Has Life any Purpose at All?

December 30, 2019

“I do not find any meaning in living, and I want to die. Please tell me, what is the purpose of my life? So affirmed, a desperate 12th standard boy who came to me for counselling. I told him to cool down, to sit quiet for a while and then asked him the purpose and meaning of his studies, of his games etc., and finally told him that sometimes we may feel that life and our many activities have no meaning at all. But as human beings we have the capacity to think and reflect, to choose and act cautiously. We have two powers, first to discern meaning in life and second, to give meaning to life. We are intelligent, conscious beings and we are endowed with the creative power to make life meaningful and purposeful.

Of course, I sent him satisfied for the time being and called him for another session. I exhorted him not to grudge at life but to smile at it and enjoy the beauty of living. Nevertheless, the question he raised demands further reflection. There are others, mostly adults and students, who come for counselling with similar questions. But we need to ask why we should feel that our life is purposeless and meaningless. What leads a person to think that way? Why he cannot succeed to get an answer by himself? Why some do not succeed to find meaning and decide to end their lives? What way we can help them? How our students can leave school with a firm conviction that life has a definite purpose which they strive hard to attain? These questions need to be reflected upon at a deeper level.

Life considered from a sheer biological perspective might be just a living organism, like any other species, which is just born and casually dies after some time. A dog, a cat, or for that matter any living being is just born on a day and dies on another day. But human species have evolved and attained a higher level, so much so that it entails a mind, consciousness, intelligence with several potentialities like the sense of freedom which enables every member of the species to think, to choose among several options, to arrive at a decision and to pursue a course of action with definite goal and purpose. All this vouches for the fact that life in itself has a purpose and a person must learn to discern or ‘intuit’ this purpose.

This does not mean that we do not face roadblocks and life will always be smooth sailing from beginning to end. For some, especially those who have strong determination and will power, it can be quite smooth, but for others it could be a strenuous struggle and a challenge to experience meaning and purpose in life. The so called negative experiences of our own past, the complexities of the present and the unknown future, have potentialities to offer roadblocks and bring anyone, face to face with the absurd and the futility of existence.

All this happens simply because the human consciousness, though unique, has its own limitations. The human eye for example can see things within certain limits. The naked eye cannot see the distant stars in the sky and the tiny life cells in a drop of blood. We need the additional help of a telescope or a microscope, to perceive things at higher and lower levels. Similarly the human consciousness has higher and lower levels which it cannot reach without additional help and extra efforts. An ordinary example is sudden inspirations, insights we experience in our life. The scientific term for this is ‘intuition’. We reflect with a problem for a long time and suddenly we ‘intuit’ the solution. Scientists deliberate days together a particular question and suddenly ‘intuit’ the answer which can lead them to new scientific discoveries and inventions. Constant reflection is the ‘additional help’ we provide to our ordinary consciousness so that it perceives reality at a deeper or at a higher level. Meditation and concentration exercises similar to yoga too can open up new vistas of higher or deeper consciousness.

Now coming back to our enquiry, whether life has purpose and meaning at all, what we can say is that life should be considered first of all holistically, as having physical, mental, social, psychological and spiritual dimensions. Overburdening of consciousness through stress, strain, worries or existential conflicts and crisis can lead the mind to a blind alley, to a dead end with no light to go ahead or to a total darkness enveloping the mind. What we need to do is to provide ‘additional help’ to reach deeper and higher levels of consciousness.

The example of the student who came for counselling is to be imitated by all people who face this sort of problems. One can also just enter into silent reflection and meditation waiting upon new ‘intuition’ to enlighten the mind. By entering into a prayer hall, temple, church and spending time in meditation, awaiting divine help to enlighten our mind through new inspiration, new insight or intuition into the complex realities of life, we can certainly come out of blind alleys and dark zones. Note the difference between two persons who are in deep crisis - one puts an end to his life in order to liberate himself from the crisis, and the other enters into a temple to pray in silence in order to get enlightenment. The difference is in the means they choose to resolve the crisis. The former surrenders to cowardice and depression while the latter strengthens himself to proceed ahead in life.

