Why does life matter? Such a question may bug the soul, but perhaps careful reflection will give us peace.
First, a truly honest person must begin by clarifying in the mind what the different words in “why does life matter” actually mean.
Preceding the question with “why” implies that life does matter, so if it actually does is something we must address to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion that will give us peace.
Now, what is meant by “life”? There are multiple definitions that are reasonable, from cellular life, to humanity’s greater existence, to the personal individual. These concepts must be addressed on a fundamental level if we want to settle this in the soul, in the gut. By deeply resolving the issue perhaps we will be able to live a more fun and interesting life.
Let’s look at the definition of “life”. It’s perhaps reasonable to assume we live in a physical world. If this is the case, perhaps we can also assume that physics is described by mathematics, and perhaps is even equivalent to mathematics.
If we look at life as mathematical patterns, what’s going on? Well, it’s patterns that are replicating, creating copies of themselves. And they’re not just replicating; they’re actually changing over time. From this view, cells and macro-organisms, like humans, are life, as are viruses and even certain genetic computer programs. A biologist may take some issue with this definition of life, but perhaps looking at life on this most fundamental, general level will help us in deciding if life does, indeed, matter.
Why this pattern-evolution definition of life? Perhaps because by looking at life as mathematical patterns in a physical world we can reasonably assume that there is a sort of “goal” or “tendency” to life. Not only that, but mathematics is a field that is connected to itself on a much deeper level than the common view that there are “individual biological persons”.
The common view supposes that there are humans walking around that are separate from each other, while the mathematical view says we’re all connected on a deep level. If we are all truly connected, then if one replicating pattern matters, so do all the others that are connected to it.
How would we know if a pattern actually matters? Here it’s important to consider the situation of objective truth–Truth with a capital-T. It seems like there are a few approaches to this issue, and perhaps they all lead to a positive conclusion in our quest for inner peace.
We might presume there is objective truth, or we might presume there is only subjective truth. There is a third option, however, which transcends both: there is one objective truth, and that truth is that ultimately everything is subjective.
This idea is basically Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am”, though truly this idea of nonduality (where mind and body are one) is much better said as “awareness exists”, because it does not bring up the murky issue of what the ego, the self, the “I”, actually is. Awareness must exist, for to question whether awareness exists requires awareness.
Why does accepting that awareness must exist imply that everything must be subjective? There is a sensory reason and a mathematical reason.
The sensory reason is fairly intuitive: our senses are fallible. Sometimes we see things in the corner of our eye, that, when glancing back, are just tricks of the light. If we can be tricked by such small things, surely experiences like if you see the color blue same the way as others, or even if that chair ten feet away is really there, must be regarded with a healthy dose of skepticism. Because the senses are error-prone, we each have to choose what we believe really exists, and because you, the subject, are choosing, everything must be subjective.
At this point you might be thinking that mathematics holds objective truth, but actually it’s been shown that mathematics rests upon unprovable assumptions (also known as “axioms”). These assumptions can build up enormously useful ideas, but the assumptions must still be chosen. Again, because you, the subject, are choosing, everything must be subjective.
It seems we’ve arrived at a secure, helpful place: “awareness exists” is the only objective truth, and all other ideas are subjective and chosen.
Why is this helpful? It’s because we’re free to choose to assign meaning to life, because we recognize the idea of life not mattering is simply another opinion, and not an objective Truth. If an opinion doesn’t bring us joy and make life more fun and interesting, then we should abandon that opinion.
Why should we choose that life matters? There is a great evolutionary reason, which is that it makes life more fun and interesting. Choosing that life does not matter can reduce the amount of joyful activities you engage in.
The evolutionary reason for experiences feeling fun and interesting comes about because the ancient humans on the African plains needed to want to continue life. If they didn’t feel like life mattered, they wouldn’t try as hard to find food and have babies. Over time, the people that cared about life had more kids, which eventually led to us.
Even if having this feeling is “arbitrary”, it doesn’t matter. Defining joyful or fun or interesting experiences as “arbitrary” simply because they aren’t objective Truth misses the point. Choosing that life doesn’t matter is just an opinion, and it’s no more valid than choosing that life does matter. Why accept something into your life if it’s just a useless negative opinion? That’s not a helpful behavior.
Why does life matter? Life matters because you choose that life matters. Life is more fun and interesting when you choose that life matters.
Choose that life matters, dear friend.