Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Meaning of Life (Provisional)

Originally posted on January 10, 2008

An acquaintance heard that I was interested in philosophy and jokingly asked me, “What is the meaning of life?” I didn’t have a ready answer then, but the next morning, in reverie, I found myself thinking, “You know the answer.” Surprised—because I didn’t know that I knew—, I asked this inner voice, “Oh? What is it?” The voice said, “Well, you’ve been playing with these ideas for a couple of years, and it’s gradually coming together. You’ve been living by these ideas, too. So, let’s try to put it into words. Try this: Life is an opportunity for God to be born through you.”

Whoa. I felt a little ashamed that any part of me would presume to make such a claim, but another part of me said, “Hey, we’re just playing, speculating, trying things out. Check this line out with your various testing-thinking-systems and see what you think.” I did, and here’s some of the inner conversation in semi-essay form. I am open to your comments, and in light of them, may revise this formulation. As for right now, it still feels right, seems like it can work. Practicality is a significant criterion, also—I don’t always require absolute scientific or logical proof, but rather, in this realm, more a sense of whether I can use this idea, whether it will help me live with a better attitude, and whether it might motivate good actions.Nevertheless, a bit of analysis seems appropriate, so let’s take this statement apart:


This is a sticky concept, because any name (i.e. “sign,” in linguistic terms) tends to imply some limitations of the definition of that which is signified. So, with some humility and explicit recognition that what is being referred to cannot be adequately named; yet on another level, for purposes of philosophical discourse this overall category deserves to be considered: When I use the word “God” in this kind of context, I am referring to the Greater Wholeness of Being and Becoming. It is not a male or female Wholeness, nor even a personality — much less a king-like power-hierarchical one. The way I’m referring to God is more like what is referred to in Whitehead’s “process philosophy.” Some parts of the Bible hint at this more abstract and spiritual source energey, and a number of contemporary theologians from various traditions also seek to refine the old patriarchal image, such as Paul Tillich’s description of God as the “Ground of Being.”

In this view, which, admittedly is not the traditional view of God, God is everything—i.e., Spinoza’s “pantheism”—and also more than the physical world, and more than the physical and mental world or anything known or knowable to humanity. This more-than sense requires a modified word, and that is panentheism. A major corollary is that God is not at all apart from me or you, but rather we are a part of the Greater Becoming, however minute we may seem in size.

Actually, the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), a foremost exponent of what has come to be known as “process philosophy,” didn’t call it that; rather, he described his metaphysical view as “a philosophy of organism.” He thought that the metaphor of the cell to the whole organism described better the nature of the relationship than the more traditional views of humans relating to God as children to a father or subjects to a king. As a corollary, again, it is impossible to be separate from God. The implication is also that there is no hell and as for heaven, it is dubious as a concept. What happens when cells die in our bodies? Their components are largely recycled, but all the components and energies are not focused so as to reincarnate in the identity of another single cell. Another corollary is that what is ultimately important is the ongoing development of the Divine “organism.”
God’s Many ReBirths

Ah, words, words that seek to express what is of course ineffable, not possible to express in words. So by using the metaphor of birth in this metaphysical-poetic speculation, I am trying to suggest the idea of a radical change of state, at least in a limited sense. To be born is to open to something really new, and each birth offers such a possibility. Indeed, each moment offers possibilities, as we recognize the complexity of factors interacting and the opportunity for new creative syntheses.

(Another metaphor that is sometimes useful is “awakening,” as if there were several levels of consciousness—perhaps many. We are most familiar with our own experience of dreamless sleep, dreaming sleep, drowsy-sluggish awakeness, and bright-engaged awakeness. That there may be several levels of consciousness more dense and “less” conscious than these mentioned types, and also the possibility of several levels of consciousness greater, more awake, somehow, than what we have experienced—well, it’s difficult if not impossible to imagine, and harder yet to appreciate a degree of consciousness more than what one has experienced.)

I just don’t think that saying that the world or you or I are “expressions” of God, or emanations, or manifestations, really comunicate what is intuitively imagined here. Birth, in contrast, to me suggests a dynamic coming together of many variables, components of individuality. They imply that God is fixed and internally consistent, a true in-dividual (i.e., not-divided)—with no significantly different “aspects.” Yet such an image is not only an anthropomorphic, but reductionistic. Consider that part of God’s glory is the sheer multiplicity of aspects, dimensions, depth, and varieties of being and becoming. I suspect that there are many aspects that we don’t know about yet, and probably many aspects that the human mind can never know.

