Quotes on The Meaning of Life

"Aphorisms are literature’s hand luggage. Light and compact, they fit easily into the overhead compartment of your brain and contain everything you need to get through a rough day at the office or a dark night of the soul."A loveletter to aphorisms, in the IHT

I love quotes and proverbs. (But maybe that’s a sign I’m an alpha male CEO.) Currently my favorite quotes are scattered among my many blog posts, del.icio.us "quotes" tag, and an offline document. I need to consolidate. In the meantime, here’s another set of quotes on the meaning of life from the How to Live blog:

"It is true that the unexamined life is not worth living, but it is equally true that the overexamined life is also not worth living."- John P. Avlon

"The sunrise and sunsets in life are sublime, and every night we see that it is darkest just before the dawn, but on a deeper level we know that the sun never actually goes down – it’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning around. Nature is nudging us, offering fresh evidence for hope and faith, love, and persistence against all appearances." – John P. Avlon

"Choose the meaning of life from one of the four listed below:
1. Life has no intrinsic meaning beyond what we attribute to it. Our task is to infuse our lives with whatever meaning will ensure we stay with it to the end.
2. The meaning of life is way beyond our grasp. Naturally, we do the best to grasp it, but it essentially ungraspable. Our life is a continual process of seeking that meaning, and living in the heart of that seeking. When we stop seeking we have either given up on it or decided that we have it figured out. In either case we are wrong, and life begins to die from there.
3. Life means love. Our lives are treasure hunts for love. When you find the treasure, you find yourself; you are love, you are life, you live.
4. Life is an experiment. Can we bear to live without meaning? If we can live without meaning, we will be destroyed. If we cannot live without meaning, we will destroy ourselves. If we find meaning, we will fight to live. If enough people find enough meaning, humankind will live. If a critical mass does not find meaning soon enough, the experiment will be complete, and humankind will be gone." – Wend Stewart

"No one ever finds the meaning of life – they simply become suitably satisfied by love, children, or career, and these become the outcomes of the quest and human fulfillment of purpose… If you are ever consistently hounded by longings to uncover the meaning of life, it’s you telling yourself that something is missing in your existence. Stop reading books about the subject – that’s the equivalent of reading romance books when you’re lonely. Get out and open yourself up to new experiences. You’re being set up for an internal battle with your own desire for security." – Peter Davison

"Give more than you take. Do your best to leave every situation better than you found it. Seek beauty in all its forms. Chase dreams. Watch sunsets. Endeavor to use more than 10 percent of your brain. Don’t stifle your deep-from-the-gut, cleansing laughter. Take a moment to ponder the enormity of the universe, then admit to yourself that you can’t possibly be the center. Breathe deeply. Swim into the dark water. Let yourself cry when your body tells you to. Love more. Delight in silliness. Don’t be bitter. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive." – Katy Rhodes

"Enjoy your life to the fullest, do what you truly love to do, and be with those you love as much as possible." – David Seaman

12 comments on “Quotes on The Meaning of Life
  • Thanks for the quotations. I have a couple of quotation widgets on my igoogle page, which is handy because I’m posting a quotation a day in the high school library where I work (as well as a cartoon a day–usually from The New Yorker or Savage Chickens–and a poem of the day–usually from Poetry 180 or the Writer’s Almanac). The more quotations the better.

  • Let me join in thanking you for the post. Although I’ve interviewed hundreds of folks for their “meaning” answers, I never tire of reading new ones every day.

    As simply my way of giving back, I am offering you (and all who read this) a gift copy of my book, “No Experts Needed: The Meaning of Life According to You!” No strings attached. Just e-mail your request: http://www.noexpertsneeded.com

    To the library worker above, please feel free to use the quotes from my book…just affix the notice: Copyright 2007 Louise Lewis and the name of my book.

    take care,
    Louise Lewis, Author
    No Experts Needed: The Meaning of Life According to You!

  • We’ve all heard some of these quotes more or less once in our life already. However, my favorite has to be the one where Life is love. It’s not a totally unique approach but it seems to be the most carefree and the most positive for me. I find that although people always say to live life in the fullest, not a lot of them can really live up to such a definition. But the fact that they or we try anyway is already living life to its fullest potential, me thinks.

  • ha, made me ask what is the meaning of meaning?

    it is a weakness of mind, a mind not in touch with the root of consciousness, to feel a need to generate meaning, so silly, so human, people kill each other over meaning…

  • Ben:

    I too am in love with aphorisms. Zen Buddhism, which I studied in depth when I was your age and continue to practice, uses a very highly developed system of aphorisms known as koans to bring the student to moments of profound insight. Most of these aphorisms, however, are not comprehensible via the rational mind, which is their point.

    That said, there is one Buddhist aphorism which I have found extremely provocative and helpful. Just plant it as a seed in your mind and see what grows over the years.

    When a Tibetan Buddhist elder was asked to express the whole of his life’s teaching in a single phrase, he replied: “Death comes without warning.”


  • Thanks for sharing these, Ben. Have you read “Letters to a Young Poet” by Rainer Maria Rilke? I think you’d enjoy them – someone put them all online here – http://www.sfgoth.com/~immanis/rilke/letter1.html

    One of my favorite lines from Letter 4 says:

    You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

  • I recently finished reading Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” He also talks about love (as a way to find meaning in one’s life). Writes Frankl:

    “The truth – that love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire…The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment.”

  • If the only meaning of life is to keep seeking, then what`s the point in Living then? To keep seeking until you die? One might as well die now then, if thats the case.

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