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Author Topic: What is a valuable use of your life?
skeptical scientist
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Which of the following people have achieved something truly valuable in their lives?

1) Someone who wins a Nobel prize in science.
2) Someone who becomes president or prime minister of a major democratic nation.
3) Someone who gives their life in the service of god.
4) Someone who makes a great deal of money.
4a) ...and donates it to valuable causes.
5) Someone who has a strong and lasting relationship with someone they love.
5a) Someone who has a strong and lasting homosexual relationship with someone they love.

I'll post my answers after some other people have had a chance to make up their own minds. Please explain why you give the answers you give!

I think these are interesting questions. I already posted them to another forum, but I think that some of the people here will have a very different perspective. Also, this seemed like an appropriate thing to discuss on this forum, as OSC has certainly touched on some of these issues in his fiction. I'm thinking especially of the Ribeira family, and the different life paths chosen by Lauro (Olhado), Estevao (Quim) and the rest of their family, but I imagine similar issues have been touched upon elsewhere (perhaps in Women of Genesis? which I haven't read).

(In case you are wondering, no this isn't for a research project or anything. It's just something I was thinking about while walking home today, and listening to Speaker for the Dead on my iPod.)

[ April 04, 2007, 07:37 PM: Message edited by: skeptical scientist ]

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brojack17
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I say number five (for me). Having grown up in a lower-middle class family, money was never very important. We always had enough. We always took a family vacation and Christmas was always special. My favorite memories from my childhood are at the softball field. My parents coached, my sisters played, and I was the bat boy.

I am coaching my ten year old in softball now. I can see why my parents did it. It is so much fun.

I can think of another topic, maybe a 3a. Someone who gives their life for others (soldiers, firemen, police, etc.)

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Tara
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Narrow set of choices there. Are you talking about specific people?

I would say someone who loves other people and lives their life trying to help them.

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skeptical scientist
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By the way, I didn't mean you had to choose only one. Several of these might qualify, to you, as something truly valuable, and you're encouraged to say why all of the ones which seem valuable do, and why the ones which don't, don't.

There are certainly many ways to do something valuable with your life; I merely mentioned these few to get discussion started, and because they're what I thought of.

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The Pixiest
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4, 5 and 5a.

1. Simply winning a nobel prize doesn't mean anything. Their work would have to lead somewhere.

2. Feh.

3. Depends on what their god is having them do. Feeding the poor is (usually) a good thing. Blowing people up isn't.

4. Usually (but not always) someone who makes a vast sum of money earned it by providing an essential good or service.

4a. Depends on to whom they're giving their money and what that person ends up doing with it. Often times, charity hurts its recipient more than it helps.

5 and 5a. Probably the most fulfilling and important thing in the world.

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Icarus
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quote:
What is a valuable use of your life?
Depends. How many virgins do I get in the afterlife?
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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Originally posted by Icarus:
quote:
What is a valuable use of your life?
Depends. How many virgins do I get in the afterlife?
Depends. How long do you want them to stay virgins?
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kojabu
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Arguments could definately be made for all of those, depending on where your interests lie and how you lead your life.

For me, I think that 5&5a are the most valuable things that can be attained in life.

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Eaquae Legit
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5.

I don't include 5a, simply because I don't think 5 and 5a are mutually exclusive, and I see no reason to single out one type of meaningful interpersonal relationship for special significance.

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Icarus
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
quote:
Originally posted by Icarus:
quote:
What is a valuable use of your life?
Depends. How many virgins do I get in the afterlife?
Depends. How long do you want them to stay virgins?
They don't return to their virginal state each night? Bah, what's with this defective afterlife?
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MightyCow
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There are no answers. Do what you like, and don't mess up anyone else's chances.
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Reshpeckobiggle
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Pretty subjective question. Pretty limited list. What's the point?
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Tstorm
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quote:

quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:

quote:
Originally posted by Icarus:

quote:
What is a valuable use of your life?

Depends. How many virgins do I get in the afterlife?
Depends. How long do you want them to stay virgins?
They don't return to their virginal state each night? Bah, what's with this defective afterlife?
Sure they do, it's in West Virgina. [Wink]
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skeptical scientist
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Of the things I originally put down, I would say 1, 5, and 5a, but not any of the others. As for the objection Pixiest had to 1, "Simply winning a nobel prize doesn't mean anything. Their work would have to lead somewhere," I would agree that simply winning the Nobel prize isn't in and of itself valuable, but in order to win a Nobel, your research itself would have to be important and interesting enough to be a valuable accomplishment itself. So a person who wins a Nobel has achieved something truly valuable in life - the Nobel itself is not that achievement, but is merely a symbol of it.

The reason I distinguished 5 and 5a is because there are many people who think that homosexual relationships are not on equal footing with heterosexual relationships, even though I regard them as equally valuable.

As for 2, I think that it can help one achieve many valuable things, but is not, in and of itself, a valuable accomplishment, and there are people who are elected and then do nothing of value, or even do great evil (I think I'll pick Andrew Jackson as my example here, since whatever disagreements there may be over politics, most of us would agree that genocide is a bad thing.)