The question then arises, what leads one to make a right choice? Here, we can definitely affirm the role of parents, elders and teachers. Human species has evolved through the ages and reached the present condition, all the way making right choices for survival. The contemporary human society which is an evolutionary product of millions of preceding years, is replete with definite values, norms and beliefs. All these are pre-given to a new born child. It means it is not born in a vacuum. It is born within the context of a family, which looks after the child not only physically but also psychologically, morally and spiritually. The family, school and religion are the institutions which accompany a child from infancy to see that it assimilates right values and develops proper behaviour. These institutions basically teach a child to make right use of freedom through right choices. From this, we can infer that the parents, teachers, family members and religious instructors are the primary agents of transmission of positive values, norms and beliefs of life from generation to generation. Concretely, it means that if a child grows without any purpose in life, the parents, teachers and religious instructors are to be blamed to a great extent. Shall we conclude then that the supreme obligation of all religions, educational institutions and families is to teach children not only to discern the meaning and purpose of life but also to instruct them to give meaning and purpose to life when they face emptiness and absurdity? If this is done, our children will certainly pass through our educational institutions with immense belief and confidence in themselves and in the divine.

By Dr Sr Judith Lewis UFS
Sr Dr Judy Lewis UFS, Sampoorna Counselling cell, St Ursula Convent, Bolar, Mangalore has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology and Counselling from St Thomas University, Manila, Philippines. She is part time visiting professor and counsellor at various Religious Institutions and at Little Rock Indian School, Chanthar, Brahmavar.  You can reach her through Email:  judylewis77@gmail.com; Contact No.
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Comment on this article

  • Lewis, Udupi

    Thu, Jan 09 2020

    God created us inorder to worship him✝️

  • Joilet Lewis, Udupi

    Wed, Jan 08 2020

    Purpose of life

    Perhaps now more than at any other time in mankind’s history, people are trying to find out what life is all about. Many ask themselves, ‘Why am I living? How can I find meaning in my life?’ Various circumstances prompt them to raise these questions.
    An individual’s life may be shattered by a personal tragedy. Some young people are moved to wonder about the meaning of life. They search for security, fulfillment, and a sense of belonging, only to despair at the widespread hypocrisy and corruption. Other individuals build their lives around a career, but they discover that power, prestige, and possessions fail to satisfy the inner yearning to find a reason for their existence.
    Whatever moves a person to inquire about the purpose of life, this question warrants a serious and satisfying answer. Once again, the Bible can be of great benefit. It identifies Almighty God Jehovah as a God of purpose, one who has sound reasons for everything he does. We ask, Would you construct a house without having a reason? Likely not, since building a house requires a huge investment of money and can take months or years. You build a house so that you or someone else can live in it. The same logic can be applied to Jehovah. He did not go to all the trouble of creating the earth and the living things upon it without having a reason, a purpose. What is his purpose for the earth?
    The prophecy of Isaiah identifies Jehovah as “the true God, the Former of the earth and the Maker of it.” Indeed, he is “the One who firmly established [the earth], who did not create it simply for nothing, who formed it even to be inhabited.” (Isaiah 45:18) Yes, ever since the earth was created, it has been Jehovah’s purpose to have it inhabited. Says Psalm 115:16: “As regards the heavens, to Jehovah the heavens belong, but the earth he has given to the sons of men.” Thus the Bible shows that Jehovah created the earth to be inhabited by obedient humans, who would take care it.

  • Anitha, Mangalore

    Tue, Jan 07 2020

    Purpose can guide life decisions, influence behavior, shape goals, offer a sense of direction, and create meaning.

  • Arun D'Souza, Kulshekar, Mangalore

    Mon, Jan 06 2020

    Very inspiring and very informative article, Congratulation

  • Thomas, Bangalore

    Mon, Jan 06 2020

    Good one Article. Congrats.

  • John Tauro, M'lore

    Sun, Jan 05 2020

    God created man to live an immortal life. If Adam and Eve had not disobeyed God, there would have been no death at all. Death came as a result of man’s sin of disobeying God. Yet God’s purpose for man has not changed. As per His plan, God sent his Son to sacrifice His life for the atonement of man’s sins so that whoever repents and believes Him may attain eternal life. God’s purpose for man is still the same, viz. to live an immortal life but according to His will. This is exactly what we recite in our daily prayer called “I Believe.” At the end we say, “I believe ……….in the communication of saints, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen.” Just as our Lord resurrected after death, all of us will have a resurrection after which there will be no death for those who live according to God’s Will. Finally despite all odds, problems and difficulties, hurdles and sufferings we face in our daily lives, our purpose should be in compliance with God’s Will and that is to attain an everlasting life.

  • Anthony H Crasta, Granville/Sydney

    Sat, Jan 04 2020

    Life is quite precious, it`s a one time opportunity given to an individual, and therefore, one should enjoy fully, and make best use of it till end. Nice article Sister!

