999% chance that we are living in a simulation”

    -Elon Musk.

    In just 40 years, we’ve gone from this :

    to this :

    In a few thousand years, video games will be indistinguishable from reality. A few thousand years is a mere bat of an eyelid on a cosmic scale.

    So it’s safe to say that we, our reality as we know it, could probably serve 2 purposes to our creators, a higher reality :

    1. We are used by their scientists for research purposes, basically as lab rats.
    2. Or even worse, we are a toy lying on a 10 year old’s side table. Barely getting 10 minutes of his attention everyday.


    Existential crisis?

    We live in a vast universe/simulation with a ton of unanswered questions.

    Some of them we will probably never be able to answer.

    Fortunately, “What is the purpose of life?” is definitely not one of them.

    Often, the hardest questions have the simplest answers.

    In my humble opinion, the only reality we know, is the one we feel, so the only purpose of life can be to feel.

    Feel happy.

    Feel fulfilled.

    Feel an unabashed desire to work towards what truly gives us a feeling of happiness and fulfilment.

    Because in a world where we are questioning our very existence, the only truth that matters is the one you choose to live.

    Suhail Barot

  7. Adding one more perspective to the “purpose of life” influenced in part by

    • the neurological mechanisms that give life a purpose (in some pathological cases, undermines/eliminates it) [1] [13][14]
    • and by our recent progress in machine learning.
    • This “computational objective” viewpoint of the purpose of life is a snapshot of my incomplete and evolving understanding of the purpose of life (thanks to Quora User for the phrase “computational objective” and more importantly for sharing his thoughts in the comments section).

    Also expanding the answer to this question to not only apply to us

    • but also to the entire spectrum of multicellular life starting with a worm having just 400 neurons (we have ~100 billion) – we both share principal components in our reward pathways that motivate us to survive and live. Unicellular life forms have purpose wired into dynamic intracellular (within cell) chemical pathways unlike stateful intercellular (across cells) reward pathways in multicellular animals (examined at the end of this answer) [1] [4] [5]
    • and beyond living systems to the recent rudimentary/primitive machine learning models (e.g. reinforcement learning models) that are beginning to exhibit intelligence which in few limited contexts, supersedes us [2] [3]

    The purpose of life may be nothing more than the optimization of objective functions (a suite of them) wired into us in part by evolution, where

    • the objective functions are not static but dynamically changing with time and experience
    • the scope of the objective functions span time scales ranging from short term survival needs(eating etc.) to long term objectives. [10]
    • Reward is the underlying goal any objective function maximizes. Nature has conserved “reward molecules and systems” across life forms from the worm to us. Disruption to these reward molecules/pathways results in pathological behavior (aggression, suicide).[6]
    • We continually experience (other life forms too, most likely, even if it is a graded spectrum of experience commensurate with the complexity of life form) and at any instant in time can label the collective state of these objective functions as happiness, sadness etc., though there isn’t necessarily a strict correlation of the reward system outputs and the label. In most of us, however, “happy” is the label often associated with the optimal states (local maxima?) of these objective functions.
    • Recent machine learning models that have yielded results we have never seen before, are also reward driven. For instance the AlphaGo model that beat the Go champion or the model that mastered Atari games just by observing pixels – they receive rewards (rewards are just numbers unlike dopamine release in living systems) when they win which in turn helps them learn better (they were not even instructed/fed game rules – all they got as input was pixels and reward feedback) [4]

    It is perhaps worth examining the “reward driven machines” view of ourselves for the following reasons.

    • It expands the pool of life forms to learn about ourselves – all life forms have purpose wired into them through reward pathways, even if much simpler than ours. [6]
    • The answer may help us come to terms with machines that exhibit intelligence increasingly like us (though at this moment we can laugh at some of their behavior – like the simple model in the video below getting stuck in a local minima of reward pathway (though one could argue some of us at times get stuck in local minima too). There are others like the second video where they perform moves that we didn’t foresee)

    Part of the video link above shows a reinforcement learning model going around in circles getting stuck in a local minima of capturing points instead of attempting to win the game [Jan 2017 video].

    • Even though this view appears to reduce us to “hedonistic machines” where the only purpose to exist is for reward/gratification, we may understand ourselves better by accepting that any reward driven pursuit we engage in, including the activity of reading these lines, is propelled by a highly sophisticated objective function where the reward is purely satisfying curiosity/desire to know more – a uniquely human trait that we can feel special about even if the machines of the future get to experience it (or fake it), if/when we create them.
    • Lastly if such a “reward driven” view of the purpose of life feels inadequate/incomplete, we are at liberty to create/embrace alternate views (as many of us already have – religion being one such example) that offer a more “satisfying” (rewarding) view of purpose of life – which ironically the “reward driven machines” view subsumes as simply one of the infinite ways to activate our reward pathways and feel “happy”.
    • Needless to say, the fact that the “reward driven machines” view subsumes alternate views for “purpose of life” does not make it superior.
    • If anything, it grounds us in the humbling fact that we share “the same reward circuitry” that infuses purpose into our lives, with other life forms as simple as a worm – except ours is richer and hence special/unique.
    • Our special/unique status, however, may have a finite time window, assuming we get to recreate ourselves in machines, glimmers of which we are already witnessing today.
    • The end point of that finite time window,however, may be a bit further in future (decades?), given the world models (“common sense” as we simply call it) our most advanced machines have today can’t still bind the “it” in the sentence below to the right object (box in first sentence, trophy in second) based on the objects in the sentence – something a kindergartner can do with ease. In the event, a child doesn’t, all we need to do is give her/him a few examples and they will nail the next one – machines of today just can’t do what a child can even with large amounts of training data – their world models pale in sophistication compared to a kindergartner. [11][12]
    • The trophy can’t fit in the box because it was too small.
    • The trophy can’t fit in the box because it was too big. [15]

    Figure above is from a paper published this year (2017) illustrating the kind of simple world models current machines can create by reading a simple story. [15]

    Do unicellular life forms have purpose of life?

