What Is the Purpose of Life? Part 7

I thought I would google the “meaning of life” and see what people thought about it. I got 16,100,000 hits.

When asked the meaning of life, Conan the Barbarian had an interesting take on it. He said it was “to crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.”

A slightly different take on the meaning of life comes from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life film. At the end of the movie, Michael Palin, one of Python’s members, is handed an envelope, opens it, and provides the viewers with “the meaning of life.” His answer was, “Well, it’s nothing very special. Uh, try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.”

Everybody has an opinion on this subject, but rather than learning the meaning of life from a barbarian or a group of British comedians, it seems better to consult the Bible and Thomas Aquinas, a great student of the Bible. What we’ve covered in the previous 6 blog posts, and what we will continue to cover, are the answers to the question of the meaning of life, given by Aquinas.

In part 1, we determined that the meaning or purpose of life is happiness. But before we could go further, we had to define what happiness is. The modern version of happiness is “a sense of pleasurable satisfaction.” It’s a pleasant feeling that is largely dependent upon your circumstances.

The traditional version of happiness is “a life of virtue characterized by wisdom, love, and goodness.” It is a state of reaching the perfect good of man.

It is the traditional definition of happiness that we are using as we try to figure out the meaning of life. So, we know what happiness is, but we don’t know how to go about getting it. What is it that makes us ultimately happy? If we have the answer to that question, then we have found the purpose for our lives.

In the first 6 parts of this blog series, we considered 4 possible answers to the question of happiness, based on Aquinas’ analysis of the problem. Aquinas considered wealth, honor, fame, and power. He concluded that the ultimate good, or happiness, cannot consist in these. None of them fit the bill.

Wealth cannot buy the most important things in life. Honor and fame are merely signs pointing to good things inside of us. Power is only a means to do good, not an end in itself.

In part 8, we will look at bodily health.