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The Meaning of Life.

Still reflecting on O'Carroll's poem (Missing God), I find that the little Christian and Catholic customs and practices of my childhood and youth still support my efforts at trying to find the meaning of life.

The custom of blessing oneself when passing a graveyard supports my present understanding of the sacredness of life; devotion to Our Lady supports my understaning of the role of motherhood and respect for women generally; the custom of saying a short blessing before eating supports my present understanding of all life as gift; the custom of the family saying the rosary together in the evening supports my present understanding of the importance of community; my youthful understanding of creation informs my present understanding of cosmology; etc.

I ask myself what little customs and practices of their childhood and teenage years support the non-believer as he/she tries to understand the meaning of life .


I wonder what practices of their youth will inform and support this generation's understanding of the meaning of life when they reach adulthood? Will it be that the possession of things is what life is all about?
As I've said before, why does life have to have a "meaning" in the first place. Life just is - we're here, the Universe is here, and we might as well do the best we can with what we've got. I tend to feel that we ought to leave things a little better than they were before, or if we can't do that, at least try as hard as possible not to make them any worse... but that's just my opinion.
But does not the use of the words 'better' and 'worse' in relation to life in itself indicate a value and meaning?
Well, for me, it's entirely subjective. I see a problem, and I have an innate compulsion to fix it. But I could make it more objective by referring to the "Golden Rule", which has nothing to do with any religion or any god, but turns up, with slight modifications here and there, in the philosophical writings of many cultures around the globe: "Do unto others that which they would have you do unto them." And if you can't find it in yourself to love your fellow creatures, try very hard not to fall prey to the urge to become deliberately cruel to them. (Although if you can't manage that, sooner or later someone is likely to do unto you...)
I have problems with the terms "non-believer" and "meaning of life".

Everyone believes in something. That "something" is individually defined. Sometimes within authoritarian boundaries sometimes uniquely the individual.
So, non-believer in what?

"Meaning of life" is similarly fluid. Each life has a meaning of its own either defined by the individual or a more communal meaning accepted by the individual.

An individual can reject a traditional Christian belief in "god" and a belief in a life after death as a frame for their life before death and still have beliefs that give their day to day life meaning for them.

Two big questions we try to answer for ourselves are:
What do I believe? and How am I going to live my life?

The questing adult can stand reciting the creed and ask, "Do I really believe this?" If the answer is, "No", then, no matter how sweet the practices and the memories of them, other beliefs and ways of expressing them must be found if one is to live honestly.

Materialism, the desire for possessions, the disregard of the feelings and needs of others, can infect any one no matter what belief. Belief in god, the supposed following of the teachings of any prophet, the membership in any organized religion is no guarantee
of virtue.

Parents pass on to their children the family values. Hopefully these are respect for each other and all individuals, fairness, generosity, kindness to the earth and all other creatures.

Families have small gestures they pass on. Sitting around the table touching glasses and acknowledging the good things, the pleasures, the gratitude for these things.
You refer to two big questions: What do I believe? and How am I going to live my life?

Yes, these are the questions I too am striving to answer for myself.

I have always based my life on the Christian faith - that is, on the existence of a creative and loving God. I do not see this faith as superstition nor as a substitute for human reason.

How I respond to this faith is what gives meaning to my life.
Everyone must find their on answers.
For some, perhaps the lucky ones, traditional framework can give the answers.
For others, the search for answers is a longer quest. It can be adventurous.
Life should have its adventures whether within a given tradition or on a unique path.
what a great question!

gathering my own food reminds me of the interconnectedness of all life.

talking to strangers reminds me to respect every individual.

holding my breath as i pass a graveyard reminds me of the fragility of life and the certainty of death.

my youthful understanding of cosmology supports my ongoing learning about cosmology.

the night sky reminds me of the vastness of the universe, the stars of deep time.

i already told you about the moon.
Political ideology can substitute for religion for some nonbelievers. (My grandparents were raised Jewish; three became Marxists, the fourth an anarchist.) And also for some who are nominally believers.

And some nonbelievers continue using religious customs.

For that matter, many Christians use pagan customs even though their ancestors became Christians centuries ago. Irish folklore contains much of that.
I grew up Bible Belt (reading C. S. Lewis et al); flipped in college; later found that yoga/New Age/channeling stuff worked; then I hung out with yoga monks, most of whom SAID the great thing was not to jump to conclusions: just meditate, earn good karma, etc.

From my BB/Inklings background, I'm always expecting relationships with some higher power to be like the rural Protestant hymns.* In theory I'm not picky about whether some spiritual lover/spouse/parent is the Second Person of the Trinity (if any) or just some ancestor or muse, somewhere on the Golden Ladder just above me. In practice, I do keep switching, shopping around, as some of the contacts don't last very long or seem limited in various ways. (Christianity wouldn't necessarily be more dependable: Screwtape said that some of [Jehovah's] special favorites have had longer dry periods than anyone; And there's the Cosmic Vivisector of Lewis's A GRIEF OBSERVED.)
Obviously you are searching. What more can one do?
I wish you peace in your search.
I don't think life has any intrinsic meaning. The only meaning life has is what we give to it. I'm told that makes me an existentialist, though I don't know if that's true. As for myself, the meaning I give life is that we are to love one another the best we can. We are to help one another through life as much as possible.
The customs of respect and.hosputality and interdependence and celebration and mourning and remembrance, many of them are not limited to any religion or spirituality or philosophy.

(And I have never seen the Christuan churches' "respect" for Mary - and women in general - to.be an entirely healthy.or positive thing.)

Science and nature and the beauty of the world and stars are among the sources of inspiration and consolation to which many non-religious (and many religious) people turn. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23667
When I pass a cemetery, I can honor the lives of those who lay there as well as being happy that me and mine are mostly still above ground. Teaching my daughters that being a woman isn't in any way shameful honors women, explaining what we're eating and how we got it during the meal reminds those eating that work went into the food and we're lucky to have it. We read together and talk about things before bed, which is cozy and wonderful. I love those moments when it's just the four of us and we're all happy and interested in each other.

I believe whole heartedly in the universe. I stand under the stars and I feel small, in such a good way. We are all made from stardust and we are all connected.

My meaning of life is made of these things. :)