    While unicellular life forms do not have the luxury of multiple cells to create world models in the connections between them (like the 10^14 synaptic weights of our nervous system) purpose of life is captured in dynamic chemical pathways that are constructed within the cell

    • driven in part by environment turning on/off and genes inside them. Their world model is captured in the molecular switches that turn genes on/off along with the dynamic chemical pathways these switches, in part are causal to. [17]
    • For instance, a single celled bacteria that tumbles around performing a random walk of its environment, reduces tumble frequency and swims towards an increasing concentration gradient of food source, a clear purpose driven behavior, driven by a chemical pathway initiated by food molecules diffusing into the single cell and turning on genes. This switched on state (its simple world model analogous to our 10^14 synaptic weights state world model) then triggers further cascade of chemical pathways, which then leads to adaptation, that causes the bacteria to start tumbling away. They have an analogue of long term memory too, driven by a stochastic process that makes some of them go into a dormant state even when food abounds, conferring them with some survival advantage (imagine a chemical attack the host deploys against it in the form of antibiotics- survival chance as a group is increased if some of them stay dormant and weather the attack).[18]
    • Instances, like those mentioned above, of exploitation of randomness(stochastic control) to optimal outcomes is replete in these simple life forms, and is conserved as an optimization technique even in multicellular life forms. [17][18] [19]
    • The perception of reward, when it comes to simple unicellular life forms is perhaps at the lowest end of the graded scale of perception where all that really happens is the ensemble of objective functions implemented in signaling pathways aided by floating stateful strands (genes that are turned on/off) nudging the singe-celled life form into optimal states, assisted in part by stochastic processes and in other instances objective functions that make it to robust to noise. These mechanisms that took billions of years to evolve, are highly conserved in multicellular life forms (e.g. clear demarcation lines of patterning in embryos etc).[20][18]
    • Self-assembly (aided in part by infusion of energy) and self-replication, hence are perhaps the primordial energy minimizing (reward state causing primitive) objective functions (with no direct correlates of perception; e.g. membrane self assembly without any energy infusion is just energy minimization of molecular configuration; energy infused reactions perhaps ultimately yielded complex reward systems with order dominating entropy [life in essence – until death where entropy reigns again], where reward state is perceived and sought after by the organism) that emerged from the dynamic interactions of matter, in the backdrop of an energy infused environment conducive for such interactions to occur, ultimately bootstrapping a life form that can reward itself by comprehending it all. [21][22][23]

    In summary, the purpose of life

    • in a single celled life form,
    • in a simple multicellular worm,
    • in us humans,
    • and in the artificial intelligence we are trying to create
    • may be nothing more than the optimization of a suite of non-static objective functions of varying degrees of complexity, operating at different time scales
    • and we happen to have the special status, at this point in time, to be at the pinnacle of intellectual capacity(at least for sure here on earth), to question, comprehend and marvel this entire spectrum of life including its very purpose, until our creation of a new intelligence(in part in our own likeness), the very early raw works we are already witnessing, supersedes us in asking this very same question to comprehend life even deeper than we can and hopefully marvel the beauty of it
    • and even more hopefully holds in awe (a reward), its “creator”…

    References

    1. Brain reward pathways This page has a very succinct overview of brain reward pathways. Dopamine the “reward molecule” mediates behavior response in humans, worms and flies.
    2. Mastering the game of Go with deep neural networks and tree search, Nature 2016 This paper describes the various models/algorithms used key among which is a reinforcement learning model.
    3. Human-level control through deep reinforcement learning, Nature 2015 This paper describes a deep Q-network, that can learn successful policies directly from high-dimensional sensory inputs using end-to-end reinforcement learning.
    4. The Evolution of Dopamine Systems in Chordates, Frontiers in Neuroanatomy 2011
    5. Conservation of gene function in behavior, Philosophical transaction of Royal Society 2011 Dopamine signalling regulates a variety of complex behaviours in a wide range of organisms . The dopamine system is of interest because it functions in reward which is intimately linked with many behaviours such as feeding, mothering, sex, learning and addictive behaviours. Dopamine neurons express dopamine pathway genes whose products are involved in dopamine synthesis and transport in most organisms. All dopamine neurons share a small number of genes that code for enzymes and transporters important for the synthesis, packaging and re-uptake of dopamine. How these genes are regulated in diverse species is poorly understood. Flames & Hobert recently found that the function of a dopamine cis regulatory motif called DA is conserved (and interchangeable) in C. elegans and M. musculus. These and other findings will open the door towards understanding the evolution of structures and neural circuits in animal brains
    6. Feeding behavior in dopamine deficient mice, PNAS 1999
    7. Gene regulatory logic of dopaminergic neuron differentiation, Nature 2009
    8. Google DeepMind's AlphaGo: How it works
    9. Reinforcement learning in the local shape of game of Go
    10. Reward system. This Wiki page clearly explains the different types of reward systems. Primary rewards are those necessary for the survival of one's self and offspring, and include homeostatic (e.g., palatable food) and reproductive (e.g., sexual contact and parental investment) rewards. Intrinsic rewards are unconditioned rewards that are attractive and motivate behavior because they are inherently pleasurable.Extrinsic rewards (e.g., money) are conditioned rewards that are attractive and motivate behavior, but are not inherently pleasurable. Extrinsic rewards derive their motivational value as a result of a learned association (i.e., conditioning) with intrinsic rewards.Extrinsic rewards may also elicit pleasure (e.g., from winning a lot of money in a lottery) after being classically conditioned with intrinsic rewards. All these systems are driven at the base layer by reward pathways mentioned in first reference.
    11. The Winograd Schema Challenge
    12. One-shot Learning with Memory-Augmented Neural Networks, arXiv 2016
    13. The role of dopamine and serotonin in suicidal behaviour and aggression, Prog in Brain Res 2008.
    14. The Role of Dopamine in the Pathophysiology of Depression, JAMA 2007
    15. Tracking the world state with recurrent entity networks, ICLR 2017
    16. Ancestry of neuronal monoamine transporters in the Metazoa Journal of Experimental Biology Serotonergic and dopaminergic neurons date back at least 600 million years to the stem metazoan, an ancient crawling worm proposed to be the common ancestor of the Cnidaria (radially symmetric organisms such as jellyfish, sea anemone and hydra) and the Bilateria (bilaterally symmetric animals that comprise most present-day animals)
    17. Do bacteria make decisions? How?
    18. What are some important examples of stochastic control in biology?
    19. How does evolution explain the existence of the human brain?
    20. An introduction to Systems Biology: Design Principles of Biological Circuits (Chapman & Hall/CRC Mathematical and Computational Biology): Uri Alon: 9781584886426: Amazon.com: Books
    21. How close are scientists to creating life?
    22. What is consciousness?
    23. What is Life?: With Mind and Matter and Autobiographical Sketches : Erwin Schrodinger, Roger Penrose. A few quotes/thoughts from this book of relevance to this question.
    1. Life seems to be an orderly and lawful behavior or matter, not based exclusively on its tendency to go from order to disorder, but based partly on existing order that is kept up. pp. 68
    2. The laws of physics as we know them are statistical laws. They have a lot to do with the natural tendency of things to go over into disorder.
    3. The notion of an objective function maximization/minimization as the principal driving force across the board from self-assembly,self-replication to conscious life forms and artificial intelligence systems may be an oversimplification, despite its elucidative capacity. For instance when it comes to natural configuration of simple molecules (they, in some instances, can exist in different energy states, even though they are composed of the same atoms), particularly those that are of biological significance, it is the ability for them to be in two stable states with no spontaneous transitions between them (molecules that transit freely between two energy states are not of much biological significance since they can transition freely between these states). Only an infusion of energy can make them switch between these states. In machine learning, the goal of objective functions is to ideally find the global minima if it exists. Nature on the other hand, leverages off local minima states that are not global minima, by nudging molecules from their lowest energy state to a higher energy state by an energy nudge. Life “owes” a lot to the existence of dual molecular states where a local minima state is separated from the global minima state by an activation cliff – infusion of energy nudges molecules up from the global minima overcoming the activation barrier (in picture below) and places them in stable local minima states. They in turn participate in creating systems of higher order.

