The Meaning of Life – Wynton Marsalis

atkins-bookshelf-quotations“On one level, life is the process of seeking out and enjoying experiences — from the transcendent to the tragic. Life has as cyclical pattern of movement and appreciation; even when you’re not doing anything, you’re probably in a situation you sought.

On another level, life is the experience of the self’s interaction with the world. The self can be broken down into three main elements and their corresponding activities: first, the heart (knowing compassion, receiving and giving love); second, the intellect (acquiring and digesting information); third, the senses (acting and being acted upon). It is the soul, however, that focuses and inspires all three. The soul gives us resilience — an essential quality since we constantly have to rebound from hardship. It also enables human beings to develop because it is the medium through which we empathize. All the big pushes in humanity against destructive and exploitative forces have been caused by the soul reacting to these powers…

The meaning of life can’t be understood without first looking at the self and its interaction with the world. In effect, this amounts to examining the inner workings of the soul of the universe.

Wynton Marsalis, world-renown jazz and classical trumpeter, composer, music educator, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music,  as quoted in More Reflections on the Meaning of Life edited by David Friend, Little Brown (1992)

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The Meaning of Life – Thomas Morris

atkins-bookshelf-quotations“We are here to attempt to give more to this life than we take from it, a task that, if undertaken properly, is impossible. The more we give, the more we get. But that’s the point.

We are here to discover, develop and cultivate, in loving stewardship of our world, our neighbors and ourselves. Each of us is intended to grow and flourish within the power of our talents on every dimension of worldly existence: the Intellectual, the Aesthetic and the Moral — the great I AM — in such a way as to find our place in the overarching realm of the Spiritual, the ultimate context of it all.

There is more to life than meets the eye. Much is required. But more is offered. We are participants in a grand enterprise, not called upon to consume with endless desire, but rather to care and create in such a way as to free the spirit of this vast creation to love and glorify its creator forever.

Why? Because it is good. And that’s good enough for me.”

Thomas Morris, former professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and founder of the Morris Institute for Human Values, as quoted in More Reflections on the Meaning of Life edited by David Friend, Little Brown (1992)

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The Meaning of Life – Norman Vincent Peale

atkins-bookshelf-quotations“We are here to be excited from youth to old age, to have an insatiable curiosity about the world. Aldous Huxley once said that to carry the spirit of the child into old age is the secret of genius. And I buy that. We are also here to genuinely, humbly and sincerely help others by practicing a friendly attitude. And every person is born for a purpose. Everyone has a potential, in essence, built into them. And if we are to live life to its fullest, we must realize that potential.”

Norman Vincent Peale, Protestant pastor, host of the radio show “The Art of Living,” and author of the best-selling The Power of Positive Thinking, as quoted in The Meaning of Life: Reflections in Words and Pictures on Why We Are Here, edited by David Friend, Little Brown (1991)

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The Meaning of Life – Mortimer Adler

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsThe question is not “Why are we here?’ but “How should we live our lives?” The answer is to be found in Aristotle’s Ethics. All of our technological advances have not changed that essentially difficult question. The Greeks of the fifth century B.C.  are our contemporaries; we are no wiser than they were. Remember Harry Truman’s response when asked why he was reading Plutarch’s Lives? Said the President: “To find out what’s going on in Washington.”

Mortimer Adler, educator, writer, philosopher, a member of the editorial board of Encyclopedia Britannica, and founder of the Great Books of the Western World program, as quoted in The Meaning of Life: Reflections in Words and Pictures on Why We Are Here, edited by David Friend, Little Brown (1991)

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The Meaning of Life – Peter Gay

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsI cannot resist in answering this unanswerable question with a memorable statement by William James. Posing the conundrum, “Is life worth living? he replied: “That depends on the liver.” This, I submit, is a profound pun. One’s sense of the worthwhileness of life — and, with that, its meaning owes much to one’s health, physical and mental…  And the meaning of life, James suggests further, is a matter for individual decision; all attempts at general statements (including this one) are at best irrelevant and at worst sheer nonsense. [For centuries] humans have frantically — or pathetically– tried to establish such universally applicable answers to questions about the meaning of life — and death. That effort is called religion, and while, no doubt, religious communities have supplied their votaries with a soothing or bracing sense of belonging, and meted out comfort in times of trouble, no adult can long rest content with scriptural or theological or pseudo-historical fairy tales. They are of the same order as other anodynes like drink, drugs, or seductive entertainment. Individuals must discover the meaning of life themselves. Those whose lives are most meaningful are those who don’t need to ask, “Why are we here?” Of course, a stiff drink once in a while is not to be despised.

Peter Gay, Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University and author of the definitive biography Freud: A Life for Our Time, as quoted in The Meaning of Life: Reflections in Words and Pictures on Why We Are Here, edited by David Friend, Little Brown (1991)