All my life I struggled to stretch my mind to the breaking point, until it began to creak, in order to create a great thought which might be able to give a new meaning to life, a new meaning to death, and to console mankind. ~ Nikos Kazantzakis
To give people a reason for living is a great gift, especially people for whom the consolations of religion are empty. For believers the problem doesn’t exist because for them life’s meaning is coextensive with the existence of supernatural beings. I have written extensively why this proposed solution doesn’t satisfy, and I will not revisit the issue here except to say that the religious solution is question-begging. And even if the proposed solution were valid, it satisfies only those who accept the existence of divine beings. Instead I’m here to speak for the generally more educated non-believers whose numbers grow as science advances—despite arguments from the science/religion compatiblists. Darwin noted as much long ago:
I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity and theism produce hardly any effect on the public; and freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follow[s] from the advance of science. … ~ Charles Darwin – (Letter to E.B. Aveling, 13 Oct 1880).
The key question is what to do if one finds no reason to hope that life has meaning. Should you tell others to have hope anyway? Or confess that you think life is meaningless? I think you should tell the truth and let others conclude what they want–which they will do anyway. If the truth doesn’t matter, then nothing does.
I do know that hope does not derive from the past, both because the past is closed and because an honest look at it is not uplifting. Hope is for and about the future, it is what keeps us going.
In a century or two, or in a millennium, people will live in a new way, a happier way. We won’t be there to see it–but it’s why we live, why we work. It’s why we suffer. We’re creating it. That’s the purpose of our existence. The only happiness we can know is to work toward that goal. ~ Anton Chekov