For 3, well suffice it to say that I'm an atheist, so I don't think it's possible to give ones life in the "service of god". The closest people can come is to give their life in what they believe is the service of god, and while undoubtedly good could come of such an act, recent history suggests that martyrs are vastly more likely to cause enormous suffering than they are to do anything worthwhile.

For 4, I don't think anything really needs to be said. Money itself does not make a life valuable, and charitable contributions don't redeem a valueless life.

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skeptical scientist
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quote:
Originally posted by Reshpeckobiggle:
Pretty subjective question. Pretty limited list. What's the point?

Yes it's a subjective question, and that's the whole point. I already know my answers, but I was curious about others. And yes it's a limited list. Should I have tried to list all possible things that one could do with ones life which someone might think is valuable? The point is that this is a question that some people might enjoy discussing. If you don't, then don't.
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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
They don't return to their virginal state each night? Bah, what's with this defective afterlife?
*hands Icky a dictionary*
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katharina
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1) Someone who wins a Nobel prize in science.Could be. Depends on what it was for and what could be done or understood as a result of it.
2) Someone who becomes president or prime minister of a major democratic nation. Could be. Depends on what they did with the power they had when they had it.
3) Someone who gives their life in the service of god. Could be. Depends on whether or not the service was something God asked of them and on what they did as service.
4) Someone who makes a great deal of money. You know, could be. Depends on how they made their money and what they did to help others along the way. I think that creating jobs and enabling other people to support their lives and families is a good thing. It can be done badly, of course, but it can also be done well.
4a) ...and donates it to valuable causes. Could be. Depends on if they were valuable and effective causes.
5) Someone who has a strong and lasting relationship with someone they love. Yes.

However, ALL of the above have some value of some sort. It is nice to think that earthly success and money don't matter at all, but while we may say it, people generally don't live that. Some things matter more than others, but none of the above are really worthless. If the answer is whether or not a life is a success, it depends on the whole of the life, not just any one given accomplishment.

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Lyrhawn
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Personally I value 5 the highest, but I'd add to that, raise a child successfully, or maybe just tie that all into "Have a loving family."

If I did everything on that list, I'd be the most proud of five. If I could only pick one thing on that list to do for myself, I'd pick five.

I've always loved the snippet from I think Children of the Mind where Andrew is talking to Olhado about being the only one of Novinha's children to not pursue science, and Andrew says he's a full time father who works as a brick maker to support his real job. Olhado's choice of profession is much what I see myself wanting when I'm old enough to have it. And I think it's the most valuable, long lasting thing I could do with my life.

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Eaquae Legit
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quote:
Originally posted by skeptical scientist:
The reason I distinguished 5 and 5a is because there are many people who think that homosexual relationships are not on equal footing with heterosexual relationships, even though I regard them as equally valuable.

My problem now, then, is that I see you limiting 5 to romantic relationships only.
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Reshpeckobiggle
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quote:
Originally posted by skeptical scientist:
quote:
Originally posted by Reshpeckobiggle:
Pretty subjective question. Pretty limited list. What's the point?

Yes it's a subjective question, and that's the whole point. I already know my answers, but I was curious about others. And yes it's a limited list. Should I have tried to list all possible things that one could do with ones life which someone might think is valuable? The point is that this is a question that some people might enjoy discussing. If you don't, then don't.
Okay, I get it.

Here's a question. You don't believe in God, and so you don't think that a life in service to God is valuable. But what if you're wrong and God does exist? And then what if it's true the only value in life really is service to Him? I know you're just expressing your opinion. I'm just wondering; what if you're wrong?

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GaalDornick
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quote:
Originally posted by MightyCow:
There are no answers. Do what you like, and don't mess up anyone else's chances.

I like this alot.
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skeptical scientist
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quote:
Originally posted by Eaquae Legit:
My problem now, then, is that I see you limiting 5 to romantic relationships only.

I do admit that's what I principally had in mind, but I didn't mean to restrict it to that. But I can certainly see people as saying that 5 is valuable except in the case of 5a, which is a "sin in the eyes of god" punishable by death and permanent damnation. I distinguished them partly because there are a fair amount of Mormons on this board, who regard a strong and healthy family life as one of the most important parts of life, but homosexuality as a sin.

quote:
Originally posted by Reshpeckobiggle:
Here's a question. You don't believe in God, and so you don't think that a life in service to God is valuable. But what if you're wrong and God does exist? And then what if it's true the only value in life really is service to Him? I know you're just expressing your opinion. I'm just wondering; what if you're wrong?

