The sample essay on Contemporary World Meaning deals with a framework of research-based facts, approaches and arguments concerning this theme. To see the essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion, read on.
In modern day society, an increasing number of people question their purpose, their meaning, and their very existence on this earth. The questioning stems from either a lack of faith, a lack of understanding, lack of knowledge, or the general belief that human life pales in insignificance to the universe, and that, as described in Humanism: A Very Short Introduction, ‘humanity amounts to nothing more then a dirty smudge on a ball of rock lost in an incomprehensively vast universe'(page 119)1.
We must ask ourselves, what causes humanity to constantly question itself? Can it be solely be attributed to the rise of modern day science, which casts itself directly opposite the might and meaning of religion? Or it may be the fact that humans, are a race are more aware of the Earth’s small role in the vast universe; a parallel with humanities own insecurities about their own role in the colossal size of the universe.
Personal situations, such as the heartbreak of unrequited love, the despair of losing your job, can evaporate all meaning in an individuals life, thus leading towards a crisis of value. In the Western world especially, the rise of atheism has also contributed towards an individuals lack of belief and sense of meaning; as one turned to religion and the belief that there was a higher power, which was substantial enough to give the individual meaning and a place in society.
However, the rise of atheism, has led people to question the idea of an all powerful God.
The seeds of modern day atheism were sown by Karl Marx, who felt that religion was a form of control, and that the idea of a God was an illusion. He also stated that ‘Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the feelings of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of unspiritual conditions. It is the opium of the people. ‘2 This school of thought gained popularity, as more and more people started to think outside of the institutionalized, rigid ideas of religion.
It was thought that the idea of an all loving God, whom people had to worship did not satisfy the developing curiosity of the masses, who still wonder, how an omniscient, omnipotent higher being, can allow atrocities such as the Nazi’s slaughter of millions of Jews in World War 2 occur without trying to stop it, or lets natural disasters such as the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011 take place. Surely if a loving God exists, such pain and suffering cannot be piled on so many people?
Certain religions, such as Hinduism, go to great lengths to explain the suffering inflicted upon so many. It is a belief in Hinduism, and various other religions such as Buddhism and Sikhism, that our physical beings are just a shell for our soul, which is derived directly from God itself. This soul is reincarnated within various lifetimes, as punishment for our past sins. This means that the agony and pain undergone by so many is a direct result of our past actions, in previous lives, thus taking the absence of an intervention of God, out of the equation.
The lack of a definitive answer however, leads individuals to lose faith in a God, and a religious system, as these questions eventually cannot be answered by anybody, all but leaving either a feeling of emptiness or content inside the person; as they either are satisfied with knowing there’s nothing more to life, or are depressed by the thought that there is no meaning to their existence. Albert Schopenhauer, a philosopher in the 18th century rejected the idea of a God, and that suffering and loss is all of our own making, and not determined by a higher power.
An existential crisis is in most cases triggered by a significant event which provokes a turning point in an individuals life. These can range from cases involving the loss of a loved one, to an individuals own sense of isolation and detachment from the modern world. Looking back on my own experience of being in the position of one who has lost faith and ultimately questioned the purpose of life, the ultimate answer is that each person must come to their own conclusion, and find their own path in life.
For me, after going through the pain of unrequited love, I was lead to question God, and the reason why I had been going such heartache, while others around me were so happy, and for a period of time I felt isolated and found no reason strong enough to justify why human beings are here. For me, being brought up in a religious household, this was a radical way of thinking, and had no idea how to deal with it.
My way of life had been threatened by a new way of thinking, and questioning whether all I believed in was a lie. Now I realize it was my lack underlying lack of faith which subsequently led me to question my existence and purpose on this earth. I discovered that the worst thing about questioning one self’s meaning and purpose, is that there is no definitive answer. The quest for meaning led me to research several philosophers and religious figures, including a prominent Indian philosopher, Swami Vivekananda.
Swami Vivekananda enabled me to understand the meaning of our existence, by stating that human beings were like ‘the bee’ who ‘came to sip the honey, but found its feet stuck to the honey-pot, and could not get it away. Again and again we find ourselves in that state. That is the whole secret of existence. ‘. This is further explained when he questions ‘Why are we here? We came to sip the honey, and we find our hands and feet stuck to it’3.
This for me implies that human beings are never satisfied with what we have, and always seem to question more and more, without finding any satisfactory answer. The breakthroughs and discoveries in science further destroyed peoples ideas of a higher purpose, as it moved to dissolve the idea of a creator figure. Charles Darwin was a leading figure in challenging Creationism and the ‘Great Chain of Being’. His studies and new ideas such as Succession of types, Representative species, and the distribution of species were important in radically altering people’s outlook on life.
His theory of evolution, ascertaining that man was essentially once a Neanderthal opposed the idea that we were created for a purpose. It challenged the idea that humanity was the center of the world, and that the hierarchy must be rejected, and that man is just a consequence of nature, which moved to dissolve many peoples belief in a higher power, thus leading them to query their existence, as Darwin’s theories suggested that we were not put on this planet for any specific reason by a God; we are just a consequence of natural selection and biology.
Darwins theories were challenged by Karl Popper, a philosopher who claimed that scientific theories could be falsified and replaced. The problem with science however, is that it does not provide a moral code, or ascertain what is wrong and right to feel, leaving the individual in a quandary about what to believe. In conclusion, it can be said that a higher number of people fail to find meaning in their life, or at least question it at some point in their lifetime.
This is due to a combination of a lack of faith in a God/religion , the emergence of science and Darwin’s theory of natural selection/ evolution and the consequence of suffering caused by events such as the Rwanda genocide and global AIDs crisis. The fundamental problem is that there is no definitive answer, and no solution to the questioning of an individuals purpose, leaving us to the only answer, that each individual must find their own path in life.