What is life really all about? So many people today feel that their lives have little or no ultimate purpose. The world seems hard and cruel. Life seems terribly cheap.
What is the answer for the student who said to me the other day, ‘Life is so completely empty?’ He had just been involved in a 24-hour demonstration. Another complained that the individual counts for nothing in this age of automation. ‘small wonder’. he said, ‘that my generation is disillusioned; small wonder that so many of us seek to opt out altogether’. This feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness is of course, by no means limited to students and young people.
What is the answer for the highly successful director of a large building firm, who asked me, ‘What is the meaning of it all?’ He had a lovely wife, three lovely children, position and security. Yet, although now the story is very different indeed, he did not then know where he was going in life.
What is the answer for the mother, happily married and with several children, who nevertheless wrote to me saying that she was going through life like a blind person? She could not see any real purpose.
What is the answer for the lonely and aged, for those who suffer, and for those who are dying?
What is the answer for the growing number troubled by worries and anxieties? The head of a large and famous mental hospital made this significant remark to me last year, ‘Most of my patients come to me because they do not know where they are going’.
Wherever you look, the emptiness of life is both felt and recognized by so many people. Many contemporary writers, philosophers, and artists seem almost haunted by the problem of meaningless existence. Sartre is quoted as saying, ‘Man is absurd, but he must grimly act as if he were not’. The philosopher Colin Wilson writes, ‘It is meaningless that we live, and it is meaningless that we die’.