In his recent blog post, my friend and self-labeled Scientist and Atheist commented in an open letter to me about my blog post, “The Goal of Life.” I would invite you to read my post and his response before reading below.
Keen observation on the distinction of the “meaning” and “goal” of life. Short answer: yes. I am conflating them purposefully because I believe that God is the meaning and goal of life. Of course, I would not expect you to agree with this assertion and the following might be even more obtuse to you.
To know God is insufficient. I purposefully wrote know, love, and serve. Because you cannot love a person without first knowing that person. And you cannot serve that person out of love without first loving, and knowing, that person. I am sure that you do acts of service for your wife out of love, and I am sure that you knew her before falling in love with her?
I actually wrote my second blog post with you in mind. It covers the difference, in my view, of objective and subjective truths. Perhaps it might be worth having a conversation on that post at some point. I’d enjoy that.
I think meaning and purpose are very connected. You do not have to have sentience in order to be well ordered towards some end. Everything in the material universe serves a purpose because it fits into the whole. If it does not, then it only introduces chaos rather than order. When things are well-ordered, they are ordered to their telos, or metaphysical end.
This precisely speaks to the goals of relationship with Christ and aim of Heaven. My identification of the goals has no bearing on the goals themselves, as they are objective. However, my identification of the goals certainly impacts my attempts to fulfill them. However, the goal, meaning, and purpose of my life is all ordered to God and draws from the first movement of God. Therefore, it is all about God and the only thing subjective is my choice to accept this reality or reject it. I accept it, namely I accept that the goal of life is to know, love, and serve God.
Supposing an omniscient God, of course motivation would be known to such a Deity. Supposing omnipotence, this Deity could move within me and my life to guide me to my natural end or telos. Supposing omnibenevolence, this Deity would want me to do so for my own good.
As to altruism, I think that doing good without any notion of personal gain has tremendous psychological and physiological benefits. Doing good is good for you. Also, in Catholicism (contrary to popular opinion), you cannot earn your way to Heaven. Christ, in the Gospel’s, says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” So, if I do any good, it is like Paul says, “Holiness is Christ in me.” God is not a vending machine and I am unworthy of any reward on my own merits.
As to the idea of inheritance from a wealthy relative, I think this misses the main point. That is, love. The goal is not Heaven as a reward. The goal is Heaven as eternal beatitude in beholding God as He is and living in perfection with Him, being in communion with Him. The goal is relationship perfectly achieved. The meaning is found in this very relationship. And the purpose of everything is ordered to this right relationship. Only in this view, can the meaning, goal, and purpose of life be squared as more or less synonymous.
As to your assessment:
“What’s my meaning of life? To enjoy it while leaving it better off for those who enjoy it after me.”
I could not agree more. Part of my relationship with God, a big part of it, is my relationship with all of humanity and our common home, the world. I wrote a primer article on Catholic Social Teaching that summarizes that view. Leaving the world better than we found it for the next generations is very close to my heart. Human progress should continue to serve the common good.
Also… that burger looks utterly phenomenal! Life is meant to be enjoyed.