Meaning, especially as it refers to life, is an immensely complex thing. The history of its exposition in philosophy is fascinating. Albert Einstein, for instance, in response to a letter from a freshman at Oberlin College, said that the meaning of life was “to create satisfaction for ourselves and for other people.” Socrates, meanwhile, suggested that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’ and that a purposeful existence is one in which you think about why you are here and to strive towards knowledge and beauty. A meditation on the essence of life is crucial to its being worth. A rather obvious rejoinder to his assertion is that the people who are living the unexamined life will not realize it. Ignorance has been described as bliss before and with good reason: not knowing that your life is not worth living is not going to inhibit you from living it. This sort of meta-cognitive incapacity is now described as the Dunning-Kruger effect.
Another fascinating perspective on the value of life came from the French-Algerian philosopher Albert Camus who theorized that life was absurd. He meant that the human mind strives to understand the universe, but the universe resolutely refuses to be understood. Some people have tried to escape this absurdity by creating religion which attempts to explain how the universe works (through God’s will) and which in turn means that it is meaningful (and that it was designed with us in mind no less). Camus saw this is an erroneous attempt. One could be happy if they acquiesced to the absurdity and lived in spite of it, like the Greek tragic hero Sisyphus.
Whether one’s life is meaningful depends entirely on that person’s perspective. Some may find themselves redeemed by the lives of their children, while others may look to pleasure and excitement to validate their existence. There are lots of options and here are a few that you may want to consider:
One of the greatest joys in life is learning. Taking on something new and understanding it can be financially beneficial if your skill is marketable, but just the process itself is enlightening. Whether it is a new language or a theoretical aspect of science, the acquisition of knowledge (and beauty) is worth it for its own sake. If you want to enrich your life, you may want to consider going back to school. It does not need to be as expensive as you might imagine as you can study online now (at places like Maryville University). Besides, you can choose just about any discipline you like and lose yourself in the stacks of your university library, and therefore, the history of civilization.
As Einstein acknowledged, one of the things that makes life worth living is satisfying oneself but also satisfying others. Dedicating yourself to charity is a great way to lead a fulfilling and interesting life. You do not need to go to the other side of the planet to help people. Volunteering in your local community, even if it is just weekends, can make a huge difference to someone’s life and to yours too.