Life, in all its aspect is meaningful. Or so we believe. But there are questions that keep lingering in its meaningfulness.
‘Why is it so? Why do we think our life has a meaning? Or rather what is the meaning of life?’
It is a question that has been tackled philosophically, theologically and scientifically and all that each categorization was able was to provide us ‘believing humans” a thought. A thought that has been provoking, confusing or sometimes utterly ridiculous.
In its original sense, if anyone would ask me the same question, I would say the meaning of life is life.
Survival has been that typical instinct of all the living beings that exist. And well, that omnipotent existence called God, definitely provided a large variety of possibilities for the living beings to explore. That exploration in its very intricate detail is called life.
But considering the human beings alone, ignoring the rest of the living beings. ( Since we are those developed apes with consciousness and common sense.)
Life in all its glory is simply whatever we want it to mean. That is every one of us create a different meaning to our life. Although spontaneity plays a huge factor with absolute certainty in altering what we want, subjecting life to the ‘twists and turns’, ‘ups and downs’, ‘good and bad’ and then the untimely ‘The end’.
Reading upon different proclamation about the meaning of life, I came across this story. A story that gave me the alarming idea of reconsidering the meaning of life.
‘A great and wise king once asked the cleverest court philosophers, “Tell me true, what is the Meaning of Life?”
One philosopher immediately answered, “Your Majesty, the meaning of life consists in great wealth. We by our nature crave idleness and we endure work only that we not starve. From the day of our birth until the day we die we long for the plentitude of wealth which would free us for all our lives of the tyranny of work.”
The second philosopher replied to the King’s question, “Majesty, that which men seek as a meaning to their life above all else is honour and esteem in the eyes of others. We long for respect, power and deference. And at the same time we wish not to have to defer to others. The truth is, your Majesty, that all men want to be in your position.”
The third philosopher had a different take on the question. He told the King, “Majesty, the meaning of life is in pleasure. We desire for all those things that are gratifying to our senses. Be it our love, lust or appetite, the craving for pleasure is insatiable.”
The King took a note of the answers he had been given. He had all the wealth that greed could imagine, he had the wives and concubines without number, his living was as luxurious as anyone else, he was honored by all and deferred to by the haughtiest of his people, and yet he was troubled. He still felt that his life was without meaning.
The King then turned towards his courtiers. He said, “I have been taking all these things for granted, having been born to them. Yet I suspect that there is something more valuable than wealth, deference, and pleasure. I propose a test of the meaning of life.”
Go out to the Kingdom and find me an ordinary young man who is neither rich nor destitute, neither a scholar nor a dullard, neither of the high estate nor a peasant. However, he must have every prospect of enjoying an ordinary life. Find him and bring him to me.”
And they did as the King commanded. They sought a young man of twenty as described by the king and brought him to the palace.
The King looked up on the young man and said this, “Young man, I want to know what is the most important thing of all to you in your life. Is it uncountable wealth, pleasure in all aspects or a higher station in life? Enlighten me with your justification.”
The young man replied, ” Sire, to be frank, I would truly like to be wealthy so that I would never have to work again. And I would be undeniably happy and joyful if I could satisfy my lusts and urges at will. “
The King asked, “And your station in life, are you quite satisfied with it?”
“Well, no. I resent having to pay respect to men and women whom I do not admire for their goodness or their intellect. It seems most unjust that by accident of birth it is I who should be tugging the forelock to those I deem unworthy of this respect. A higher station and title in life would be the perfect way to live.”
The King thought for a moment and then said to the young man, “Very well. All of this can be arranged, if these are the things that would truly make you happy.”
“You shall be paid a handsome sum of money every day from the Royal treasury. You shall wear the finest of clothes, ride the fastest of horses, eat the best of feasts, sleep with the fairest maidens. And I shall decree you as a Lord of my realm, with the highest badges honorour.”
“Does this please you?”
The young man could not believe his luck. He replied, “Yes Sire. It makes me very happy. I am ecstatic in anticipation. But I cannot believe that all this will come without any price. There must be something that you want in return. I pray you, what is that you seek from me, Sire?”
The King looked closely into the eyes of the young man and said, “In one year I want your life.”
“I beg your pardon. In what sense do you mean that you want my life?”
“In one year, after you have enjoyed all that your heart desires, you will be killed. I assure you, that it will be done without any pain after a whole year of your chosen bliss.”
“And if I refuse?”
“Well then of course you are free to go. You will have then answered a question in part. So what do you chose?”
“Well, if you don’t mind I would rather not. Thank you. I will be going now, if you will excuse me.”
The King raised his hand. “Not so fast young man. Let me change my offer so that you will enjoy all the things you desire for five whole years, rather than one. And on the last day of the fifth year you shall die peacefully and without pain. Now will you take my offer?
The young man took a moment to reflect on what he was being offered. But reluctantly he told the King, “No sire. I think I should be going.”
“Ten years, then”, the King said.
The young man was tempted. Ten years of sensual delights such as few men could possibly enjoy, and then certain death. He thought a little longer. But again he refused. The King increased his offer to twenty, then thirty, then forty years. Finally he said, “My last offer to you is that you should live as you desire for eighty whole years and then die peacefully but unnaturally. How do you choose?
The young man thought. In eighty years he would be one hundred years of age. What did he have to lose from such an agreement. It was unlikely that he should live to such an age.
“I accept”, he said. “When do I begin?”
The King smiled and shook his head.
“I am sorry”, he said “But I am withdrawing my offer. You have answered my question. Had you accepted one year of bliss in return for your life then I would have known that wealth, status and the satisfaction of the senses give life its meaning. Even if you had accepted forty years and the certainty of death at sixty, I could have drawn from this inference about the things that give meaning to life. But in the end you have shown me that the meaning of life is life itself. Above all else you wanted to simply go on living. You would give up all that I had offered you for another day of living, even in poverty, hardship and frustration. But thank you, young man, for helping me answers these questions. You may go in peace.”
The young man turned to go, but then he turned back to the king and said, “Could we backtrack a little and negotiate the forty year option again?”
Well………That’s Life. 🙂