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The Human Predicament – A Reflection on the Meaning of Human Life Pt. 1

  The brevity of human life, the vicissitudes of life, man’s power and weakness, his dignity and misery, his joys and sorrows, his finitude, his experience of suffering, sickness, disease, death and decay, his anxieties, fears and worries, are all starting points for reflection and deep thinking.

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The human person is the most marvelous and most complex being in the universe. The marvels of the human person by far surpass those of the physical universe.  The brevity of human life, the vicissitudes of life, man’s power and weakness, his dignity and misery, his joys and sorrows, his finitude, his experience of suffering, sickness, disease, death and decay, his anxieties, fears and worries, are all starting points for reflection and deep thinking. Buddha’s philosophy for instance arose from his reflection on human suffering – old age, disease, death and decay. Reflection on these phenomena of human life gives rise to some fundamental questions about the nature, purpose and meaning of human life on this earth.

What is man? He is so strong, yet so fragile, so powerful, yet so weak, so great, yet so miserable. He is so curious to know, and knows so much about the physical universe, yet he is so ignorant about himself. He is in fact a problem to himself, a mystery beyond his comprehension; he cannot answer his own questions about himself. From time immemorial, man has been preoccupied with questions about his origin, nature and destiny.

What am I? Why do I live? What is the meaning of my life? What, in the final analysis, is the ultimate value of my life? Where do I go from here? Am I heading for nothingness? There are of course many people who do not bother asking themselves such questions about the meaning and purpose of their lives. They just go on from day to day living unexamined lives. They work, eat, drink, struggle for money and wealth, marry and beget children among other desires. They just want to be like ‘others’ and they are submerged in their daily routine, without ever asking themselves what it all means in the final analysis. Man is a being who does not understand himself; and puts his own very being into question.

Man has natural desire for continued existence; his strongest instinct is that of self-preservation and self-perpetuation in existence. Yet his life span is brief and is often terminated contrary to his deepest desire. All his efforts to resist the imposed termination of his life are futile – off he goes whether he likes it or not. He is forced out of this world without even knowing where he is going. He did not choose to come to this world. He simply finds himself in this world without knowing why and sooner or later he will be forced out of it.

What then is the ultimate meaning of man’s existence? What is the ultimate value of man’s life? What is he living for? Has his life any ultimate meaning? We all know that we eat to live, but what do we live to do? Why do we live?

Albert Camus, a renowned French philosopher tells us that there is only one truly serious philosophical question, and that is, is human life meaningful or meaningless? This is also the most serious problem about human life. Albert Camus is quite right. Many people do commit suicide because they find life meaningless. They feel that a meaningless life is not worth living. They therefore terminate it.

Part three comes up next week.

Credit: Inusah Awuni – MPhil, MA, BA (Lecturer – AUCC & DUC)

Email: agolgoti@yahoo.com

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