Happiness Is The Meaning of Life
(What's the Point of Life without It?)
The questions of life and meaning have been asked since we were able
to comprehend our own existence. We've come up with complicated
religions, philosophies, and psychological studies to figure out the
answers. But ultimately when you ask people why they want to know the meaning of life, their responses usually go something like, "Maybe I'll be happier if I know why I'm here."
Content Updated on June 18, 2009
The Definitions: What is the meaning of life?
You cannot answer questions if you don't know exactly what you are asking, so, with such a big question, it is important to know the definitions of the words you are using.
What Is Meaning?
According to several dictionaries, the definition of word meaning can be summed up as simply significance or importance. So when we are saying, what is the meaning of life, we are asking what is the significance of life? What is life important?
What Is Life?
The definition of the word life can be summed up as the ability to grow, reproduce, respond to stimuli, and metabolize nutrients. However, it seems unlikely that when people ask "what is the meaning of life" they're asking about biological processes. After all, a plant is alive, but it doesn't ponder the meaning of life (as far as we know). It is simply a biological machine. There may be animals (maybe microscopic creatures) that have logical awareness of the world around them and can make decisions based on what they perceive but don't have any emotional connection to anything. Such creatures would be biological computers and likely wouldn't care what the meaning is anyhow. But humans aren't simply mindless biological machines or emotionless biological computers. We have emotions.
So when we talk about life, we're talking about something deeper. What we are asking is why do I feel pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, love and hate, joy and grief? What is the meaning of my ability to have emotions?
The New Question...
Now that we know what we are talking about, we can change the vague "What is the meaning of life" question and transform it into something that more accurately states the real question we have been pondering: What is the importance of having emotions?
The Answer Is in What We Naturally Want to Do
Flowers Grow and Bloom
As far as we know, flowering plants don't have emotions. They sprout from seeds, drink water, receive sunshine, absorb nutrients, respire, grow, mature, bloom flowers that get fertilized, develop a seed, and let the seed go, so it may grow into a new flower. And when the plants don't have what they need to continue surviving, they die. It isn't a very poetic, but it is the natural process of life for flowering plants. They don't complain. They don't get excited. They just do what they naturally do.
Humans Grow and Seek Happiness
The natural process for humans is a bit more complex. Yes, like plants and other living creatures, we want to meet our basic biological functions through eating, drinking, breathing, and so forth. We even reproduce. But humans aren't content with just survival and reproduction. We want more.
We want happiness. And it isn't enough for us to just be content because as soon as we've achieved a state of happiness, we seek more happiness. The desire to seek happiness is hardwired into our brains. It is, for us, the meaning of life, the goal of every moment of our existence.
Happiness Is the Supreme Motivation
We base every decision we make on how the consequences of our choices affect our overall happiness. We wrap birthday gifts because seeing our loved ones joyfully tear off the paper while wondering what could be inside makes us a little happier than just handing over an unwrapped gift. We donate to charities because helping others increases our own happiness. We watch cartoons and read comic strips even if they don't add anything productive to our day because we want to feel a moment of happiness. We go to therapy to find happiness when we feel it is missing from our lives.
We will even create pain in our lives if we believe that it will lead to happiness. We go to jobs we hate because we believe that the money or status from that job will lead to happiness. We develop anxiety because we believe that it will help us hang on to things that make us happy. We will take drugs that destroy us because we believe that the high will make us happy. We will even do something unthinkable, like torture or murder, if we think that it is necessary to bring us long-term happiness. We may even kill ourselves to achieve happiness in the afterlife.
Life Without Happiness Is Not Worth Living
Happiness even surpasses the need to survive. A person who has no hope of ever being happy may commit suicide and cease to exist rather than try to survive in a depressed state. Without hope of future happiness, we have no reason to go on.
The only way we continue to convince ourselves to move forward, even through the struggles, instead of giving up, is to find something that gives us the hope that happiness will once again return.
Hoping for Happiness
If we were simply emotionless computers, we wouldn't need religions, cultural traditions, art, literature, music, dance, philosophy, stores filled with luxury items we don't need, and beauty products. We would be content to have only what we need to survive and feel physically comfortable. But philosophy and the arts do exist and all because they give us hope that they will somehow lead us to happiness. The remind us of happy moments and give us hope that such moments will happen again. They tell of possible future moments of happiness. They even whisk us into our imaginations where we fantasize about happy moments that may seem impossible.
Happiness Is What Makes Our Lives Important
Study astronomy and you'll quickly see that our universe is a system of events, one leading to the next. Study physics and chemistry and you'll see that theme repeat at a smaller scale: the universe is a system of events, one leading to the next. When a star dies, the universe doesn't get upset or grieve. When molecules join together to form a new molecule, the universe doesn't feel joy or pride. When lava cools into new rocks or hurricanes create waves, the universe doesn't have an emotional reaction. It just continue to function as a system of events because, as far as we know, it lacks emotion.
It is emotion that determines whether an event is good or bad, important or insignificant. Without emotion, we simply exist just as rocks or stars or waves exist. Without emotion, we live like plants, like biological machines.
Because this is your life, and your own emotions are the very things that determine how good or bad your life is to you, your happiness is all that really matters. If you strive to live a happy life, as your mind naturally wants and your soul naturally desires, and if you live each moment embracing happiness that is already within you, then you will have a good life. It will be an important life, significant and meaningful. It won't matter what the universe thinks or doesn't think, feels or doesn't feel. It won't matter what religious leaders preach. It won't matter how others define you. All that will matter is that you feel happy, whole, and complete. And when you feel this happiness, you will know without any doubts that your life is meaningful, and you can stop asking, What is the meaning of life?
Now Ask the Most Important Question...
If happiness is the meaning of life, then the most important question you need to ask yourself is this: What can I do to create more happiness in my life?
Once you begin to answer that, then you will truly begin to create the life that you want.
Why pleasure seeking isn't enough