The meaning of life: learning, and loving

In “Cat’s Cradle”, Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical novel on arms race, religion, and technology, we read him create a religion called “Bokononism”.

 And God said, “Let Us make living creatures out of mud….

And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close as mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. Man blinked. “What is the purpose of all this?” he asked politely.

“Everything must have a purpose?” asked God.

“Certainly,” said man.

“Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this,” said God.

In a piece titled “Compassion and the Individual”, the 14th Dalai Lama asks this question: “One great question underlies our experience, whether we think about it consciously or not: What is the purpose of life?” The sage goes on to answer:

I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy.  From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering.  Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affect this.  From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment.  I don’t know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves.  Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness.

In “Rama II” the science fiction novel by Gentry Lee and Arthur C. Clarke, one of the characters, Nicole, listens to her Father (Pierre des Jardins) speak as he accepts an award.

Photo by Caroline Hernandezon Unsplash

Pierre, towards the end of his talk, says: 

In my life I have found two things of priceless worth – learning and loving. Nothing else – not fame, not power not achievement, for its own sake – can possibly have the same lasting value. For when your life is over, if you can say “I have learned” and “I have loved”, you will also be able to say “I have been happy”.”

The writers have clearly taken great care. Pierre says “I have loved“, not “I have been loved.”

Peace 🙂

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