September 2015: What Is the Point of Living?

September 2015 Inter-Belief Conversation Café

What Is the Point of Living?

Monday, September 21, 2015
7 – 9 p.m.
Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul
1671 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55105 (View Map)

Is there a purpose to our lives? Is it something more than merely existing? Should we be the heroes of our lives and make a difference? Or is cultivating our own garden a better plan? What’s it all about? Is it just for a moment or two or should we climb every mountain and ford every stream? Or is it as Hamlet observed just better than the alternative?

Is just existing so bad? Should we talk to the animals and learn from them? Is basking in the warm sun, eating our favorite treats, the fragrance of something putrid, and a chance to romp aimlessly as good as it gets? Maybe life really is a cabaret and we should live it up while we can. Of course at some point the liver, joints, lungs, and other bodily components may give out. But until then burning the candle at both ends may shed a great light on the world and give gainful employment to bartenders, blackjack dealers, emergency room personnel, and police officers. Viva Las Vegas!

Or is there a higher purpose? Is it service to a higher power? Which is? Perhaps it is helping others? If we can’t help them all at least do our little bit? But do other people have a purpose? If we’re questionable, how come other people are special? Should we focus on family, our community, or the whole world? How do we choose and can the strain of alleviating human misery leave us empty and drained? Must we work through an organization and follow a plan or do random acts of spontaneous kindness work better? Does doing good for others let us forget ourselves or do we resent the tug and pull of others’ needs?

Are the existentialists right that we define our own purpose? What if the purpose seems to be pushing a rock up a hill and having it tumble down on us like the myth of Sisyphus? Do all purposes and choices have the same value? Is hedonism enough? What about love of beauty? Maybe just love is all we need? Can we do all this in splendid isolation or does all meaning come from our interaction with others? Is it true that none of us is an island and that we are so interconnected that the death of any person diminishes each of us?

Who do we know of who lives or lived a meaningful life? Mother Teresa who was subject to depression? Martin Luther King or Gandhi who had many moments of self-doubt? Napoleon or other leaders who may have done as much harm as good? Is being famous meaningful or does the person who tries to do the right and cares for others the ideal? Can these things be tallied up before the grave? Like the Greeks do we count no individual happy until death? Or does the person who dies with the most toys the win?

This month, the Inter-belief Conversation Café will search for the meaning of life or at least try to stay out of trouble. The agreements of open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality will hopefully keep us from doing any actual harm. If all rationales fail us; we will have treats!

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