God’s Birth Through You

At any rate, the birth of a sentient individual offers an opportunity for a new creative potential, a unique blending of many factors. Sentience adds yet another dimension, that of subjectivity and its intrinsic capacity to choose, create, add to what is being otherwise created. (To call it “free will” is again a bit reductionistic, as if the only choice were to obey the traditional “rules” or disobey. In fact, the choices made are incredibly varied and often involve creative alternatives that are not obvious or given at the outset of a situation.)

An assumption here is that creativity as a fundamental principle of existence is also a value, and perhaps a source of a kind of aesthetic pleasure to God—perhaps of far greater value than the traditional image—a projection of patriarchal psychology—of having subjects who unquestioningly obey.

Another value is that of experiencing, and using a panentheistic framework in which God is as immanent as well as transcendent, we can imagine God participating in the experience of each sentient being, enjoying (or suffering), according to the situation.

The key point is the “taste” of your becoming, moment by moment, your own creativity, experiencing, subtle development and awakening, struggle, suffering, triumph, discovery, insight, and so forth—these elements are what need to be cultivated.

The Opportunity

Thinking of life as an opportunity draws our attention to a wide number of themes:

  • We can participate in God’s growth, evolution, development, discovery—what Whitehead called the “creative advance.” We are invited to be part of the Glory Team. What an honor, what a rarity.
  • We can learn to open increasingly to our higher values, our most intriguing inspirations, in imagery, music, the words of a poem or song, through spontaneous or disciplined dance, in the dynamic interaction with a child or in an encounter with others, at work or play, and so forth.
  • There is an opportunity not only to serve, but equally to enjoy, through the appreciating of beauty, of sensuality, of the mental pleasures of curiosity, insight, and discovery, the thrill of adventure and relief of escape from danger, the joy of gratitude for help, and so forth.

Speaking poetically, there is a special privilege in being material, dense, limited to three-dimensional space: Experiences are correspondingly dense and therefore somewhat more lasting in time, in memory. Flavors linger, at least for a while. I fantasize that this is a step up in terms of aesthetic intensity compared to the experience of an imagined angel or faery. With their will-o’-the-wisp “lives,” their experiences seem evanescent and more dream-like. The downside is that pain and suffering lasts more, and desires and thoughts can be stickier.

There is an opportunity, also, for sentience to recognize its true nature, as layers of different degrees of gripping illusion. This is partly what Buddhism is about, and also to some degree the contemplative traditions in other religions.

The Problem

I think a baseline framework for meaning is a useful conceptual tool in life. It offers a kind of framework within which one can organize more of a philosophy. This formulation offers a number of advantages in its clarity and simplicity.

I await your criticisms and suggestions for revision.

3 Responses to “Meaning of Life (Provisional)”

  • Adrienne Kennedy-Puthoff says:

    Adam, contemplating these notions you offer is a special pleasure . . . a genuine delight in the parallelism of our journeys, so different yet so complimentary in surprising ways. My ruminations, arising out of my life and my faith-unfaith-faith sojourn, have drawn me through similar worm-holes of breathtaking discovering. Your statement of the meaning of life certainly resonates with my sensibilities . . . and I greatly appreciate the way that you choose your words and weave the thoughts that follow. Your truth tests and reflections are rich and textured –a love-filled effort to be sure. Thank you, Adam.

  • imeanlife says:

    According to a statistics, there are 430 million English speaking internet users. Are they enough to answer the biggest question? What would happen if all of them visited this website and wrote a sentence? Would we find the ultimate answer? I don’t think so, but who knows…

    Our only goal is to collect as many of these sentences as possible.

    What about you? Have you ever thought about the reason of life? Do you have a minute to do that now?

    We just need a sentence! It can be funny or serious, happy or sad, philosophical or casual. It can be your own thought or a quote from your favourite writer or just from the grocer around the corner.

    It has to meet just one requirement! It should be one of the endless possible answers to the question:


  • ” Life is an opportunity for God to be born through you.”

    This is a wonderful statement. I wish I could do something to spread the message to everyone I know..
    Thank you for this wonderful post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *