Facebook has a group called “The Alan Watts & Buddhism Study Group” of which I’m a member. I don’t read all of the postings but one recently caught my eye. A member had asked simply “What is the meaning of life?” Evidently a lot of people think about this, because the question received the greatest number of responses I’ve ever seen. I culled out the first 112 responses so I could see what the consensus might be.
The most numerous response with 24 votes was that the meaning was simply to live; this is close in concept to its runner-up which was “there is no purpose.” So it seems the majority of respondents reject the question with an attitude of “don’t be silly; just get on with it.” The Indian mystic Osho was quoted as saying “Life is the purpose.”
Other responses fell into categories of doing good, learning, and acceptance. In the doing-good category, people wrote about love, making the world a better place, helping each other, and assuaging suffering. People who spoke of learning suggested that we should learn patience; grow and become wise; and share our wisdom and knowledge. The response that best captures it all is “Learn, grow, experience, connect with kindness and love.”
And of course there are always the wise guys who say things like “Better not to ask,” “To obfuscate,” and “Ask your dog,” My own response was “You won’t know until you’re done.”
One sleepless night while thinking about a good friend, I wrote this poem:
Many things have happened
As we lived this long, long life.
We’ve been through pain and joy,
Love, laughter, fear, and strife.
But you, my friend,
Were always there
As we adapted year by year
To bodies’ subtle wear and tear.
And now we’re older
Than we’ve ever been.
We’ve lead good lives
Without much sin.
We’ve traveled far and then come home
To touch our bases, see our friends.
Now looking back we wonder why
And ask ourselves “to what ends?