Meaning of life
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The meaning of life constitutes a philosophical question concerning the purpose and significance of human existence or biological life in general. This concept can be expressed through a variety of related questions, such as Why are we here?, What's life all about? and What is the meaning of it all? It has been the subject of much philosophical, scientific, and theological speculation throughout history. There have been a large number of answers to these questions from many different cultural and ideological backgrounds.
The meaning of life is deeply mixed with the philosophical and religious conceptions of existence, consciousness, and happiness, and touches on many other issues, such as symbolic meaning, ontology, value, purpose, ethics, good and evil, free will, conceptions of God, the existence of God, the soul, and the afterlife. Scientific contributions are more indirect; by describing the empirical facts about the universe, science provides some context and sets parameters for conversations on related topics. An alternative, human-centric, and not a cosmic/religious approach is the question "What is the meaning of my life?" The value of the question pertaining to the purpose of life may be considered to be coincidal with the achievement of ultimate reality, if that is believed by one to exist.
Popular culture treatments
The mystery of life and its meaning is an often recurring subject in popular culture, featured in entertainment media and various forms of art, and more specifically in music, literature and visual arts, for example:
- in songs like The Offspring's "The Meaning of Life", Nas' "Life's a Bitch", Kiss' "Reason to Live", George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" and "What Is Life", Frank Sinatra's "That's Life", Eric Idle's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", Evanescence's "Bring Me To Life" and "Sweet Sacrifice", Nelly Furtado's "All Good Things (Come To An End)" and "In God's Hands", 30 Seconds to Mars' "A Beautiful Lie", Good Charlotte's "I Just Wanna Live" and "The Chronicles of Life and Death" and Linkin Park's "In the End" and "Breaking the Habit";
- in books like Anthony C. Grayling's The Meaning of Things, Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, Robert Nozick's Philosophical Explanations and The Examined Life, Ken Wilber's Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, Julian Baggini's What's it All About? Philosophy and the Meaning of Life, Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life, Norman O. Brown's Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytic Meaning of History, Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West, Daniel Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life, Richard Dawkins' Unweaving the Rainbow and River out of Eden and Alister McGrath's Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life;
- and in paintings like Paul Gauguin's Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, Edvard Munch's The Scream, John Martin's The End of the World, Hieronymus Bosch's Ascent of the Blessed, Hans Memling's The Last Judgment triptych and Thomas Cole's The Voyage of Life series.