“The meaning of life is that it ends.”-Franz Kafka. This simple yet ingenious quote by Kafka does make one stop and think, is life really that meaningless? How can one concur if life is meaningless or not? Before these questions can be answered, one must ask, what is meaning? Amazingly enough, meaning is something we create ourselves. We attach meaning to everything around us whether it be language, a person, an item, or even a pencil. Meaning comes from within us, making us the sole contributor to our own existence. Therefore, nothing has meaning unless one was to attach meaning to it, and to attach meaning to anything proves one has created an identity, and that identity allows one to exist. Mortal life by definition comes to an end whether one likes it or not, and because of this, we are always facing the pressure of extinction. The way we cope with this pressure is by giving meaning to the things we do, the things we love, and all the other things which matters in ones life. To give ourselves an identity in which we exist in this world and to leave behind a trace of our existence.
Although it is truly evident that meaning comes from within the individual, others might think differently. One of the main arguments against meaning coming from the individual is that we were already given meaning since birth, given a set of beliefs and morals to follow, so how does one create meaning if it was already given to us from generation through generation? What they do not know is that meaning is something we gain through experience, and experience is not something we have from birth. Another valid argument would be that this universe does not need meaning and therefore it is not important to have meaning or create meaning. However, meaning is all around us and whether one likes it or not, we were built to create meaning in order for us to exist, and for us to be able to create an identity.
Before we dive deeper into the topic of how we gain meaning, we first have to question what is meaning? Clare Carlisle quotes Kierkegaard and explains, “Even though all sorts of things exist, for Kierkegaard the word "existence" has a special meaning when applied to human life. This meaning arises from the fact that we always have a relationship to ourselves.” (Carlisle, What does it mean to exist?) To go into more thorough detail, meaning is the stem of everything human. Meaning come from us because like stated above in the quote by Kierkegaard, we are the only ones can have a relationship to ourselves. Humans only truly exist through identity, identity is gained through experience, and experience is what use to create meaning.
Many other individuals would like to believe that meaning does not come within us, but rather given to us, passed down to us from our past generations. For an example, Annie Druyan, wife of astronomer/philosopher Carl Sagan (1934 – 1996) remembered a conversation her husband had with a young man and it goes, “At the end of it, a young man came up to him and he said: 'What do you give us in return? Now that you've taken everything from us? What meaning is left, if everything that I've been taught since I was a child turns out to be untrue?' Carl looked at him and said, 'Do something meaningful.' " (Sagan.) Without meaning this world would be in complete chaos. A person needs to grow up with meaning as a supporting factor, or else their world would become chaotic and by definition, meaningless. The young man in the flashback is a person who struggles with the belief that he grew up with meaning given to him and therefore once he comprehend the truth and reality of it all, there would be no significance left. Carl Sagan tries to make this young man understand that in truth, meaning is something we can create anytime, anywhere, and anyplace. Sagan’s simple and brief quote ‘Do something meaningful’ gives us hope because it illustrates that meaning does not stem from the beginning of our lives, but...
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