Meaning of Life

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Meaning of Life

Simon Blackburn in his chapter entiteld "What is it All For?, The Pursuit of the meaning of life" makes a distinction between two large directions that people search for meaning. The first which he labels the "transcendental" option iis about looking beyond life itself. The second which he labels the "immanent" option is about looking for meaning within life itself.

Haidt, in The Happiness Hypotheis makes the same distinction calling the first "the purpose of life" and the second "the purpose within life". I like the distinction. I associate the first with "religion" and the second with "spirituality". Since others do not restrict the terms in similar fashions I will point out that when I do not indicate other wise I use the term meaning of life in the second sense.

Religions have proposed that the the human species were placed here whether in the final finished form or by the process of evolution for some purpose of a devine creator such as his/her/its adoration. Modern science suggests that very possibly human life was not designed or the result of any purposse but rather merely happened as a result of various processes. One writer making a distinction between intended design and unintended events by giving the example of making of a sandwich as an example of an intended process, while the unintended mess that might have aarrived in the process as being an example of something that was "created" but not necessarily intended. Possibly human life happened but was not necessarilly intended.

In everyday language we may use the language of the first sense when we are actually in the second framework. I refer to my Tuesday Night bridge as my religion and refer to it as a sacred activity. It is there that I am removed from the everyday worries and concerned and get throughly immersed in the here and now in a state called "in flow" by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi(1990).

Flow

The following summary taken from Wikipedia entry on flow identiies some of the experience of flow:

Csíkszentmihályi identifies the following ten factors as accompanying an experience of flow

  1. Clear goals (expectations and rules are discernible and goals are attainable and align appropriately with one's skill set and abilities). Moreover, the challenge level and skill level should both be high.
  2. Concentrating, a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).
  3. A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of action and awareness.
  4. Distorted sense of time, one's subjective experience of time is altered.
  5. Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).
  6. Balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult).
  7. A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
  8. The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an effortlessness of action.
  9. A lack of awareness of bodily needs (to the extent that one can reach a point of great hunger or fatigue without realizing it)
  10. Absorption into the activity, narrowing of the focus of awareness down to the activity itself, action awareness merging.

Not all are needed for flow to be experienced.

Reference

Arloski, Michael (2007) Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change Duluth , Minnesota
Bailey, Andrew 2004 Fundamental Problems and Readings in Philosophy, Vol 3 God, Mind, and Freedom
Batdorf, Carol (1990) Spirit Quest, The Initiation of an Indian Boy, Surrey, BC Hancock House Publishers Ltd
Blackburn, Simon (2009) The Big Questions, Philosophy, London: Querercus Publishing Plc
Buckman, Robert (2000) Can We Be Good Without God, Behaviour, Belonging, and the Need to Believe, Toronto: Viking Books
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly Flow, (1990) The Psychology of Optimal Experience, happer Collins ebooks
Covey, Stephen (2004)The Eighth Habit, New York: Free Press
Chittister, Joan (2007) Welcome to the wisdom of the world and its meaning for you, Ottawa: Novalis, Saint Paul's University
Debono, Edward (1977) The Happiness Purpose, Harmondsworth: Penquin Books
Dennet, Daniel C. (2006) Breaking the Spell, New York: Penguin Books
Frankl, Victor (1963) Man's Search for Meaning, New York: Simon & Schuster
Grayling, A.C. (2003) What is Good?, The Search for the Best Way to Live London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Haidt, Jonathan (2006) The Happiness Hypothesis, Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom,New York: Basic Books
Kaufman, Barry Neil (1991) Happiness is a Choice, New York: Random House
King, Ursula (2008) The Search for Spirituality, Toronto: Novalis Publishingn Inc
Kushner, Harold  When All You've Ever Wanted Isn't  Enough, The Search for a Life That Matters,  New York: Simon & Schuster
Layard, Richard (2005) Happiness, Lessons from a New Science, London: Penguin Books
Leider Richard J (1985) The Power of Purpose New York: Ballantine Books
Macquarrie, John (1972) Existentialism, An introduction, guide and assessment, London: Penguin Books
McMahon, Darrin M. (2006) Happiness, A History, New York: Atlantic Monthly Press
Miller, John and Eliza Finkelstein (1998) Life A User's Manual: Novato: New World Library
Morris, Tom (1999) Philosophy for Dummies, Foster City, CA,IDG Books
Rath, Tom and Jim Harter (2010) Well Being, The Five Essential Elements, Gallup Press
Runzo, Joseph and Nancy M. Martin (2000) The Meaning of Life in the World Religions, Oxford: Oneworld
Segal, Jerome M. (1999) Graceful Simplicity, Toward a Philosophy and Politics of Simple Living, New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1999