    Part of the video link above shows a reinforcement learning model getting better than humans over time and teaching us some moves we didn’t think of [ Jan 2017 video].

  8. The purpose/goal/aim/objective/meaning for individual:

    I believe that human society is like a race. People are born athletes participating in a race, not physical but intellectual. Human life is just like a marathon race. Physical marathon race has a finishing line whereas intellectual marathon race will never end. Instead, human life has a direction or goal, and the goal is called “control…”. In this world, anything other than human is a thing (including animals). The ultimate desire for human is to exercise the greatest possible control over the other human and things around him. Control on human is “power”, and control on things is “wealth”. Power is measured by positions and ranks whereas wealth is measured by money terms. With the control on human comes indirectly some control on things, such as politicians using their power to gain materialistic benefits. Likewise, with the control over things comes indirectly some control over human, such as rich people hiring other people to work for and serve them. Politicians also have direct control over things, such as government-owned enterprises and assets. Nevertheless, this kind of control is not absolute and politicians cannot blatantly take the things under control as their own assets. On the contrary, the assets of a capitalist are entirely privately owned and the capitalist has absolute control over them.

    The study of how people control one another in order to gain indirect control over things is called politics. The study of how people make use of the control over things to indirectly control other people is called economics. American psychologist Abraham Maslow says that there are seven levels of human need, namely, (1) food, water, (2) safety, (3) belongingness, love, (4) esteem, (5) curiosity, (6) beauty, symmetry, and (7) self-actualization. Only after man’s lower level of needs have been satisfied, will he recognize the need at the next higher level. Maslow believes that the highest desire of man is to “self-actualize”. In my opinion, though, the meaning of self-actualization is not clear enough. Instead, I believe that the ultimate goal for human existence is to control everything that exists, meaning the entire universe. Things will become “beautiful” after they are controlled. For example, people think that today’s life is more beautiful than yesterday’s because they have greater control over life today than they had yesterday. Otherwise, they would not say so. Curiosity is only a means to achieve the end, that is, control. One has to understand a thing before controlling it. Only when the structure of atom is understood can atomic power be controlled. As a result of the natural course of evolution, human beings have only two eyes and ten fingers. By the same token, the human desire to control and be curious is the result of evolution that has been going on for millions of years. Those ape-men that lacked the desire to know and control had died out long time ago. The so-called esteem in real terms is the desire to do well in everything and outperform others. People compete and compare with one another to see who can control more. This is the primary motivation force behind human social development. Social animals are “social” and live together because they are linked by a common force. The force that links the Earth and the Moon is called gravity, and the force that links social animals together is belongingness and love, an inherited instinct of social animals. Adults do not have to teach kids to make friends with other kids because it is in their instinct. Without friends, people will feel lonely. Among social animals, there is mutual attraction (belongingness and love) as well as repelling force (hatred) in competition for control. In other words, people co-operate and compete with one another. Co-operation increases the chance of survival for people as a group while competition and selfishness increase the chance of survival for individuals. Both forces are necessary and are results of the natural course of evolution over the years. Sometimes, though, competition can also increase the chance of survival for a group. A typical example would be two male deer competing for a herd of female deer. In the end, only the stronger male deer has the chance of mating therefore their offspring will have a better chance of survival.

    In common words, the goal of human existence is to scramble for power and wealth. Human society is just a stage for race, or competition. To the losers, competition is very cruel. Competition causes a lot of stress, so not everyone likes competition. If you give up, others, including your parents, will look down on you, and tell you that you are useless. Therefore, every one of us born in this society is forced to take part in the competition. Why is human society a stage for competition? Because human beings have needs. The first need is oxygen, and then the needs for food, water, clothes, housing and transportation are followed. All these things are not free, have limited supply, except oxygen. Nobody can survive without food, water, clothes and house, so, people feel unsafe, and then they desire for all these. This desire is limitless. Even if someone has gathered enough wealth for the rest of his life, he still wants to collect more for his children, even his grandchildren. The result of limited resources plus limitless desires is competition.

    There are people in this world, such as monks and missionaries, who may not appear greedy and lack the desire to control other people or things. It is only because these people believe in an afterlife. They sacrifice the present life for the sake of the future life in heaven. What is heaven? In my view, it is the place with indefinite control. Therefore, these people still want control in the end. They want to control their life to come because they believe in it. People that have more control over other people are called politicians. People that have more control over things are called capitalists and people that have more control over knowledge are called scientists. All these people are the forerunners at the intellectual marathon race.

