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What's it all about, Alfie?

If you Google "the meaning of life" you will get 55 million hits.

Thousands of books have been written on the subject—and as many people have read them, searching desperately for a way to get rid of that "nothing” that occupies the deepest resources of their souls.

"He who dies with the most toys wins" blatantly reflects the frustration of so many who attempt to fill that void with "stuff."

It doesn't work.

Christ summed it up rather succinctly to Thomas à Kempis, (1) who faithfully recorded His words in "The Imitation of Christ": (2)

Thinkest thou that men of the world suffer nothing or but little? Thou shalt not find it so, though thou seek out the most voluptuous.

But sayest thou, they follow after many delights, and withal their own will, and therefore make small account of their tribulations?

Be it so, that they have all they desire; but how long thinkest thou this will last?

Behold as smoke shall they vanish that about in this world, and there shall be no remembrance of their past joys.

Nay, even whilst they live, they rest not in the possession of them without bitterness, weariness and fear.

From the very same thing whence they conceive delight, thence frequently do they derive the penalty of anguish.

It is just with them it should be so, that since they seek and follow inordinately their pleasures, they should not enjoy them without confusion and bitterness.

Oh, how short, how deceitful, how inordinate and shameful are all these pleasures!

Yet, through sottishness and blindness, men understand this not, but like dumb animals, for the poor pleasures of this mortal life they incur the death of the soul.

Wikipedia (4) explains life thusly:

The meaning of life is deeply entrenched in the philosophical and religious conceptions of existence, social ties, consciousness, and happiness, and borders on many other issues, such as symbolic meaning, ontology, value, purpose, ethics, good and evil, free will, conceptions of God, the existence of God, the soul, and the afterlife. Scientific contributions focus primarily on describing related empirical facts about the universe, exploring the context and parameters concerning the 'how' of life. Science also provides its own recommendations for the pursuit of well-being and a related conception of morality. An alternative, humanistic approach poses the question "What is the meaning of my life?" The value of the question pertaining to the purpose of life may coincide with the achievement of ultimate reality, or a feeling of oneness, or even a feeling of sacredness.

Blah, blah, blah.

Plato said that the meaning of life is found in the attainment of knowledge and the struggle for goodness.

Aristotle argued that goodness cannot be attained through ethical knowledge (metaphysics and epistemology). One must not only study, but must also practice the art of being "good."

The Greek Cynics—the first tree huggers—claimed that one must live a virtuous life symbiotically with nature.

Aristippus of Cyrene promoted a hedonistic view of life wherein bodily gratification gives far more pleasure than mental pleasure.

Epicurus, on the other hand, insisted that a virtuous life brought tranquility and freedom from fear—happiness in its highest form.

My six-year-old grandson asked me a question about life one day. I still don't know if the answer that came out of me was for his benefit or for mine, but I was left with an understanding that it was I who could learn a lesson from him—rather than the other way around.

"And said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (5)

So this is what I said:

"The sole purpose," I told him, "that we are born—the one single reason that God breathes a soul into us before we are born, is so that we can be with Him forever in heaven.

"You are in school now," I said. "And when you have finally learned everything that you need to learn, you will graduate. That is what heaven is like. Just like we have to learn how to read and to write so that we can get a job and be able to take care of ourselves, there are certain things that God needs for us to know before we can join Him in heaven.

"Life is what teaches you those things.

"And just like there are some people who only go to school through high school, and others go on and learn some more, God asks some of us to learn more than others.

"There are times when school is fun—like when you get to play on the playground or go on field trips or be in a school play. And there are times when it is hard or you are scared—like when you have a lot of homework or have to take a test. But if you work really hard, you will graduate some day, and when you do, you will have learned everything that you need to know."

He looked up at me, his icy-blue eyes wide open and filled with an innocence and trust that reminded me of what I had lost and where I needed to be again.

"When you and your mom want to go somewhere, what do you do?" I asked.

His puzzled look told me that I had his attention.

"You get in the car and it takes you where you want to go, right?

"Our bodies are like cars. We are not the cars; we are inside the cars. And we are not these bodies. We are souls inside the body that just helps us get around.

"Some people drive big cars; some drive tiny little cars. Some cars are blue or gold or green—all different colors! You don't decide whether or not you like someone because they drive a different color car than you, do you?"

He shook his head no; he was all in.

"People are the same way. We may not all look the same. Some people have different color skin than us, or different kinds of hair. Some are dressed in nice expensive clothes, and others wear clothes that are old and maybe even torn. But that is not who they are.

"Inside, we are all the same. We are all souls whom God wants to be with in heaven. And that's all that counts."

I could tell that this precious little six-year-old got it. He got it better than all the philosophers and grown up people who spend their whole lives trying to figure it out. And they never do—because it's just too darn simple.


(3) Kempis, Thomas, "The Imitation of Christ," ed. Rev. J.M. Lelen, Ph.d., USA: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1941, p. 211.
(4) Where_Are_We_ Going%3F
(5) Matthew 18:3