Various sources ranging from religious authorities to evolutionary psychologists offer explanations as to why many of us (not all) long for a ‘meaning’ or ‘purpose’ in our lives. Very often, family and children is enough. But history and current affairs warn that people may not be careful about where they get their life meaning from.

I have arrived at Senior Citizenship now (I am 65), and have just experienced my first full visit inside an operating theatre. Despite this I still accept the scientific view of the universe, which has it that the material, forces, and space therein transmit no agency or purpose – it follows patterns of behaviour but without conscious intent or deliberation being present. It is ourselves, as conscious beings, who can have that. So, from this point of view, I’m still an ‘existentialist’ who believes we form the meaning in our lives for ourselves by how we live – not least treating others around us – and our projects. Thanks to technology and communications, that readily extends to people we don’t know and the wider environment.

Curiously, this doesn’t feel the least like a student fad to me, still less like making me (or even humankind at large) God. It feels like a modest conception whereby we accept our humble place in the universe at large. Is that the hardest part?

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