I read an article the other day about some of the crazy things people search for on Google. In the less-crazy category, I noticed that one of the most searched for questions is What is the Meaning of Life? After double checking to ensure that they weren’t actually searching for the Monty Python movie, I began to reflect on this more seriously, and have come to realise that there is a real need among people from all walks of life to understand their purpose; to understand what is all means, and what it’s all for.
This need is far more than just a philosophical pursuit, and I think that is why it’s such a popular search. The way you answer this question becomes a foundation or framework which underlies the way you view the world, the way you interact with people, and the way you make decisions (both big and small). Your understanding of why you are here, what your purpose is, and how you fit into the whole is perhaps the most important, the most fundamental, the most relevant question you could ever ask. It colours everything, makes you the person you are today, and ultimately makes you the person you are becoming.
This is a question that I have struggled with since my early teens. It was the lack of a satisfactory answer from the religion I was born into and raised in, that lead me to search elsewhere. I spent many years looking, sometimes in pretty strange places, finding bits and pieces here and there, but never finding any answers with real substance.
Eventually I did find some answers. I found an answer to this question which not only satisfies my need for substance, logic, and consistency, but challenges me to continue to question, to deepen my understanding, and most importantly, to actively participate in forging the person I am becoming.
So, in the interest of contributing my two-bits to the widespread quest for meaning and purpose, I would like to share not only what I have discovered the meaning of life to be, but how we can take steps now towards realising our destiny. In other words, to take the theory and make it a reality. Taking this step can help you transcend belief to the point where you begin to know.
Those who know me won’t be surprised to hear that I found my answer in a book. I have always been a prolific reader and am willing to read pretty much anything. (I should qualify here that reading something is not the same as believing something) It was this voracious appetite for reading material which lead me to tackle a massive tome entitled The Urantia Book, a 2,097 page masterpiece which I now affectionately call “the big blue book of answers to ALL of the big questions”. Within those pages I found detailed explanations of purpose, meaning, and destiny which continue to astound me in their depth and consistency.
The Macro and the Micro
It will come as no revelation to many that all things begin and end in God. Our purpose and destiny are inextricably entwined with God’s own purpose and destiny. Yes, there are things that God is trying to achieve and we are part of them.
God exists in eternity, he is the first source and centre of all things, he is infinite and absolute; he is perfect. That’s a pretty sweet deal for him you might be thinking, and it is, but in some ways it is limiting. An infinite, absolute, perfect being cannot be anything less than that. In order to experience levels of reality less than his, he has to do so vicariously through lesser beings or lesser manifestations of himself.
Our universe is a universe of time and space. It is by definition- finite. In our universe the process of perfect creation has been slowed by the existence of time in order for God to experience the process of the imperfect becoming perfect. (without time everything would happen instantaneously- negating the possibility of experience) That process is easily recognisable to us as evolution and it underlies everything in our reality. Life evolves, society evolves, mind capacity evolves, morality evolves, even our own understanding evolves.
Everything that happens in the finite universe contributes to the experience of the Supreme Being. Everything we do, say, or even think contributes as well. And one day in the future, billions or trillions of years from now, when this process has run its course and everything that can be experienced in the finite has been experienced, this universe will become “perfect”. This is the ultimate purpose of the universe, this is why God got it started and what he is getting out of it. This is also our part in it from his point of view. He is able to experience our struggle to rise from our imperfect origins and strive for the perfection he eventually requires of us.
Now, there is a LOT more to all of this. That’s why The Urantia Book is 2,097 pages long. This is the CliffsNotes of the CliffsNotes based on my own evolving understanding.
So that’s purpose and meaning from God’s point of view- the macro. But what about us? What is our “micro” point of view? Or, to be completely blunt- what do we get out of this?
Well, it’s a pretty good deal actually. First of all, we get to be. We get life. And should we choose, we get to participate in the grand cosmic adventure of this universe and beyond. To make this possible, we get life without end. It is going to take age upon age for each of us to become perfect. It’s not something you can achieve in one lifetime, and dying does not bestow upon us any sort of all-knowing wisdom. The only way to become wise is to learn from experience. And what is the reward for all of this? What is our destiny? As perfected children of the Father we will finally stand in his presence and be welcomed into his embrace.