    The purpose/goal/aim/objective/meaning for society/species:

    There are six goals of human society, the first is security: personal security, property security and job security. The second requirement will be efficiency. Efficiency is defined as the average value that every individual creates in a given period of time. What we say in general terms “per capita income” actually means efficiency. The third factor would then be equity (or justice, fairness ), meaning that every individual has the same opportunities and is subject to the same limitation, which is law. My definition for equity is: the situation when the ratio between the value that any individual in the society creates and the domain that he/she controls equals to the ratio between the value that any other individual in the society creates and the domain that any other individual controls. What I mean by “the domain that he/she controls”and "the domain that any other individual controls" here is the sum of “power” and “wealth”. This definition demonstrates that the individual’s gain will have to be in direct proportion to his/her contribution. The more one works, the more one gains. The less one works, the less one gains. No work, no gain. Question is, though, that “value” as a thing is difficult to measure. What is the value of Einstein’s theory? Newton’s? The fourth factor will have to be social freedom. What is social freedom? We have to understand what freedom is in the first place. Freedom means no limitation or restraints. There are two kinds of limitation. The first is natural limitation that comes from nature. For example, human cannot survive in water as fish does, likewise, fish cannot survive on land as human does. The second kind of limitation is man-made, such as limitation in expression or thoughts, mobility, choice of occupation and the like. They are called social limitation. Natural freedom is without the limitation of nature, and social freedom is without the limitation of society. Possessing a car or motorbike will enable one to travel to places where one could not go before, and that is natural freedom. Nevertheless, if you have an accident or commit impaired driving and the judge revokes your driver’s license, that is social limitation. The fifth factor is therefore natural freedom in terms of time and space and the like. The sixth factor is equality, meaning an equal distribution of wealth.

    These six social goals contradict one another. As shown in figure 1 below, dotted lines indicate contradictory relations and solid black lines demonstrate complementary relations. Where there is no line, there is no direct relation. Figure 1 has seven dotted lines and two solid black lines, indicating nine different kinds of relations:

    Figure 1: Six requirements and their inter-relations.

    For further info,go to Social Phenomena.

    Is the Goal of Human Existence the Pursuit of Happiness?

    Before constructing a house, the foundation has to be laid. Before writing an essay, definitions have to be made. There are two ways to define a term. One way is to go by one’s personal feelings. For example, Dictionary of Modern Chinese defines Happiness as “experiences and life that soothe one’s mind”. Another way is to transcend one’s body and be objective. My definition for Happiness is “the state in which one’s needs have been satisfied” or “the state in which one’s goals have been achieved.” Aristotle said that the goal of human existence is the pursuit of happiness. Substituting my definition for Happiness into this statement and you get “the goal of human existence is the pursuit of the state in which goals have been achieved.” Rubbish. Just as if nothing has been said.

    What is the purpose of the entire universe?

    We are small version of God, we incarnate in this physical universe to experence pain, suffering and fear. In heaven, all we have is truth, love and joy, there is no pain, suffering and fear.

    "In the absence of that which You Are Not, that Which You Are, is NOT.

    "In the absence of 'cold,' you cannot be 'warm.' In the absence of 'sad,' you cannot be 'happy,' without a thing called 'evil,' the experience you call 'good' cannot exist.

    This universe was created by Source Entity one, and SE1 created 397 universes. God created 12 Source Entities. In the future, God will create more Source Entities, maybe billions more, everyone of us will be a Source Entity. I learned this from the books The Origin Speaks, The History of God, Beyond the Source Book 1, Beyond the Source Book 2 by Guy Steven Needler.

    Another good book(s) is Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch.

    Source Entities

  9. Let me answer the closely related question: Why do we seek to find a purpose in life? The pursuit of purpose, in my experience, is found only in individuals who are overly self-centered. Sometimes I joke that the search for purpose in life is God’s punishment for those who care more about themselves than about others.

    I once suggested to a student who felt his life was meaningless that he volunteer at a local kitchen that feeds the poor, just one day a week. He gave it a try; a few months later I spoke to him, and he had not found his purpose in life; he just no longer cared about the question.

    Parents who focus on their children, above career and success (except to the point that some level of success helps in the rearing of children) don’t ponder the purpose of life. Nor do people who are deeply interested in others. It’s not that they’ve found the purpose, but (like my student) the question no longer bothers them.

    Seek out others. Try to help them. It doesn’t have to be a lot of people, just a few will do. Listen to them. Interact. Take their thoughts and concerns seriously. Be a part of a larger community. It’s remarkable how the deep philosophical and bothersome search for meaning in life fades and itself becomes meaningless.

  10. I've been thinking about that ever since I came across the question, "What are you trying to accomplish in life?" some time ago, and marked it save to answer later. This is in answer to that original question

    At my age, much closer to the end of the journey than the start, there are some things that — while certainly worthwhile — require more time and energy than I have to give. Achieving anything through the political process falls into that category. I'll vote, but I won't get my hopes up. It falls to those younger, more optimistic, and less cynical than I to achieve something there — if they can.

    So . . .

    1. To keep going, as long as I can do so with dignity — and enjoyment.
    2. To know when it's time to get off the stage, if I don't get the hook before then.
    3. Since I've been a professional writer most of my life, I'd like to pass on some of what I've learned in a few books still to be written.
    4. To explain to the ignorant the facts about atheism through Quora and perhaps my own blog as well as one of the books mentioned in #3.
    5. To provide a source of information about atheism and support for doubters and skeptics, especially for young people who are questioning their childhood religious indoctrination.

    Answer shared to The Best of Barry, a blog I created to store answers that might be appropriate for a book I'm trying to write, so they can be easily retrieved.

  11. I don't think there will ever be one definite answer to this question, however I’ll give it a shot.


    ”Somebody once told me the definition of hell:

    “On your last day on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.”

    — Anonymous


    In my opinion, the purpose of life is to reduce the gap between the person you are, and the person you can become one day.

    To do everything in your power, day in, day out, to become better, so you can do better, for yourself, people close to you, and everyone else in the world.

  12. I used to ask myself that exact question. The answer I came up with is to have fun, take pleasure, find enjoyment, be happy. We always hear people say 'happiness' is the most important thing, and it sounds so mainstream to the point that we don't register it anymore.

    Life is opportunity to do things and feel things. Whether you wish to do it in an 'ethical' or 'unethical' way, that is your choice entirely. Life is a game where everyone plays by a different set of rules. Follow others, make up your own, destroy the board—it's your choice to make. Death is just another 'rule' of life.

    You don't necessarily have to work or make babies or try hard. But as we pass through generations, it has become the accepted practice because those are what leads to happiness. Work = money = buy what makes you happy. Make babies = some people find joy in parenthood, or perhaps it is just an evolutionary habit. Try hard = better results = accomplishment = feel good.

    In conclusion, everything leads back to feeling happy and content.

