Friday, March 27, 2009

The Meaning of Life

Sometimes I wake up willing to philosophate. And this blog also has much of philosophy, even if it is "bar philosophy", which is also fine. So, I would like to propose here the classical philosophical question:

What is the meaning of life?

Not that I expect to find an answer to that in blog comments, but I think it is interesting to read opinions about it. Before, though, allow me to state some hypothesis. I've read a bit, I've travelled, I've met people and cultures and lived a few years. So, I have these hypothesis to enumerate, but I am still far from finding an answer to the question. If there is one. Take a look and tell me what you think.

The Bible tells me the meaning of life is God. I believed in that for quite some time. From childhood up to some point in my teens. But actually, in that period I did not care much about the existence of a meaning of life. Maybe it is best not to care. "Ignorance is bliss". Children are genuinely happy in this way. But today I do not believe that such meaning is in God. I won't write more about that, because people use to say we should not question religion, and I don't trust "unquestionable" ideas.

Many songs and poems say to me that the meaning of life is romantic love. Maybe it is. I think that hypothesis is valid and I still have not given up on testing it. But if that is the case, I still haven't found the meaning of my life.

Capitalism explains that the meaning of life is to accumulate capital, property, titles, influence, power. I am skeptical about this one. I don't think the meaning of life is to accumulate "things". Things can bring us some comfort, let our lives more practical. Maybe a little more pleasant, but I don't think they give it a meaning.

Others say the meaning is to work. "Work dignifies man". But what is, essentialy, to work? Except for very special cases, to work is to produce things. Produce knowledge, software, sofas, whatever. Things that satisfy the demand capitalism has just suggested. But we had already claimed that the meaning cant be in "things". At least not for me. Can it be for you? A life with more or less comfort is equally meaningless. Isn't it?

Others still claim the meaning is family. As a matter of fact, having a daughter gives great meaning to my life, and it is an immense satisfaction to me. But, in the other hand, families not always work out as a unity. There are often fights, people willing to divide rather than unite. Anyway, that is one of the strongest hypothesis, in my opinion. A family, at least, allows for some kind longer term future.

Freud claims life is meaningless suffering. An eternal conflict between man and nature. An eternal conflict between instinct and the superego. Between animal desire and the civilization that protects us and at the same time represses us. It is a bit pessimistic. Even sad. But sometimes it looks like Freud is right. If so, there is no meaning. Just a conflict man is destined to lose to death.

Existentialism affirms the meaning of life is the freedom of thought, of deciding what is best fore oneself. I appreciate this idea. It is very good to feel free. It is very good to be able to decide. Although, often decisions are hard, and our freedom is always limited, falling back to what Freud was saying above.

Hedonism says the meaning of life is pleasure. The search for pleasure. An interesting thought. But, after some time, maybe those things may seem a bit ephemeral. Happiness seems to be ephemeral. Maybe the meaning of life is a constant search for a few ephemeral moments.

Maybe the meaning is on social interactions. In a "chimarrão" or a game of poker with friends, a weekend barbecue. Maybe yes. Some of the best moments are like that. But again, ephemeral.

Many of the previous paragraphs can be summarized in the word "happiness". The meaning of life would be to live a happier life. But happiness is always ephemeral. Happiness are moments. Homeopathic doses. Would the life have an ephemeral meaning? Would it be something to be pursued every single day? Every single minute? An eternal pursuit of something that never comes to stay?

Would the meaning of life be all of the above? None of the above? I have no clue.

Text translated from the original post in Portuguese.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Why are people like that?
Why does everyone in the train look so upset?
Why doesn't anyone commute smiling?
Why do people, in general, don't give a damn about each other?
Why are there people whose goal in life is to harm other people?
Why do so many believe in wrong, superfluous, stupid things?
Why don't they make barbecues?
Why don't they open a beer?
Why don't they embrace a friend?
Why the bombs?
Why revenge?
Why selfishness?
Why jealousy?
Why so many small, greedy things?
Why? Why? Why???

Translated from: Por que?


Hello, my name is Leonardo. I am a Brazilian living in Italy. I am doing a PhD in computer science, although I almost never blog about it. I've been keeping a blog in Portuguese, my mother language, for more than three years. Listening to a couple English speaking friends request, I finally decided to write an English version. As time allows me, I'll translate my favorite posts from my original blog, translate new posts I write there, or post original content here, in case that doesn't make sense in Portuguese or for Brazilians. I intend to keep most of my blogging in Portuguese and in that original blog, since I have my Brazilian readers, which include my family and many friends, but if you can't speak Portuguese, feel free to stay tuned here. I'll do my best to keep both places interesting.

By the way, the blog is mostly about literature, music, cinema, philosophy, the life of a Brazilian in Italy, travel and anything that might cross my mind. Have fun!