  • saritha, UK./Bangalore

    Sat, Jan 04 2020

    Very informative article.

  • Sr.Jessy, Bangalore

    Sat, Jan 04 2020

    Very inspiring and interesting article.

  • Sr.Judy Lewis, Mangalore

    Sat, Jan 04 2020

    Dear Mr. Prakash, your comment on my article is interesting. Let me provide you with a short response (i) You are free to hold on to your opinion, but let me know how you convince yourself into living a meaningful life. Where do you place yourself in the ecosystem and why. This I ask because you say ‘human beings are made to think that they are superior’, which could be a false assumption according to you. If it is false, then human beings are not superior to other beings. Then how to explain the valid differences between human beings and other beings. What criterion within your ecosystem do you provide to differentiate human beings from other things.
    (ii) You make a strong affirmation : “we are simply pre-programmed living things trying to survive on our own terms”. First, “we are just living things”, then according to you there are living and non-living things! If both these are pre-programmed in your ecosystem, a-posteriori what is the criterion to distinguish them. What makes a particular thing living and another non-living a-posteriori?
    (iii) The purpose in life depends on this basic distinction and it is definitely pre-programmed. But the wonder of it is that we have the capacity to become aware of it and pursue it.

  • Sr. Judy Lewis, Mangalore

    Fri, Jan 03 2020

    Dear Mr. PRAKASH CANADA has commented on my article. I want write a response, which I have enclosed here.
    Dear Mr. Prakash, your comment on my article is interesting.  Let me provide you with a short response (i) You are free to hold on to your opinion, but let me know how you convince yourself into living a meaningful life. Where do you place yourself in the ecosystem and why. This I  ask because you say ‘human beings are made to think that they are superior’, which could be  a false assumption according to you. If it is false, then human beings  are not superior to other beings. Then how to explain the valid differences between human beings and other beings. What criterion within your ecosystem  do  you provide to differentiate human beings from others things. 
    (ii) You make a strong affirmation : we are simply pre-programmed living things trying to survive on our own terms.  First, “we are just living things’, then according to you there  are living and non-living things!  If both these are pre-programmed in your ecosystem,  a-posteriori what is the criterion to distinguish them.  What makes a particular thing living and another non-living a-posteriori?
    (iii) The purpose in life depends on this basic distinction and it is definitely pre-programmed. But the wonder of it is that we have the capacity to become aware of it and pursue it.
    Sr.Judy Lewis.


  • Derick, Kuwait.

    Fri, Jan 03 2020

    Congratulations sister. Purpose in life is always to find meaning in life in any given situations. So ultimately we need peace of mind. Let us have full confidence and respect of life.

  • Rony Nawal, Thottam

    Fri, Jan 03 2020

    Dear Dr. Sr . Judy,

    Very nice article. It gives an optimistic view on life. Well written.

  • Fr Richard Mascarenhas SJ, Puttur/Dharwad

    Fri, Jan 03 2020

    Congratulations dear Sr Judy for you have written a beautiful article based on your experience and expertise. The article is very apt and timely written. It is a great help for us (teachers, animators, parents and pastors) who deal with young to understand them and guide them to the RIGHT path when they come to us. It is a HOPE giving and ENLIGHTENING one. Once again Congratulations and ALL THE BEST in your ministry as a counselor.

  • Prakash, Canada

    Thu, Jan 02 2020

    Nice article which makes an attempt to see a purpose in life. However I don't think human life has any special purpose at all as its made out to be. We are simply pre programmed living things trying to survive on our own terms . The best is to understand it and then to appreciate it. However when young, vulnerable or weak some sort of extra support may be required, simply for the sake of compassion and survival.

    The biggest lie is we as human beings somehow made to think that we are superior than other living things and living till our natural life is a must. whereas we are simply a part of the ecosystem and even if there is a purpose for life no one is aware of it till today consciously. Only an adoptable life will survive and the weaker ones will perish. May be this is the tragedy of life but this is the natures way.

  • Fr Vincent D Souza Capuchin, Mogarnad

    Thu, Jan 02 2020

    Congratulations dear Sr Judy. Really a nice article. It has an optimistic view on life. Life is a precious gift from God. God loves us, shows his concerns towards us, dprotects us. We can show our gratefulness to God for the gift of life by living our life meaningfully. We need to make our life bright and beautiful whatever situations come on our way.

  • Veena, Mangalore/Isral

    Thu, Jan 02 2020

    very good enlightening article.

  • Ronney, Dubai/udupi

    Thu, Jan 02 2020

    Congratulation Sr. Judy. Thanks for the inspiring article.