It’s incredibly exciting to think about- to speculate; just what kind of wonders and experiences lie in store for us on this quest for perfection! Whatever we could possibly imagine will no doubt fall impossibly short of the reality.
What can we do now?
So that’s the answer; the cosmology; the big picture; the background on which we paint our lives. How do we make this an experiential reality? How, if we choose, do we start participating now? Let’s get into some specifics!
Much of the day to day of participating in this adventure boils down to making decisions. Our souls at this point in our potentially eternal lives are in an embryonic state, and with every decision of spiritual importance our souls have the potential to gain substance. So our initial participation is simply to strive to make better decisions which contribute to the growth of our souls. But how do you do this? How do you really make your soul grow?
I am convinced that growing a soul is no different from building character. Build your character, build your soul. Here is a very profound quote from The Urantia Book:
- Is courage — strength of character — desirable? Then must man be reared in an environment which necessitates grappling with hardships and reacting to disappointments.
- Is altruism — service of one’s fellows — desirable? Then must life experience provide for encountering situations of social inequality.
- Is hope — the grandeur of trust — desirable? Then human existence must constantly be confronted with insecurities and recurrent uncertainties.
- Is faith — the supreme assertion of human thought — desirable? Then must the mind of man find itself in that troublesome predicament where it ever knows less than it can believe.
- Is the love of truth and the willingness to go wherever it leads, desirable? Then must man grow up in a world where error is present and falsehood always possible.
- Is idealism — the approaching concept of the divine — desirable? Then must man struggle in an environment of relative goodness and beauty, surroundings stimulative of the irrepressible reach for better things.
- Is loyalty — devotion to highest duty — desirable? Then must man carry on amid the possibilities of betrayal and desertion. The valor of devotion to duty consists in the implied danger of default.
- Is unselfishness — the spirit of self-forgetfulness — desirable? Then must mortal man live face to face with the incessant clamoring of an inescapable self for recognition and honor. Man could not dynamically choose the divine life if there were no self-life to forsake. Man could never lay saving hold on righteousness if there were no potential evil to exalt and differentiate the good by contrast.
- Is pleasure — the satisfaction of happiness — desirable? Then must man live in a world where the alternative of pain and the likelihood of suffering are ever-present experiential possibilities. (pg. 51)
In this light, the confusion and turmoil on our planet provides ample and rich soil for cultivating the seeds of our souls. Something, I think we are beginning to see, is not going to be easy work. It turns out that an unafflicted life is perhaps one of the greatest afflictions of all.
Let’s get even more specific.
Here are a few things that we can focus on which I believe will start us down the path towards our destiny of standing in the presence of the Father and basking in his loving embrace:
- Build that character. Make your day to day decisions courageously according to your highest ideals. Anything less than this is selling yourself short.
- Prayer and meditation. One of two components to a true, grounded religious life; an inner, personal component which is no more or less than your own personal relationship with your creator. Prayer and meditation are the means by which this relationship functions. Admittedly, prayer at the material level seems a bit one-sided, but the Father is listening and your prayers are always answered even if those answers manifest in ways that you don’t expect (or realise). The effect of prayer is not to change God, it is to slowly change you.
Just 10 minutes a day of meditation, or stillness, is a practice which helps to achieve two things:
- Disciplining and quieting your mind. Mind is the arena where the finite is able to touch the infinite, the material touch the spiritual. This is where it all happens. A calm mind is much easier to work with than an unruly, stormy one.
- Learning to listen. If you don’t know how to listen, how will you ever begin to hear?
Rather than prayer and meditation, I could just have easily said conversation. The two components of any meaningful conversation are speaking and listening.
- The best religious practice, ever. The second component to religion is socialising it. How do we do that? This isn’t going to sound religious at all, but it is one of the highest religious practices there is: become interested in your fellow man. Find out about people, learn from their experiences, find out how and why they think they way they do. At the very least you will discover that you are not alone in your afflictions. At the most, you will begin to appreciate and love your fellows as the kindred children of God they are.
This is the most fundamental of truths and teachings in The Urantia Book: God is the Father and we are all his children; brothers and sisters trying to sort out this thing called life and do the best we can.
Again, this is barely the tip of the iceberg. If you want details, you can leave a comment or you can read The Urantia Book yourself. You don’t even have to buy one! It’s online for all to read.