What is the Meaning of Life and Other Thoughts

April 9, 2011 / Psychology / 17 Comments

I’ve always wondered what’s the point of roaming the earth to do crap you don’t really derive any pleasure from like studying or working. So much suffering is associated with living that you’re driven to find some sort of meaning to justify your existence — be it in the form of senseless partying, shopping or some philosophical mumbo jumbo. (I walked the mumbo jumbo route, by the way.)

I sought for answer from the realms of religion, history, philosophy, psychology and even chose a major (political theory) that I thought would help me to find an answer…

…only to realize that deep down inside, I’ve always known the answer.

How did I achieve this revelation? Thanks to a bit of luck, a pinch of desperation, some help from Google and this entry from Steve, an enlightened ex-convict.

According to Steve, you only need to dedicate 20 minutes of your life to think hard about what could possibly give your life meaning, and write down every answer that pops through your mind. The one that makes you cry is the right answer — the meaning of your life.

It sounds so simple that it’s absolutely ridiculous. But, I swear, it works. Perhaps it’s not the most scientific way and perhaps most psychologists may not approve, but when you find the right answer, you’ll just know that it is. It just is.

Sad thing is that it didn’t happen in 20 minutes for me. My subconscious needed to do some processing, so it only dawned on my the next day… while I was commuting. The subway in a cold, calculating city like Singapore is not the best place to suddenly go teary.

Anyway, for those of you struggling with this question, you should give it a shot. All you could potentially lose is the time needed to watch an episode of Jersey Shore, but what you stand to gain is priceless. *cue Mastercard ad*

What was my answer? It’s a secret, for now. I’m not ready to admit it myself yet, so I’m not going to openly admit it on the interwebs. These things take time to digest, you know.

In Search of Thumos…

So now that my quest to find life’s meaning is over, I’ve found a new quest to occupy my free time and free brain cells. This one is sparked by New York Times columnist, David Brooks. He’s always talking about thumos this, thumos that. According to him, the whole world revolves around thumos.

θυμός, commonly spelled as thymos or thumos is Greek for the desire of recognition.

I definitely see this in myself. Why do we want to be recognized so badly? Why do we need to feel important? Aside from the few seconds of pleasure you get from recognition, what else do you derive? Wait, why do we even derive pleasure from being recognized?

The more I think about it, the more I see that thumos drives a lot of our actions. I know you’d hate to admit this, but I’m pretty sure thumos is part of the reason why you blog, you tweet, and update your Facebook status about your latest shopping hauls or travels, even though you know that no one actually cares. You want to be heard. You want to be recognized. So do I.

So what happens when you get thumos overload? What happens when you don’t get enough recognition? More interestingly, what happens when we remove thumos from our psyche? Will we become mere animals, or do we evolve into a new level of being?

This idea of thumos is very fascinating. I’ve come across it while studying Aristole and Plato but I’ve never really paid much attention to it because I was more fixated on, you know, the meaning of life. So it’s time to pay my old pals a visit, along with a few contemporary ones like Dale Carnegie and Alain de Botton.

With that, I bid you all adieu. I’m going back to reading up (and buying up a storm) on my Kobo app. (Kobo has a 20% sale for ebooks this weekend, by the way.)