A friend and regular blogger (4 Minute Writer) directed me to a blog which asked some questions about why humans exist. She knew this would catch my attention.

Nrhatch wrote: “On an individual basis, I have no problem seeing the meaning for life since I agree with the Dalai Lama: We are here to be happy and to make others happy. But having something to do WHILE we are here is NOT the same thing as having a REASON for being here in the first place. It’s that larger question, the “why?” of it all ~ the raison d’etre for mankind ~ that eludes me.” – Spirit Lights the Way, December 19, 2010 http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2010/12/19/the-why-of-it-all/

It seems to me we need to think through the distinction between “the meaning of life” and “the why of life.” Is there really any distinction at all? If I find myself at a triathlon, I know the meaning of a triathlon is an event in which people swim, cycle, and run for fun, fitness, and competition. Why I am at the triathlon? I am at the triathlon to swim, cycle, and run for fun, fitness, and competition. There may be other reasons for being at a triathlon. One might be a spectator, a volunteer, an organizer, or a merchant promoting their product. As we add in these other possible “whys,” we also add to the “meanings.” A triathlon is indeed an event in which people spectate, volunteer, organize, and promote. These are part of the why and the meaning.

Now, let us go back to the question of the existence of humans. If the meaning of life is “to be happy and to make others happy” (a premise with which I disagree but about which I will not argue for the moment), then could it be that the reason why humans exist is “to be happy and to make others happy?” The problem does not lie in the distinction between “meaning” and “why.” The problem lies with needing a place to which to ascribe the “meaning” and the “why.” We can ascribe the meaning to the universe as Nrhatch has done by saying that “Maybe the Universe wanted an audience to applaud its creation?” (note the capital U and the question mark in the original text). But this is problematic. With a triathlon, we can trace the meaning and the why back to an event organizer or the person or persons who chose to have a triathlon. By establishing the triathlon they gave it meanings and whys. A triathlon cannot give itself meanings or whys just as a universe cannot give itself meanings and whys.

We may not know all of the meanings and whys of our existence. There will always be mystery with regard to the existence of humans and indeed the existence of the universe. For this I am thankful. I like some mystery in my life. For me, the bigger question is, “To what or Who will I ascribe this mystery, these meanings and these whys?” (note the capital W and the question mark in the text).

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