    Why do people find a calling? They take up hobbies because they enjoy it. They enjoy seeing patterns and structure in stamp collecting. They enjoy the thrill of BASE jumping. They enjoy the intellectual stimulation of philosophical debates.

    Live life according to what you enjoy, there is no logic to it.

  13. Pick up the phone, Mr. Smith.

    John could see him mouth the words. He sighed and frowned.

    This is the guy?

    He picked up the receiver. He had no choice.

    On the other side of the glass sat the man that was going to save his life.

    He held the receiver to his ear.

    “Mr. John Smith.” The man said.

    He opened up his briefcase and started pulling out documents. His eyes scanned through the papers.

    “The list of your achievements is astoundi-”

    “You can’t save me. I’m set for life here.” John’s voice was solemn, he had already given up.

    The man glared at him, he hates interruption. It disrupts order. But beyond that, he hates despair. It’s common to see it in his line of work: hope tends to not exist on the other side of that glass.

    After a few seconds of silence, he ended with: “Astounding.”

    John, with the receiver still in his hand, retorted.

    “Those achievements aren’t going to save me you know.”

    His voice stayed quiet.

    “I've killed a man in self defense. He was loved by everyone. The women hate me. The kids, they get scared of me. None of them know what he did.”

    “But you know what happened, John. Don’t you?”

    “…yes.” His voice shook.


    “…I don’t know. It was a frenzy, I wasn’t thinking straight.

    I was just passing by. I saw her, bloodied and bruised. He had a crowbar. Her hand, She was reaching out to me from afar. I could hear the blood curdled in her cry.”

    John was on the verge of tears.

    “Blood, I tell you. I heard it.”

    The listener kept quiet.

    “My body just acted, I just took the nearest thing. A bottle? Something I can throw? It worked. It got his attention. She tried to run away. And he had these eyes. In fury, they were.”

    The man was pacing around the room tapping his head in thought, listening to the story.

    John kept looking across the glass, but it wasn’t to look at him: his eyes were distant. He was recollecting everything.

    “Red, like fire. He charged, I was scared for my life. Fear took over my body. Somehow the crowbar was in my hands. I was so scared, and I just…”

    He trailed off. His hands were gripped on an invisible crowbar. His arms tensed. Muscle memory could never forget.

    The man, still tapping his head whilst listening, waited for him to finish.

    “…I don’t know. I just wanted it to stop.

    I just don’t know.”


    Time's up, Mr. Gray. Visit's over.

    “Alright.”

    “Mr. Gray.” He caught his name from the seal on the briefcase.

    “I have the world against me, and no one to support me. I have nothing to my name. I’ve lost everything.”

    Bang! “EVERYTHING, I tell you.” His hand was on the glass screen.

    The guards perked up and immediately reached for their batons.

    “Tell me, Mr. Gray. I don’t need much. I just wanted to be good. What is justice if it condemns the good? How would I survive? Who should I follow?

    Why am I alive?

    Gray stared back at him in silence.

    “I just wanted to be normal. What was the point of me trying to save a life in this world?” John’s voice was in desperation.

    “What is my purpose in life?”

    On that last phrase, Gray’s demeanor switched. His hand waved the guards off to put their weapons away. His silent fury had not gone unnoticed.

    Gray sat down in front of the glass again.

    “Let me tell you something, John.” His tone deepened.

    “After I'm done with you, you're going to walk out of that courtroom with your head down in shame, do you hear me?”

    John, shocked more by his outburst than his statement, stayed silent.

    “It's going to be a shame, because you're going to try your best…” He started packing up his documents and briefcase.

    …to hide the smile on your face, as you walk out a free man.”

    John had a confused look on his face. Gray carried on:

    “It’s a shame, because you're going to make me ashamed, standing next to you as you shout for joy, being a free man. That kind of shame.

    It's embarrassing for me, I don't like the spotlight.”

    He sighed and continued:

    “My purpose has always been the same as yours. You wanted to save lives. I wanted to fight for them.

    But, that's not our purpose isn’t it?. That’s what we DO. What we do, changes. Our purposes, not so.”

    John interrupted him in desperation. “So what is it? What's the answer?”

    He glared at him in return.

    “The answer, is I don't know.

    My purpose in life wasn't to save your sorry ass from prison. That’s my job. You are one step in my life that i am taking, but!

    You're a step I want to take. A big part of my life.”

    He tapped his head again.

    “Because I am saving your life. I am granting you freedom. I am fighting to free you.”

    “Not knowing your purpose in life, you’re still going to help me?” Asked John.

    “That is my purpose, for now.” he answered. “This is the plan:

    We are going to get into that courtroom, and you're going to help me kick ass, because if that sonovabitch McAllister beats me in a court case one more time I'm going to drink myself into rehab. Again!”

    He pursed his lips.

    “Do you want to know your purpose in life? Find it. That’s your purpose.”

    With that, Mr. Gray left the room.

    He left John Smith to his thoughts. Find it.


    “So what will you do now, Mr. Smith?” Mr. Gray asked, tapping his head in thought.

    “I don’t know. Find my family again. I have to rebuild everything after all.” John said.

    Gray noticed he was different: he wasn’t smiling, but he carried a greater stride as they walked out of the city hall.

    “I could try something new. Carpenting, maybe? I could get a food truck. Making grilled cheese sandwiches on the go? Sounds like my kind of thing.”

    He chuckled at his own thoughts. A smile broke out. Gray stayed indifferent.

    “What about you, Mr. Gray? What will you do, now that you’ve saved my life?” Mr. Gray stayed silent. He stopped at the top of the staircase.

    “What’s wrong?”

    “You already know the answer to that, John. I’m going to fight for another life.”

    “Is that your end goal in life?”

    “No.”

    “Then, what is?”

    “I don’t know. But, that’s the beauty of life isn’t it. We fight for our lives daily in court, only to reach success or face defeat. Whatever the outcome, we are back in the courtroom, 7AM every morning on the dot. That’s the only choice we have.”

    He tapped his watch.

    “We move forward. We’re never late.”

    “Sounds boring to me.”

    “That is my purpose, for now.”

    “What if there’s no courtroom anymore?”

    “Simple. You know the answer to it right?”

    “Yeah, I can guess.” He lit up a cigarette.

    “You find another one. That’s your purpose, isn’t it? Finding it.”

    “Yes. Correct. We never stay still.” He stared at the man’s cigarette.

    “You’re learning. I’m happy your brain hasn’t rotted in prison. Looks like you can still make good use of it.

