My interviewee, Karen, grew up in the Philippines and has recently just migrated to the United States. She is a 24-year old ESL teacher who admits to pondering over the meaning of life yearly when her birthday is nearing. She was then enthusiastic to sit down with me to answer my questions about the meaning of life.
For Karen, life does have an ultimate purpose or significance. She cites as proof of this belief the fact that bookstores and libraries currently carry a lot of books that help people find the meaning to their lives.
“There has got to be a purpose to our lives. Will authors of self-help and 'find a purpose in life' books be raking in a lot of money if people do not think that their life amounts to something? And that's another thing, actually. People are always in search for a purpose in their lives. This clamor for life to actually mean something is, I think, the ultimate proof that people come packaged with significance in life,” Karen says
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Being Catholic, Karen admits to always thinking that her life is meant to have purpose. She explains, “I have always attended Catholic schools where “religion”, specifically Catholic faith, is a constant in our list of subjects. Since pre-school days, my teachers would always emphasize the fact that I am meant to serve God. They always tell me, my classmates, that we should live our lives according to God’s will.”
Asked what God’s will is, she answers, “Exactly what it is, my teachers haven’t actually defined. They did tell me, though, that I need to always be good. I need to be kind to my fellow men. That everything I do should be in accordance to God’s law, which is of course comprised of what the Bible says, what the commandment says, etc. Basically, life’s purpose is to be good and do good so that I will be welcomed in heaven. And in way, I still believe that is the purpose in life. I cannot accept that I’ve been put here on Earth for nothing. Something better must be waiting for me at the end of the line.”
Karen confesses that even though she’s been reared in the Catholic upbringing, there was a time when she felt like serving God was not really her purpose in life. She says that although she believed in the existence of a higher being, she defied the fact that all the laws and commandments she’s been following are all dictated by human beings like her. “Who can say that what the Catholic Church outlined is really the ultimate truth? And that what they’re teaching is not made to serve their own purpose?
And that what they want is also what God wants? I got to think this way when I started taking Philosophy classes in the University. My teachers imparted in me the habit of not taking everything in stride, of questioning everything that is being handed out to me. I also had a class, advertising I think, where the teacher had a great influence on me. He taught us about self-actualization. He always insisted on us trying to make something for ourselves just because we want to be something and not because somebody told us to do. That was the point when I got to question what the Church told me: that everything I do is for His glory,” she quips.
But a few years after her University life, Karen admits that she started to soul-search and she realized that ever since she put God out of her life, her life started to feel meaningless. She explains, “There was this hollow part of me that neither friends nor a high-paying and glamorous job just cannot fulfill. I started to have this feeling that everything I’m doing is for no special reason. When I started to pray and go to Church again, I suddenly felt whole. That’s when I realized what was missing.”
Karen’s opinion regarding the meaning of life was highly-influenced by her faith. Though she came to a point when she asked about the things she has always believed in, she still made a turnaround and accepted what her faith has outlined for her.
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