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The meaning of life? Well, it’s nothing very special. Uh, try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations. – from Monty Python’s film The Meaning of Life
Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible. – Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about? – Henry David Thoreau
Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd. – Rumi
Men are free when they are obeying some deep, inward voice of religious belief. Obeying from within. Men are free when they belong to a living, organic, believing community, active in fulfilling some unfulfilled, perhaps unrealized purpose. – D.H. Lawrence
“Each man is questioned by life,” Victor Frankl wrote. Here’s the main question life asks us: What does it all mean? Everyone, from comedians to the most serious philosopher, searches for the answer.
The Baha’i teachings say:
O friends of God! Strive to dissipate the darkness and reveal the hidden meanings of things, until their Reality becomes clear and established in the sight of all. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 2, p. 2.
That’s our job in this life—“to dissipate the darkness and reveal the hidden meanings of things.” Our destiny, as human beings, involves finding our purpose by going beyond the five senses, transcending the obvious, and moving past the conventional wisdom and the readily-perceived understanding. Using our intelligence and our spirits, we are meant to penetrate the mysteries of our souls, and in so doing come to understand the mysteries of life itself. We only uncover the purpose of life as we discover the hidden meanings of things.
How? By self-exploration that leads to knowing yourself; by our own independent investigation of the truth; and by immersing your mind and heart in the ocean of God’s utterance, the scriptures of the great Faiths:
Sanctify thy heart, illumine thy soul, and sharpen thy sight, that thou mayest perceive the sweet accents of the Birds of Heaven and the melodies of the Doves of Holiness warbling in the Kingdom of eternity, and perchance apprehend the inner meaning of these utterances and their hidden mysteries. – Baha’u’llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 18.
When this process happens, the mysteries of life will open themselves up to you. They cannot resist:
You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet. – Franz Kafka
Self-exploration and the investigation of the world’s scriptures can open up entirely new vistas to us. We can find our true purpose. That’s because our spirits, the Baha’i teachings suggest, naturally love to explore and discover:
Spirit in the human world is the discoverer of the realities of existence. All the inventions, all the sciences, all the hidden mysteries are brought to light through the activity of the spirit on the plane of life… the spirit of life is omnipotent, especially when it establishes a communication with God and becomes the recipient of the eternal light – then it transforms itself into a ray of the effulgence of the eternal sun.
This station is the greatest of all stations, for this connection of the spirit of man with God is like unto a mirror and the sun of reality is reflected in it. Thus it becomes the collective center of all the virtues; its emanation is the bestowal of the king of bestowers; its radiations are the manifold splendors of the infinite luminary; its sanctity is from the highest summit of divine essence. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 166.
If you want to develop a higher purpose in life, this path will help get you there. It will elevate your thoughts, raise your consciousness, and lift your conceptions of existence to another plane of perception. People who walk this spiritual path, Abdu’l-Baha wrote, find life’s most precious pearls, and can then “beam forth as a star:”
Their faces will radiate heavenly gladness, and their hearts be filled with joy. Their souls will be inspired, and their foundation stand secure. They shall scatter in the world, and travel throughout all regions. They shall raise their voices in every assembly, and adorn and revive every gathering. They shall speak in every tongue, and interpret every hidden meaning. They shall reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom, and manifest unto everyone the signs of God. They shall burn brightly even as a candle in the heart of every assembly, and beam forth as a star upon every horizon. The gentle breezes wafted from the garden of their hearts shall perfume and revive the souls of men, and the revelations of their minds, even as showers, will reinvigorate the peoples and nations of the world. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 251-252.