    …and for God’s sakes, put that cigarette away. You’ve still got years left in you.”

    John laughed as he started walking away.

    “I’ll catch you next time, Mr. Gray!”

    “It’s Donny. The name’s Donny Gray.” With that, he bowed with his top hat in his hand and walked the other direction.

    We never stay still, huh. John thought as he wandered.

    As he stretched out, he whispered to himself.

    “I’m free to do anything. Let’s find something to do.”

    N.T.C.

    More like this here: Tales For Answers

  14. Imagine you’re in a Nazi concentration camp and everything in your life has been stolen from you, even your own humanity.

    That situation would give you a unique perspective on the meaning of life, would it not?

    That situation was the life of Viktor Frankl, a psychologist and Holocaust survivor who wrote about his experiences inside the gruesome concentration camps.

    He came to realize a fundamental truth about life as we know it:

    What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life.

    We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.

    We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly.

    Our question must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct.

    Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

    In other words, we don’t ask life what our purpose is. Life asks us.

  15. To understand the purpose of life on earth we have to look at life in the context of the cycle of reincarnation. People who had a Near Death Experience (NDE) talk about the love and magnificence in the other realm. Current NDEs

    I ask myself, “What about people who go to hell, I don’t hear about their experiences”. Maybe they are not allowed to have such an experience. I don’t know. Maybe somebody can enlighten us.

    If it is so nice on the other side, why come back to violent earth, what is the purpose?

    In the spiritual realm there are many levels depending on one’s spiritual achievement which has to do with one’s moral character and the relinquishing of attachments. To move up in spiritual level one has to overcome difficulties says Master Li Hongzhi in his book “Falun Gong.” It is only by going through difficulties that one can eliminate karma and accumulate virtue, allowing one to move up in spiritual level.

    In the heavens, however, where everything is harmonious and loving, difficulties are hard to come by, which makes it very hard to move to a higher level. The solution is to come back to earth where difficulties are in abundance.

    This incarnation is very special, though, as we are on the cusp of the transition from a materialistic civilisation to a more spiritual one and the people on earth are very special too, but due to pervading materialism many have forgotten who they are. The book “Zhuan Falun” explains this dilemma.

  16. Somewhere in the middle of “have everything you want” and “to want nothing” lies “purpose.”

    We have to feed our families, we have to be responsible, so we can’t just hide in a cave (i.e. want nothing) but at some point there needs to be room to develop the soul.

    So if we get everything we want, but we want as little as possible, somewhere in that spectrum lies our true purpose to be found.

    I try every day to throw things out. I’ve accumulated a lot in the past 40 years. I try to simplify. I also try to simplify my relationships. Attend fewer meetings. Learn more during the extra quiet periods I have. By doing this I can learn more about what my passions might be, how to pursue them, how to enjoy them. Or worse cast, I avoid being around people and situations that dissuade me from purpose.

    On a grander scale, I think all purpose is spiritual in nature. Not spiritual in a religious sense. But in “something else”. All of the atoms in my body were ultimately created in the Big Bang. All information in my brain comes from events that happened after that one moment. I think ultimate purpose is connecting with those gaps in between the atoms, in between those units of micro-information that may have existed before the first moments of the Universe.

    I know that sounds a little crazy. But if I believe anything at all, I believe that that’s possible.

    [Note: I answer this and similar questions in http://www.jamesaltucher.com/cat

  17. Going to use ‘purpose’ and ‘meaning’ interchangeably and using the term ‘meaning’ instead of ‘purpose’ in the argument, as this is the usual formulation of this question in philosophy.

    1. premise: this question could be answered only if it is not about the general meaning of all life, but the particular meaning of individual human lives.

    2. analysis: let’s fill the question up to show the variables in it: ‘what is the meaning of an individual human life (x) for an individual (y)?’

    3. argument: The question could be answered if x=y: the same individual x is looking for a meaning for x’s particular life as this is how the question is usually addressed in the non-philosophical language (philosophers sometimes call it ‘ordinary language’, but I dislike the term ‘ordinary’).

    4. analysis: so convert the question formula further: ‘what is the meaning of x’s life for x?’

    5. it is logically allowed to use personal pronouns as free variables instead of ‘x’ to make the question more personal and rhetoric: ‘what is the meaning of my life for me?’ or ‘what is the meaning of your life for you?’

    6. background idea: so far philosophers largely examined and emphasized the meaning and significance of the term ‘meaning’ in the expression ‘meaning of life’ while not much explanation focused on the ‘life’ part of the question. Maybe ‘meaning’ has a secondary role in the question compared to ‘life’. Maybe ‘meaning’ does not do much in the question, just reinforces the importance of ‘life’.

    7. The term ‘meaning’ is an identity function in the ‘meaning of life’ expression that gives back the argument as an output, so it has the form f(x) =x, meaning(life)=life, that’s why it is redundant in the expression ‘the meaning of life’. /Other type of argument: in the expression ‘the meaning of life’meaning’ means ‘life’, so it is redundant and the term ‘meaning of life’ translates as ‘life of life’ (Warning for cons: that is the weakest point of the argument)/

    8. Based on the interpretation of the function meaning() in point 7. the ‘meaning of x’s life is x’s life’

    9. The particular answer of the ‘what is the meaning of my life for me?’ question is: ‘The meaning of my life is my life.’

    10. ‘The meaning of my life is my life.’ answer is a logical tautology, that is always true in every circumstances and that’s why it is an empty statement.

    11. In order to give an ’empirical/substantive’ answer to this question and a substantive form of the statement in 10. it is allowed to highlight the quantitative, ‘duration’ meaning of ‘life’ in the expression ‘the meaning of life’.

    12. Based on 11. we got the formula ‘The meaning of my life is to live my life as long (durable) as it is possible’

    13. In order to give an empirical interpretation of the modal term ‘possibility’ it is interpreted as a technological possibility so translates directly into the question of a healthy, robust lifespan extension technology that can yield partial immortalization.

