Quora Answer: Life is totally meaningless. We live. We die. So what’s the point?

Dec 14 2016

We Live! That is the point. You skipped over that going directly to death, oh so quickly. You will get there soon enough. But in the mean time . . .

Life is meaning! for us as human beings we cannot escape our projection of meaning on the world. This is what Dasein is, the projection, the ecstasies in time.

A good book to wrestle with this question is Being and Time by Heidegger and his concept of Existential Time and Authenticity in the face of the inevitability of death.

Having just witnessed someone die, I would say that every moment of life is precious. Way better than the alternative. Especially the mundane parts where nothing particular is happening and you are just enjoying being alive with others. That is an existence proof of meaningfulness of life itself, in-itself, because life is for you and your are always reflexively self-conscious in it, not just conscious. Self-conscious means you are projecting a self who is aware so that consciousness is reflective of your life. It is in fact the other way around. Death is totally meaningless, because in death meaning disappears along with you. There is then no one, no self, to grasp the meaning of life, because you have vanished. Rather you become a memorial in the meanings of others.

But life even of suffering while it is there is in itself meaningful, even if the pain is unbearable and the meaning is “I want to die”, because we are not just in-oneself, as inert matter, but for-oneself as living conscious social matter, as Hegel says striving to be in-and-for-oneself, i.e. Spirit, eg. not just conscious, not just self-conscious, but self=other-conscious=consciousness, i.e. at the third or higher meta-level of consciousness which is perhaps the beginnings of Spirit, i.e. Hyper Being, e.g, Differance of Derrida. Beyond that is Wild Being that is discussed by Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze.

Spirit is the unalienable meaning of life. Just saying that life is meaningless is paradoxically giving it your meaning for you. And that is the point for you as you are living, as you are the existential proof of your meaning by living it.

If you are going to project meaning in life regardless of what you do, you might as well try to make it positive. As Blake says life is essentially joy in the face of suffering. The fundamental joy is being alive despite everything else as that each moment is a success, and accomplishment, a reason to keep living. Everything beyond that is suffering in one way or another as Buddhism says. Dukkha. Maya, Mara, Dunya. But Existence as Life is ecstasy and thus joy. And part of that joy is the projection of meaning even if it is meaninglessness. Something good to read in this regard is Jung’s Red Book where he struggles with the spirit of the depths and the mixture of meaning and meaninglessness in his life in the face of World War I. You think you have it bad. Try World War I trench warfare, or World War II in which millions of people died, and the myriad of ideological wars since then along with genocides. Living a normal life and appreciating it moment to moment is enough. It is something that all those who have died in the last century in ideological conflicts across the globe would have wanted to do but could not because of life cut short by overwhelming violence. Against the background of all that violence and death of millions of people. Life itself has meaning, without anything added by us except for the spirit we bring to it.

Spirit is a criteria that Hegel tries to develop to rein in the excesses of Kantian Reason like the Terror of the French Revolution.

See Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind/Ghost/Spirit (Geist) on the evolution of consciousness (sense certainty) to self-consciousness, to reason, to spirit. For the Buddhist perspective in which all life is suffering see Schopenhauer World as Will and Representation. They gave lectures at the same time in the same university and everyone went to Hegel’s lectures, and Schopenhauer gave up teaching.

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