Morrow, ColsonERWC Period 512-28-17How should we assign value to life?”What’s the point of all this hoax? Is it the chicken and the egg time? Are we just yolks? Or perhaps we’re just one of God’s little jokes.” (Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, opening scene). Anyone that has engaged in significant thought in their lifetimes has, at one point, pondered the foundation of their existence. This deep self reflection can be seen through much of popular entertainment, religious text, and many other acts of deep philosophical thought. While most people hold a unique view of what they believe a valuable life should be based on, many complex aspects of the human experience can be combined to create a strong statement of how life should be valued. A valuable life is about enjoying the good moments, from milestones to simple pleasures, and pushing through the hard ones, because it is the hard times in our lives that make us cherish the greater moments we experience.
Many aspects of everyday life connect to this central idea, including social interaction and experiences with nature, as well as learning and recovering from personal hardship and failure. A large part of life is finding emotional fulfillment through various means. Much of this fulfillment comes from the happiness that can be experienced when one lives with the purpose of making themselves and other people happier and more wholesome. As it is aptly put by the late and revered film critic Roger Ebert, “I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime… We must try to contribute joy to the world.
“(73) A seemingly endless cycle of goodness can be spread to all who are open to giving as much as they receive. This creation and reception of mutual love and happiness provides meaning to life by creating a feeling of emotional fulfillment as well as a strong sense of community. Many people across various cultures and backgrounds hold an incredibly strong connection to their own religion, whatever it may be. It is easy to credibly state that religious affiliation can provide a deep meaning to someone’s life for many reasons. Connection to one’s personal religion has been shown to provide a strong platform for both moral values and communal belonging. As stated by Louis Pojman (1935-2005), an American philosopher and ordained minister, “God loves and cares for us. Our gratitude for this love motivates us to live moral lives.” In other words, religious faith pushes people to see the moral good in themselves and others, causing them to act ethically and to continue a cycle of kindness that provides meaning to human interaction.
Life can also be valued by those who seek to use their lives as a stepping stone towards a better life. This goal of entering an eternal afterlife, as is believed by many cultures, provides many people with a strong drive to live an ethical and meaningful life As touched upon in the famous soliloquy delivered by Hamlet in the famous play by William Shakespeare, the idea of a life after death motivates the living in different ways. “For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil”(3.
1.11-12) In this context, Hamlet’s uncertainty of what will occur after he dies makes him shy away from his thoughts of suicide, and motivates him to continue living. Those who believe in an afterlife are pushed to value life, and therefore live it well, either as a way to gain entry to a good afterlife or to avoid the torment of a bad or uncertain one. While much of our lives can be summarized by the beautiful moments which all humans can relate to cherishing, many other parts of our lives will inevitably be riddled with morbid and heartbreaking moments. As it is bluntly put by fictional boxer Rocky Balboa in the 2006 film of the same name, “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows” He uses this metaphor to explain that life can’t always be dominated by positive and fulfilling moments.
In contrast, many would agree that life contains a balance of positive and bad moments, if not a greater occurrence of seemingly negative parts of ones life. But this amount of pain in ones life, whether it be a series of inconvenient moments or devastating losses of a goal or a loved one, may very well be the reason that we appreciate the good parts of our lives.The feeling of loss and pain is something that all humans connect to, because everyone has experienced some form of it.
Pain is one of the few things that permeates all cultures and backgrounds, and therefore connects us to our fellow man. Robert M. Drake, an American best selling author and poet, summarizes this feeling, stating that loss and suffering “is the only thing that defines me and defines all of us as humans. It is the only way we know how to connect with each other.” (“Human Suffering” from Beautiful Chaos pg.43) Personal pain is the most effective eye opener, meaning that without hardship, we can’t truly be fulfilled by the positive parts of our lives. Losses make us grateful for what we have managed to maintain, and they often allow us to lean on our loved ones to further develop beneficial connections and understanding.
The very concept of why we as humans exist, and why we continue to exist, is a complex topic that has plagued the minds of people for centuries. People seek to find meaning in their work, community, religion, and every other significant part of their lives. We are carried by our sense of accomplishment, commitment, and love to make our lives, as well as others, better with our every action. While we do try to keep our lives dominated by happy and positive times, we inevitably experience pain, hardship, and loss that can, at times, make us question why we continue to willingly exist. But it is these very same hardships that provide meaning to the better parts of our lives.
For better or for worse, it is undoubtedly the dark times that make our light shine brighter.