The meaning of life | Inquirer News

The meaning of life

/ 07:44 AM February 13, 2013

This popped out in his iPad as if out of nowhere and somewhat myteriously. It was a quote from Albert Camus: “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”

And of course it got him to thinking. He is a great fan of Camus even if many years have passed since he last read him. And then suddenly, on the very same day that Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation as well as Lolong’s death was announced, this quote popped up in his computer.


The three events are not, of course, essentially connected. But since it is the nature of human consciousness always to draw connections between everything in front of it then it is only human that his thoughts would somehow weave the events into a single picture.

The quote makes perfect sense, of course. And indeed it might serve warning to those who over-theorize life itself as writers are often wont to do. And yet the quote itself bears with it a hint of self-contradiction by raising the issues of happiness, life and meaning inside a single remark. Presupposing thus that the three are essentially related when in fact they may not be at all.


We merely construct their relationships as Camus does. Can a person be happy who does not know what happiness is? Can a life without meaning be considered life still? And how can one search for the meaning of life if one is not alive already?

We are only nit-picking to be sure. And poking fun at Camus. He will not mind this where he is, God bless his soul. And he is right of course. We cannot spend the rest of our lives searching for the meaning of life. It is not to be found anywhere else other than what are in front of us. And we are free only by virtue of the fact we can pick whatever meaning we like. Say, work, art, children, anything.

We are surely better off than the late Lolong who used to be the largest saltwater crocodile in captivity. He gave the backwater town of Bunawan, Agusan del Sur, its 15 minutes of fame. The newspaper said they were holding a funeral for him. Meanwhile, they have placed him on ice preparatory to preserving him for posterity so that tourists may still come here to view his remains, as elsewhere they do Lenin, Mao, Ho, and our very own Marcos.

If ever we saw them we might be reminded to ask: What was the meaning of their lives that they must be preserved for viewing this way? And for so long after their natural years? Was their life so meaningful that its meanings would still be useful even after death? And for whom useful? Who is served? Quite certainly not the dead effigy.

Could it feel anything at all it would mostly likely feel only embarassment. Do the dead also search for meanings? Do they live in the sense that Camus meant? Never searching for meanings where there are none other than what they invent for themselves? While he lived inside his little prison of a pond working as the little town’s tourist magnet did Lolong ever think these things? What was it to him if he had grown bigger than any of his peers the world over? It was fame which did him in! We must all be forewarned.

At 85 Pope Benendict XVI would rather spend the remainder of his life praying for the world rather than continuing to serve it as Pope. His decision makes for good example especially to priests and bishops who interpret their ministry as inclusive of direct intervention in their country’s political life.

In the time of martial law, priests who took up arms for the people presented a romantic image over all. And yet we questioned whether they should have stuck with prayer as the superior form of arms to guns. In these times, we cannot help thinking the same way even if influence has become the preferred weapon to guns. And yet, politics is still very much the same politics. It soils everyone the same way. At odd times the “soil” still flies everywhere.

Does the sacred have a prayer in the current world? At least, we’ll know the former Pope Benedict XVI will still be there praying. He will be away from public view but he will still be living according to his calling. It does not look immediately like it but he is doing a wonderful thing. He will not be anybody’s Lolong. He will not be mummified.

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TAGS: Albert Camus, life, Lolong, meaning of life, Pope Benedict XVI
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