  • Vincent, Bombay

    Thu, Jan 02 2020

    Very informative and enlightening article dear Sr Judy. we are happy to get help from you.

  • Reginald, Kuwait.

    Wed, Jan 01 2020

    Dear sister Judy congratulations for the beautiful article well written. God bless you.

  • Leena, Mangalore

    Wed, Jan 01 2020

    Very good one. God bless you.

  • Thomas, Kuwait.

    Tue, Dec 31 2019

    In every life, situation there is ups and downs but finding meaning or purpose in our life that is up to us. Let us find purpose in every situation.

  • Latha, Bangalore/Canada

    Tue, Dec 31 2019

    I am touched by the Article. Thanks.

  • Anitha, Mangalore

    Tue, Dec 31 2019

    Very inspiring article.

  • James Fernandes, Barkur/USA

    Mon, Dec 30 2019

    Live and Let Live.

  • Laila Crasta Dsouza, Thottam/Thane (Maharashtra)

    Mon, Dec 30 2019

    Dear Dr. Sr. Judith,

    Congratulations for penning down a beautiful article !!

    May God Bless you in all your future endeavours to help the society at large through your expertised field In Psychology and counselling.

  • Joa Dsouza, Mogarnad

    Mon, Dec 30 2019

    Life is meaningful so as worth living but problems and possessions do come on the way to distract and dissipate the very core life . This is not only for simple people who live the family life but very much for the religious too. In the family at least some one is there to support but in religious many times life becomes mechanic and rule oriented effect is lonely life, life becomes burden some and struggle inside the four walls of convent or Frairies. We need to be human and understanding each other as the Master and the Lord.

  • Shanthi, UK./Bangalore

    Mon, Dec 30 2019

    A very well Analysed & written article dear sis.

  • Glenn Vaz, Thottam

    Mon, Dec 30 2019

    Kudos Dr. Sr. Judy,
    A very well Analysed & written article. Keep up the Good work...

  • Dan M, Dubai / Mangalore

    Mon, Dec 30 2019

    Life = Live forever ??

    Teaching on the Body, Soul and Spirit

    In the morning while I (Valentina Papagna, Sydney) was praying, the angel appeared and asked, “Would you like to see three parts of you?”

    I said, “What do you mean three parts of me?”

    He said, “Come here! Stand next to me and I will show you.”

    With his right hand, pointing to the ground, the angel instructed me to look down. As I looked down, all of a sudden, I was astonished to see three of me lying down. I could see three identical images of myself, lying on the ground, side by side. I had never experienced this before.

    I said, “Oh my Lord! What does this mean?’

    “I will show you,” said the angel. “You see, the first one is your body. The second one is your soul. The third one is the Holy Spirit. Then you become one. This is how the Holy Trinity designed you. This is for all of you. It is the same for each person in the world.”

    He then said, “This is designed by the most Holy Trinity. Your body is the temple of the soul and of the Holy Spirit. Woe to those who abuse the soul and the spirit. They abuse God’s grace. When your life ceases on earth, then the body remains on earth, but the soul and spirit return to God. They belong to God.”

    We should look after our body, soul and spirit, and not abuse them. We should live a chaste life, and we must be grateful to the most Holy Trinity.

    The angel said, “Many people believe that after they die, there is nothing. However, there is a body, a soul and a spirit.”

    Sadly, it is true, many people believe that once a person dies, there is only the body, but there is also the soul and spirit which continues. That is why God wants us to be purified one hundred per cent, before coming back to Him.

    Thank you, holy angel for explaining this to me.

    Lord, have mercy. Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we thank you for giving us the gift of life and explaining this to us.

  • Diana, Udavara/udupi

    Mon, Dec 30 2019

    Congratulations dear sister Judy.It's a very good informative article

  • Jason, Udupi/ Thottam

    Mon, Dec 30 2019

    Very Relevant article. Congratulations.

  • John Fernandes, Mangalore

    Mon, Dec 30 2019

    Congratulations Dr Judy.
    Life always has a meaning provided one finds meaning in living. One has the freedom to accept or reject life. But the Creator has in mind a purpose for our life and therefore He wills that one must gradually attain the fullness of life. Let your thoughts help the readers to have a positive outlook towards life. Thanks for the inspiring article

  • Elvita, Konaje

    Mon, Dec 30 2019

    Relevant article of the time.
    Dear sr,
    I will be ever grateful to you for guiding me to take right choice on my own n live to the full.wishing you all the best. Keep helping many more people.

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