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What Is the Meaning of Life?

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Meaning of life is a deep philosophical question. It may be viewed by different perspectives of individuals. But one is true: there is no life if there is no meaning in it. No matter what we do, there is something we live for—there is a meaning of life because we are born.

Life is a period of time through which a person lives, which includes sleeping, eating, working, resting, thinking, and so on. “Doing nothing” does not exist for a human being. The proportion of deeds such as leisure (sleep, rest) versus work (thinking, developing, working, communicating) constitute the meaning of life. Life is worth living I think; but how one lives determines the depth of ones’s life meaning. For everybody meaning of life is different.

“Others may have loftier parts to enact; but my mission in this world, Bartleby, is to furnish you with office-room for such period as you may see fit to remain”

(H. Melville “Bartleby, the Scrivener”, quote 167), were Melville’s words considering life of Bartleby. For a long period of time life of strange Bartleby coincided with life of scrifeners’ office chief, which generally has changed the meaning of chief`s life. But what was the meaning of Bartleby`s life? After a long story about his everyday deeds I would conclude that there was no meaning of his life. Nothing seemed important for him, nothing was interesting for him. He seemed to have no values and no desires. His life was empty. He lived, but at the same time he had no purpose. He was an outsider to the world. I assume that no matter how hard another person would try to “awake” Bartleby, it would be all useless.

“Bartleby, the Scrivener” is a sad story which brings trauma and takes away desire to live. I am sorry for Bartleby. He was clever, and he was intelligent! So, how could it happen that alive person behaves like a dead person? Such, of course, is an unusual example, the example which one would not wish to follow, but omit. If there is any explanation for such meaningless life, it would be the proof of the rumors that Bartleby has worked in the Dead Letter Office dealing with unuseful information for dead people—and it has taken the meaning of life away from him. There is nobody and nothing that could give “the life breath” back to him. “Scrivener was the victim of innate and incurable disorder... but his body did not pain him; it was his soul that suffered” (H. Melville “Bartleby, the Scrivener”, quote 93).

Emerson, in his Man the Reformer is talking about universal ideas which are common to all of us, which guide our life. We do not live in a perfect world. What Emerson wrote in 1841 in Man the Reformer is still true today:

“Our age and history, for these thousand years, has not been the history of kindness. But of selfishness... The Americans have many virtues, but they have not Faith and Hope... They rely on the power of a dollar; they are deaf to a sentiment... What is a man born for but to be a Reformer, a Remaker of what man has made; a renouncer of lies; a restorer of truth and good, imitating that great Nature which embosoms us all, and which sleeps no moment on an old past, but every hour repairs herself, yielding us every morning a new day, and with every pulsation a new life?”

We are drowning in the world of unnatural thoughts. We ruin our real sence of life. We waste our time. We create laws which later act upon us. We need freedom. We need to be kings of our own life but not follow examples of others. It is better to have less wishes but be able to satisfy them ourselves—it will bring much more pleasure then to have others work for us. Our material world has made money to be the meaning of our life. But so rare we experience the beauty and kindness. Selfishness has become our power instead of honesty. Despite our desire, we now live in the “model” which we created by ourselves in order to survive: we are slaves of one another, we depend on so many material things in our everyday life. But this is not an ideal model which human beings’ souls and hearts desire. In order to fix the situation we should be strong enough to reject certain material “rules” which border us from the reality—the way of life we would like to have. Each of us should be able to become “king of own life”.

Life Without Principle by Henry David Thoreau is talking about the primitive works we do throughout our life. And we are not fully concerned of what we do. We are surrounded by rubbish.

“I think that there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself, than this incessant business... If a man walk in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if he spends his whole day as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making earth bald before her time, he is esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen. As if a town had no interest in its forests but to cut them down... You are paid for being something less than a man. The State does not commonly reward a genius any more wisely” (Henry David Thoreau “Life Without Principle”, pgs 4, 6, 8)

People get more money for ruining nature, lying, doing jobs which do not call for much respect or admiration. Real talents and genii stay unnoticed, gain no popularity, though truly deserve respect. Our politics gave us freedom but rather this is freedom to be slaves, not the moral freedom which we need. Thoreau suggests that one must get living by loving. Talents should not be sold but be kept for the beauty and richness of the world because they constitute the meaning of life.

The truth is that the meaning of life is constructed by what we do and thr way we interprete this meaning. Our abilities to do miracles by being ordinary people is what makes us happy. Personality will stay the same no matter what happens to it. But, we should be careful with what falls into our attention, we should treat ourselves and protect ourselves towards what comes to our minds and souls. Our values should not be ruined by comerical and material environment, and this way we would fill our life with meaning. Otherwise, “The conclusion will be, that mankind will hang itself upon a tree” (Henry David Thoreau “Life Without Principle”, p. 17).


1. Merville, Herman. Bartleby, the Scrivener. Accesed at

2. Emerson,Ralph Waldo. Man the Reformer. Accessed at

3. Thoreau, Henry David. Life Without Principle. Accessed at

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