- What is the meaning of my life?
- Why am I here on earth?
- Who am I?
- What’s this all about?
- Where do I belong?
- How can I live a meaningful life?
- What is my life purpose?
- What am I supposed to do with my life?
- How can I lead an ethical life?
[I would love a discussion on these questions! I am struggling to figure out if there are two or three questions: is the need for belonging separate or is it part of our need for meaning? Is the second question, how can I live a meaningful life, really an existential question or is it simply an outgrowth from the meaning need and thus a variation of that question rather than its own question?]
Religion and its less organized, more personal counterpart – spirituality – answer these questions by pointing outside of the questioning human to a god, nature, or some sort of vague higher dimension, such as pulsing energy, intelligent consciousness, life energy, or other non-measurable, experiential force. Philosophy generally answers these questions more mundanely without reference to metaphysics but rather by observing how people live.
Nevertheless, what unites us all as human beings is a search for meaning. The answers we come up with might differ but the questions are the same.
And why do we care? Because we have work to do. We do not have time for the “us vs. them” mentality taught by religions. Having grappled with the question of meaning for as long as I can remember, I cannot take away from anybody their answer because I think it’s wrong. It’s their answer. But I do take issue when someone tries to tell me that my answer is wrong, especially if they claim that theirs is better, somehow on a higher plane. If spirituality becomes a prerequisite for the most virtuous forms of living, I will react strongly and demand evidence. However, as long as we can accept our different answers as our own personal answer, we can cooperate on other things.