The Answer to Life is a Question

September 17, 2015 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

The answer to the meaning of life is a question and a quest!

Years ago I read Douglas Adams’ trilogy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe. In the final book, Life, the Universe and Everything, he tells the reader that the answer to life is the number, “42.” The problem is, we don’t know the question. Haha. I’ve always loved that line.

What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of YOUR LIFE? Do you know your purpose? There was a time when I really pondered the meaning of my life.

The Answer to Life is a Moving Target

Today I have an entirely different approach because I have come to a new realization: my purpose in life is a moving target. Yes. My purpose evolves as I get older and acquire a whole new set of experiences and life learnings. My purpose is impacted by new situations and by new people in my life.

A caveat: as a man in the Christian tradition I believe I am bound to two very high level ideals: (1) Love God, and (2) Love people. And I would add to be a cultivator of the planet. Aristotle summed it up by simply saying the purpose of all people is to contribute to the value of society.

Still, the question remains, “What is my (or your) particular purpose in life?” I think it’s a great question. It indicates that you are serious about how you live your life. That’s great. But I’m not so sure you will ever know… for sure.

Country singer Dierks Bentley has a song with a refrain I like, “There ain’t no answers here on earth.” No matter whether you are an atheist or a devout Christian, no answer about life is ever a “for sure” answer. Even the Bible agrees, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In other words, Christian beliefs in certain truths are taken by “faith,” and not scientific proof.

That there are no answers with real proof to life’s Big Questions is quite disturbing for many people. Some demand scientific facts and solutions and rationales. I have in my life, at one time or another, come to absolute answers only to discover months or years later that my proofs were wrong or required serious surgery.

Life is a Mystery

I think the answer to this conundrum is found when you can finally admit, “Life is a Mystery.” Sure, there are plenty of tactical proofs and solutions for immediate issues. But when it comes to the Big Questions of Life… well, many remain just that, Questions.

In his blog Sabbath Moments, Terry Hershey quoted Rainer Maria Rilke, from “Letters to a Young Poet,” “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart. And try to love the questions themselves. Do not seek the answers that cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now.” 

What an interesting thought, “to live the questions.” I love it. It seems to imply that we walk into everyday life with Big Questions. Every moment is a learning that draws us ever closer to a conclusion, one that will never be wholly correct. I think you have to be someone who can embrace ambiguity and paradox.

How does that make you feel? Some of you are uncomfortable with it, and some flat out disagree. But then there are others of you, like me, who are surprisingly excited by it. It means that life is an Adventure.

Born to Discover

We humans are driven by Discovery. We began as cave men in search of new and better ways to live, and then moved on to new and better places to live. Eventually we became driven to discover just for the sake of discovery—all in search of some unanswered need in our soul to discover something about Truth.

I am fond of the medieval period and the (largely) European hunger to discover new lands in adventurous settings of heading out to sea and hikes across countries. I am not naïve, I know much of this was driven by a hunger for riches, yet I have a feeling there were still many “Lewis and Clark’s,” who were in it for the thrill, the rush of seeing something for the first time.

Personally, I get so excited by seeing something new (to me) or discovering something about other cultures and lands and peoples. My guess is it’s the same for you because I think we all are DNA’d to discover and learn.

You have deep and profound unanswered questions about life. We all do. So you search. But, as Rilke suggested, you need to “live into the question.” All the while knowing fully that you only arrive at temporary solutions. I call them temporary because at some point you will eventually discard or reconstruct those conclusions. The longer I live the more I learn and know, but… I know a whole lot less for sure. I was certainly surer about everything at 30 than I am now. It’s one of the perks from decades of living.

So perhaps instead of treading water in wait of answers to the meaning of life, we would be better off living in a continual state of discovery. As said above, I really like the idea of “living IN the question.” I think that means we are free to make conclusions along our journey in life, but always remaining open to the reality that we will probably learn something new that has significant impact on our conclusions.

Life is a Mystery. It is Ambiguous and it is filled with Paradox. And at the same time we can believe resolutely in what we believe. (Didn’t I just say something about Paradox?)

If this post appears somewhat nonsensical, it is only because the topic in unresolvable. Again, Mystery.

My Conclusions

  1. Live in the Question, or always be questioning “why.”
  2. Hold your Answers to Life Loosely, knowing they will probably change some day.
  3. Hold on to an Attitude of Discovery. New answers will ALWAYS come to those who are open to change.

So, Whatever State of Mind You Are in Now

Be Patient

It WILL Change

Image courtesy of PeopleImages at istockphoto.com

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