    14. Thereby the final formula of the answer: ‘The meaning of my life is to live my life as long as it is technologically extendable’

  18. Life is simply change, continuous change. Anything that does not change is not dead, since death is part of the cycle of life, it is inanimate, frozen in time like a flower encased in plastic that stays the same forever (or at least as long as the perspex around it can last). As for the purpose of life, Aristotle answered this conclusively 2300 years ago. He proposed 2300 years ago that Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence, he also explained the why, which is irrefutable. He wrote that every single thing we aim for, every goal we pursue is because we believe that it would make us happy. Why would we seek, knowledge, love, acceptance, success, enlightenment, material goods etc. if it was not to make us happy? Would anyone pursue something that would make them miserable? Happiness is the only possible purpose of life because it is the only goal that is an end by itself, he remarked. You want everything else in order to be happy, but happiness is its own end, it does not need to lead to anything else. But what exactly is Happiness? Wikipedia, the symbol of humanity’s collective knowledge and opinion openly and frankly admits:

    Happiness is a fuzzy concept and can mean many different things to many people. Part of the challenge of a science of happiness is to identify different concepts of happiness, and where applicable, split them into their components. Related concepts are well-being, quality of life and flourishing. At least one author defines happiness as contentment. Some commentators focus on the difference between the hedonistic tradition of seeking pleasant and avoiding unpleasant experiences, and the eudaimonic tradition of living life in a full and deeply satisfying way.

    But how on earth can we find something if we do not know what it is? A blind search can only be successful through chance and coincidence, and this is what happiness is for most people: Something we strive for blindly, trying different things, and occasionally, for transitory moments we can actually experience it. However, repeating the experience by bringing the same elements that seemed to have caused it before doesn’t seem to work! Furthermore, everybody has diverging and fuzzy opinions about it. We know very well what does not bring us happiness, but what does? And what exactly is it?

    If you would like to find out, just try an experiment for a moment. Close your eyes and remember a moment when you felt happy, maybe when you were making love for the first time with a beloved, looking upon the face of your newborn or the joy of your toddlers playing joyfully; maybe it was because of an achievement, whether physical like climbing a mountain or maybe like the creation of a work of Art, maybe through a great insight, a moment of inspiration, anything.

    Feel the moment and remember; did you feel like anything was missing, that something was needed or was bothering you, were you feeling or thinking that something had to be added or removed from the experience? Did anything need to change, wasn´t everything exactly as it should be? The first time I heard this I closed my eyes and tried the exact same experiment. I went to every moment of my life that I remembered being really happy, that I actually had said to myself that I feel happy and found out that all my diverse moments of feeling happy had only one thing in common: That they shared the feeling that everything, absolutely everything was as it should be. Yes, sometimes there was intense joy, sometimes a sweet melancholy, others elation, pride, fulfilment. Sometimes I was ecstatic and exuberant, sometimes relaxed and peaceful; the only commonality was this pervasive feeling that everything, absolutely everything was deliciously, magically, amazingly as it should be: not perfect but spectacularly, obviously and simply as it should be; no more, no less!

    Think about it for a moment; any moment of happiness is engulfed by the feeling that everything, absolutely everything is exactly, deliciously as it should be. Nothing is missing, nothing is superfluous, and nothing frightens us because everything is simply and wonderfully as it should be.

    Theoretically, there is absolutely no reason for any human being to not want to be happy, enthusiastic, inspired, creative, bold, fearless; at peace. Peace with our nature and the nature of the world around us.

    So entertain this thought for a moment:

    Item one: Happiness is the only valid purpose of life, being, as Aristotle rationally deduced, the only goal that can be an end by itself and not a stepping stone or a way to another. The reason we would want anything else, the source.

    Item two: The feeling of happiness is characterized by the total belief, the conviction and absolute trust at the moment that everything, absolutely everything is exactly, intricately, deliciously as it should be, regardless of where that happiness had sprung from.

    Item three: Thoughts, feelings and emotions are determined by our belief system, the backbone of which is our philosophical perceptual point, our chosen, unchallenged assumptions and sets of beliefs.

    Item four: Happiness is a stance, a way of perceiving our lives and a way of functioning accordingly. Thus, happiness is derived from a philosophical position and approach to life, one that satisfies all criteria and aspects of our existence, including physical pleasures but not dominated by them.

    Does it now not become simple, intuitive and obvious that all we need to do to achieve the purpose of life, happiness, the only pursuit that is an end by itself and not a gateway or springboard to something else, is to adopt, engrave and install a belief system that assumes that everything is as it should be, regardless of circumstances and events? And then, of course, to choose to live accordingly. A belief system whose purpose is unashamedly the Holy Grail for humanity: Happiness, no less. The constant sense of peace, serenity and awe at how everything around us is amazingly exactly as it should be.

    And actually, it works same as chemicals: for example, you shoot adrenalin into your body, you get aggressive, so your body shoots adrenalin into you. Cause and effect, effect and cause, they are one, inextricably connected like the chicken and the egg. One thing feeds and is nurtured by the other while being consumed in turn; the symbol of the Uroboros, the tail eating snake. It is consumed and giving birth to its consumer at the same time. Inextricably connected and interdependent, like all of nature.

    So, if we are happy, we feel the absolute certainty, the absolute trust at the moment that things are exactly as they should be. Not only that, but we feel it emotionally, physically, symbolically, sensually, energetically, intellectually and, of course, philosophically. When we are crazy, ecstatically in reciprocated love we find nothing wrong about our lives, ourselves or the world around is. Our internal arguments are uncontested; the world and everything is wonderfully as it should be because SHE or HE is in it! No argument can hold ground for us, because we do not care to be convinced otherwise.

    What then if we turn effect into cause, condition ourselves to believe that everything is as it should be whatever happens, would that stimulate the chemicals of happiness to flow in our bodies, would it make all of our dimensions, all of our organs feel actual happiness? Well, I propose, supported by the collective knowledge of humanity and simple observation of myself and all others, that it would and that it does, as long as it involves shifts in other dimensions as well, the most crucial of which are the symbolic and the intellectual. In this case, our other layers of functionality would follow suit, the same way our emotional bodies are pushed, shoved into compliance by drugs, events or thoughts.

    I know this is so, because not only have I successfully achieved it myself to a high and ever increasing degree, but others have done so as well, to varying degrees, but conclusively and undeniably. It is still early days in the experimentation of this concept, but results are thus far spectacular. The more you engrave, the better it works as your body acquires the habit and tendency of the new state of being. Like any habit of the body, philosophical and intellectual “habits” take time to engrave through exposure and repetition; but once they are there, they become automatic and require no further consciousness or effort to exist, like breathing, digestion or walking.

