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).


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.


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