The Meaning of Life

‘What is the meaning of life?’ The age-old question to which almost no one has a ready-made answer. Does life have meaning? Or is it precisely the meaning that makes our life worthwhile?
Is it correct when we say ‘the meaning of life is that you give life meaning’?
Meaning… within this word is ‘the giving of meaning’. So, an action of giving. It isn’t ‘meaningful’ or ‘meaning-receiving’. Yet, we can certainly find meaning in something when we come into contact with it. From this finding meaning arises our purpose.
It is also often said that the meaning of life is ‘being happy’. But then… happiness… when do we experience it? And how do we hold onto it? Being meaningful to oneself and others, and thus ‘the meaning of life’, has everything to do with personal growth.

‘Meaning’ is a beautiful word. An other English word for meaning is sense, and it is used in many senses: apart from meaning, sense also stands for feeling, significance, awareness, understanding, intellect, and importance. All these words are related to or lead to purpose. And the English sense also means sensory organ. It’s noteworthy that the verb sense not only refers to the sensory act of feeling and awareness, but also to becoming aware of.
When we look at all these meanings of sense, they all have a function in our personal blooming, for flourishing and self-expression go hand in hand with meaning, awareness, and understanding, with feeling and intellect, and with having importance. Our senses enable us to flourish and thereby experience great enthusiasm.

The word sense (as an organ) is compound. We know various words ending in ‘tuig’ in Dutch, like ‘zintuig’ (sense): ship (vaartuig), airplane (vliegtuig), carriage (rijtuig), tool (werktuig), fishing gear (vistuig), and so on. The suffix ‘tuig’ enables us to sail, fly, drive, work, or fish. And the same applies to the sensory organ. Indeed, the senses enable us to feel, realize, experience, understand, and find importance. Our senses allow us to experience meaning, in the dual meaning of perceiving the significance of something and feeling enthusiasm for it, longing for something.

The meaning of life is flourishing. Flourishing in self-expression is meaningful and purposeful because it brings great happiness. The Self expresses itself through us as individuals. We dedicate ourselves with passion and dedication to our interests and thus flourish using all our talents and capabilities as tools. Meaningful and significant. Without the experience of flourishing, we feel we are not living up to our potential. If we no longer set our senses on anything, then what are we living for? It is therefore meaningful to explore this within ourselves. This requires some reflection. Then we give ourselves something beautiful in life: meaning!


Let’s also shed light on nonsense. In common parlance, this means ‘not true’, ‘not correct’, or ‘meaningless’. Or nonsense, as this concept comes from no sense. So, due to nonsense, everything discussed before as sense disappears. Much of what is valuable to us stops when sense falls away, such as feeling, significance, awareness, understanding, intellect, and the importance of these things. Therefore, during reflection, we can explore within ourselves to find the nonsense that hinders or even stops our growth. Nonsense resides in our minds, which are so full of possibilities, and arises from incorrect assumptions, preconceptions, conditioning, or exaggerated expectations. These are accumulated throughout our lives due to incorrect or insufficient upbringing and education. And this can be a lot of nonsense! We have learned to identify with so many things that obstruct our growth without realizing it. We were not taught to remain awake and aware from our relatively pure childhood. Without realizing or noticing (because our educators did not timely point this out), we sometimes become our own adversaries to find purpose and flourish in self-expression.

As often oh-so-creative humans, we cling to misconceptions, or nonsense, that ‘hinder’ us in everything we do. Pain from our childhood plays a significant role in this, as pain drives mechanisms that want to sustain themselves at all costs. We create a ‘story’ about ourselves that needs continuous confirmation, thinking it will make life bearable. The longer we let this continue and confirm this untrue ‘story’ to ourselves and others, the more trapped we become. Thus, the nonsense in us grows, and we increasingly experience frustration and meaninglessness. This can even lead to illness. We do this to ourselves. So, we can also stop it ourselves if we learn to understand how these misconceptions arose. We can become awake and reflectively conscious.

Sense and nonsense, two simple words that tell so much about us! About right and wrong. Because right is what makes us creatively flourish. We can fully embrace this! Wrong is everything that stands in its way. Simple. But yes… soccer philosopher Johan Cruijff once said: ‘soccer is a simple game, but what’s very difficult is playing soccer simply’. This applies perfectly to our mental ‘game’ of purpose. So, there’s internal work to be done. We will have to stop doing many things before we can fully bloom and start doing others.

© Michiel Koperdraat