    But do you have to take anybody’s word for this? Of course not. You already know it yourself! Maybe you remember how hard it was to balance on a bicycle or how hard was learning to balance the clutch and the gas in a manual transmission car without stalling; all of these actions eventually end up happening automatically, naturally, easily handled by our subconscious. Like eating, walking or brushing our teeth.

    And how about the way we feel and react in front of an audience or a new lover after we have done it numerous times and have different beliefs about our capabilities on the subject? Or how about the effect of coaches psyching up their teams, changing sometimes their philosophical stance from losers to champions? Do you not recognize that? Doesn´t cocaine make people feel as confident and invincible as familiarity, success and acceptance, thus affecting everything that they and people around them feel?

    There is a song that says “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you are with…”

    So, if you cannot find what makes you happy, what about teaching your body and your subconscious mind to be happy with what you’ve got?

    Happiness is the feeling that everything, absolutely everything is exactly, deliciously as it should be, so what if we can engrave programming that gives us this feeling automatically regardless of circumstances?

  19. Life. And Mind. A conversation.

    Mind: I wonder what the purpose Life is.

    Life: hmm

    Mind: I hear so many things: To realise your  dreams. To improve yourself every day. To achieve wealth. To  serve others. To make the world a better place etc..

    Life: Wow, that's a whole lot of stuff to do!

    Mind: Tell me about it! Now, they all do seem to be related to each other, but you know I can't achieve all of them…

    Life: So who asks you to?

    Mind: Er, you ask of me to, don't you?

    Life: No.

    Mind: Wait a minute! There are religions founded on it, self-help books doing raging business about it – they all say deep, important  sounding things about Life's purpose! And you are saying you don't ask any of those things?

    Life: Nope. All those things seem to achieve the purpose of your life, the ego's life.

    Mind: But you are my life. So my purpose is your purpose too, is it not?

    Life: No. Your life, the Mind's life,  is a story filled with events and feelings that you experienced or  imagined. It extends on a timeline from the Past to the Future. It  believes that all the events and feelings add up to some cumulative meaning. That is not like me at all.

    Mind: Then what are you like?

    Life: No story. No past, no future. Just alive. Right Now.

    Mind: Right, and how exactly do you intend to stay truly alive without excitement, feelings, goals, and meaning?

    Life: By breathing, of course.

    Mind: That is it?

    Life: That is it. Everything else is your story. And others peoples mind-stories that get published for you to read. My purpose is to breathe. Deeply, slowly, in relaxation.

    Mind: Then we can all just sit around doing nothing but breathe?

    Life: Be my guest. But what happens if people do that?

    Mind: The body wont survive if it does not hunt for food, or work for food.

    Life: So you must work so you can eat, stay alive – so that Breathing, my purpose, can continue.

    Mind: What about working for riches, creating jobs, or changing the world? To become brave, fair, kind, compassionate?

    Life: Those pursuits and ends are of no interest to me.

    Mind: If those ends don't matter then why would  people dance, sing, plough land, serve, create, do scientific  experiments, read, write, meditate, exercise? If they began to believe  that their purpose was only to eat and breathe, why would anyone do  anything?

    Life: Ah, now these things you just said are  important to do. Because you and the body have been so designed that  it is in the process of focused activity that Breathing happens best.  Regardless of what action it is, when the mind is still, in focus, in flow then the body breathes the deepest. In this  state, what psychologists call 'Flow', my purpose – breathing – gets gloriously fulfilled. The is also the objective of Yoga asanas, Prayanama and Meditation.

    Mind: So the desire for activity and ambition are just meant to develop focus and stillness in me?

    Life: Right. To me it doesn't matter whether you  dance or sing or read, or are a sportsperson or a traveler or an  accountant, whether you are rich or not, so long as you do what you do  with a relaxed focus and breathe deeply.

    Mind: What about the outcome of activity and ambition? That matters too!

    Life: Why?

    Mind: Here is why: Taking your point further, I have noticed that when  I accomplish a task, or get appreciation from others then the body  feels happy, and takes in a deep breaths of satisfaction. That is a fulfillment of your purpose. Therefore to accomplish or get  appreciation must also be important to achieve your purpose.

    Life: Interesting point. First tell me, what do you feel in the moments after when you accomplish something?

    Mind: I feel satisfied, contented, maybe happy.

    Life: What does that mean? Peel one more layer further.

    Mind: It means that in that moment, I have what I want in that moment. That I don't want anything more.

    Life: So after you get what you wanted, could it be said there is a  state of 'momentary desire-less-ness' in you?

    Mind: Er, yes.

    Life: It is not the achievement of your  desires that makes the body and mind happy, it is  the momentary state of desire-less-ness that does it.

    Mind: But unless I achieve or get appreciated how will I feel that momentary state of desire-less-ness?

    Life: But you dont accomplish great things on most moments in your life.  Why wait for the state of desire-less-ness only in moments  after accomplishment and appreciation? Why not all the time, if you could?

    Mind: How?

    Life: By not expecting victory or  appreciation at the end of your activity. To not really care what the  ultimate outcome of your activity or ambition is. Also, that way you have more fun doing whatever you are doing.

    Mind: Hold on, one sec, quick revision: There are two things I hear you saying – a relaxed  focused activity in step with the body, and a state of desire-less-ness.  So in combination it means To Act, but with a state of  Desire-less-ness. So is that the prescription for fulfilling Lifes purpose?

    Life: Sounds about right. There is a term for it too: Nishkaam Karma, coined by Lord Krishna in the Gita.

    Mind: Ah! And I am also stiller when I  focus only on my intention, instead of focusing on the  outcome. So that works out well for both of us in the long run, aint it?

    Life: Dont worry about the long run. Karma is not a delayed payment system. It is instantaneous. The moment you act without focusing on the outcome, the mind, the body and the activity immediately align, and your breathing  becomes calmer and deeper. That feeling is no different from what you get after a favorable outcome or achievement or appreciation.

    Mind: …And if I already have that feeling during the activity, then I could treat victory or defeat at the end of the activity just the same, right?

    Life: That is correct. Now, doesnt that remind you of Rudyard Kipling's poem 'If', or what Gautam Buddha wrote in the Lotus Sutra?

    Mind: Hmm..so the psychology of Flow, the practice of Yoga and meditation, teachings of Krishna, the poem 'If', and the insight of Buddha..they are all  connected?

    Life: Indeed..They converge to the same truth inside you – to keep the body moving and the mind still – to cause relaxed, deep breaths moment by moment. That is my only purpose.

    ———————
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