Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Meaning of Life

What is the meaning of human life, or of organic life altogether? To answer this question at all implies a religion. Is there any sense then, you ask, in putting it? I answer, the man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life". (Albert Einstein)

This excerpt is a letter written by Einstein in response to a 19-year-old Rutger's University student, who had written to Einstein of his despair at seeing no visible purpose to life and no help from religion. In responding to this poignant cry for help, Einstein offered no easy solace, and this very fact must have heartened the student and lightened the lonely burden of his doubts.
Here is Einstein's response. 

I was impressed by the earnestness of your struggle to find a purpose for the life of the individual and of mankind as a whole. In my opinion there can be no reasonable answer if the question is put this way.

If we speak of the purpose and goal of an action we mean simply the question: which kind of desire should we fulfill by the action or its consequences or which undesired consequences should be prevented? We can, of course, also speak in a clear way of the goal of an action from the standpoint of a community to which the individual belongs. In such cases the goal of the action has also to do at least indirectly with fulfillment of desires of the individuals which constitute a society.

If you ask for the purpose or goal of society as a whole or of an individual taken as a whole the question loses its meaning. This is, of course, even more so if you ask the purpose or meaning of nature in general. For in those cases it seems quite arbitrary if not unreasonable to assume somebody whose desires are connected with the happenings.

Nevertheless we all feel that it is indeed very reasonable and important to ask ourselves how we should try to conduct our lives. The answer is, in my opinion: satisfaction of the desires and needs of all, as far as this can be achieved, and achievement of harmony and beauty in the human relationships. This presupposes a good deal of conscious thought and of self-education.
It is undeniable that the enlightened Greeks and the old Oriental sages had achieved a higher level in this all-important field than what is alive in our schools and universities.


Bikramjit said...

Wow it seems I am the first one to comment, yayyy I hardly make it first anywhere he hehe

any way Half of the stuff by Einstein went over my head . m not that clever ..

but in the end where he says that "satisfaction of the desires and needs of all".. as long as we work towards our desires and ARE SATISFIED with what we do then I think its ok ..

the problem is we work for something when we get it most of the time we are not satisfied and the next thing comes into action

No idea if i am right or wrong but thats what i take it

Arun Meethale Chirakkal said...

What’s the meaning of life? That very question took me a few years down the lane. I used to indulge in noisy discussions with my friends saying that life has no meaning or purpose, thanks to the influence of existential novels in Malayalam I devoured. But now, when I look back it makes me smile. How silly it’s all. It’s all about living as intensely as possible and gradually one will cease to ask what the meaning of life is. I think it’s all about how well we do justice to our potential. But isn’t it also true that no one deserves to live if he/she fails to ask that question at least once in life?

anilkurup said...

@ Bikramjit
Thanks for the visit.
If we could easily connect to men like Einstein the world will be plagued by fantastic brains.So do not worry about things he said going over your head.
I do agree with you that Einstein's summation is what that matters as an answer to the many questions on the subject.

@ Arun Meethale Chirakkal
Yes if one goes by Einstein's bench marking I do not deserve the chance to live. Because I have on many occasions wondered what a meaningless life this is.

Insignia said...

Thanks for sharing. I have had this question too early in life. Being caught in a melee of sorts; trying to figure out what I was doing in such a chaotic situation, is this what I deserved?

Is my life so worthless? But in due course of life; I understood that life is a constant search. The search enables you to find more, as you find you learn. You grow wise.

Everything that happens is a pass, you sail through it and lose something but definitely gain lot more than you lost. Life teaches you to appreciate the beauty of good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the guts and the fear, the serenity and the chaos.

Oh! I am going a different path; let me stop. A very nice post; made me ponder for few minutes

anilkurup said...

@ Insignia

Thoughts from California!
Yes while being here its is a constant search. When we search we stumble upon knowledge dont we?
And it was because the guy up there was apprehensive that man in his search will gather much knowledge that he may become wiser than god. Hence he devised upon a plan to deter the damsel from devouring the apple from the tree of knowledge by a bogey man story.......! And it goes on

deeps said...

Well, I m not sure if he s been successful in answering the question in question for the simple reason that it cannot be answered by intelligently arguing about it if it is not backed by solid evident.
And I don’t know if Einstein can be taken as someone who is an authority!
We are also meaning-making beings and that’s why we find meaning where perhaps there is no meaning… it s essential for our existence… the last pars point to this truth!!

anilkurup said...

@ Deeps

You are quite confused. The last para in your comment is very confounding, perhaps not framed well.
Einstein was commenting on s subject of metaphysics like you and me , like any lay person. As you know his forte was theoretical physics. And within that limitation he gave a fair answer. But no solutions. Please read and again read the excerpt. It may then register in you gradually.