I not only don't believe in god, I actively believe in his nonexistence, so I really don't spend a lot of time worrying that I'm wrong. In fact, I worry about this quite a bit less than I worry that I seem to be running out of socks without holes; it's not exactly high on my list of priorities. Do you spend a lot of time, or in fact any time at all, worrying that Allah is going to condemn you to some extremely unpleasant fate because you don't happen to be a Muslim? (If you are Muslim, feel free to substitute some other deity who is said to be equally vindictive towards nonbelievers; there are several to choose from.) What if you're wrong?
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Tara
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Not God again...
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skeptical scientist
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Sorry Tara, I intended this thread to be more about valuable life goals, but of course when people discuss whats valuable in life, religion tends to take part in the conversation, but there are also things that people of every religion can agree are valuable. (As expected, #5 on my list is just such a source of agreement, but religion tends to be a source of disagreement in the case of 5a.) Resh asked me a question, and I answered; I'm happy to leave it at that.
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Teshi
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Can I be the first to say that I think that most, if not all, of these 'options' I see as being truly valuable. I think there are any number of way to have a valuable life and to achieve 'success', far more than can be listed.

I believe that a good and meaningful life filled with "truly valuable achievements" touches on a variety of areas and- whether the life is a prominent or obscure one- works for good in a thousand or one different ways.

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MightyCow
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I think that putting too much effort into living a "valuable" life can easily take away from the pleasure of just living.

Having goals is well and good, but attempting to arbitrarily decide that your life will have more or less worth if you do or do not accomplish specific things seems like a recipe for disappointment in the long term.

I think that my life has an immeasurable amount of value already, because it's the only one I get. Every second of it is the most valuable thing I'll ever have.

Anything that happens or doesn't is just details.

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AltŠriŽl of Dorthonion
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quote:
Originally posted by Icarus:
quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
quote:
Originally posted by Icarus:
quote:
What is a valuable use of your life?
Depends. How many virgins do I get in the afterlife?
Depends. How long do you want them to stay virgins?
They don't return to their virginal state each night? Bah, what's with this defective afterlife?
You ditch them and get some NEW virgins. Ah-duh!

With the demands coming in, I'm sure the heavens have a steady supply.

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The Pixiest
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You get all the virgins you want, but they all look like this http://tinyurl.com/qsuaj
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The Pixiest
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quote:

As for the objection Pixiest had to 1, "Simply winning a nobel prize doesn't mean anything. Their work would have to lead somewhere," I would agree that simply winning the Nobel prize isn't in and of itself valuable, but in order to win a Nobel, your research itself would have to be important and interesting enough to be a valuable accomplishment itself. So a person who wins a Nobel has achieved something truly valuable in life - the Nobel itself is not that achievement, but is merely a symbol of it.

I realize you're talking about a Nobel Prize in Science rather than the Peace Prize... but when Yasser Arafat won, the Nobel committee lost all credibility with me.
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AltŠriŽl of Dorthonion
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quote:
Originally posted by The Pixiest:
You get all the virgins you want, but they all look like this http://tinyurl.com/qsuaj

That's pretty sexy. <3
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Amanecer
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quote:
Can I be the first to say that I think that most, if not all, of these 'options' I see as being truly valuable. I think there are any number of way to have a valuable life and to achieve 'success', far more than can be listed.

I believe that a good and meaningful life filled with "truly valuable achievements" touches on a variety of areas and- whether the life is a prominent or obscure one- works for good in a thousand or one different ways.

[Smile]
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Feer
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I dont see why 5 and 5a have to be separated. some one you love is someone you love.
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Bokonon
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Soylent Green! [Wink]

-Bok

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The Pixiest
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Feer: SS addressed this. Some people apply lesser or even negative value to homosexual romantic love.
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Feer
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Oh... thanks
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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by The Pixiest:
I realize you're talking about a Nobel Prize in Science rather than the Peace Prize... but when Yasser Arafat won, the Nobel committee lost all credibility with me.

The Peace Prize is handed out by a subcommitte of the Norwegian Storting, and they are politicians and sometimes inclined to make a political gesture for home consumption. The various science prizes, however, are handed out by the Swedish Royal Academy, and they are scientists and have no need to consider politics.
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Belle
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I don't see parenting on that list. I consider that my life is valuable and worthwhile if I have raised my children to be productive members of society, who themselves will contribute worthwhile things to the world. Productive parenting is a hard, sometimes thankless job but it is also one where you can make a tremendous difference in the world.
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Farmgirl
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I think parenting falls under #5
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Tara
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quote:
Originally posted by MightyCow:
I think that putting too much effort into living a "valuable" life can easily take away from the pleasure of just living.

Having goals is well and good, but attempting to arbitrarily decide that your life will have more or less worth if you do or do not accomplish specific things seems like a recipe for disappointment in the long term.

I think that my life has an immeasurable amount of value already, because it's the only one I get. Every second of it is the most valuable thing I'll ever have.

Anything that happens or doesn't is just details.

Yeah, this is true, but I think one of the reasons this thread was started was because, for a lot of people, they need to feel like their life matters in some way, or else they're not happy.

I know this is true for me. I have plenty of people and things around me to make me happy, and I take pleasure in a lot of things, but sometimes I feel unworthy of happiness if I think that I haven't spent enough of my life helping others. For me, helping others is a way of feeling like I deserve to be here. The feeling I get after I spend time making someone else's life better is a kind of peace that I get from nothing else in the world.

I can't get true pleasure from "just living" because I know that there are plenty of people in the world for whom "just living" is not a good thing.

Sometimes I look at people (like some of my friends) who have recieved awards for their community service, and I feel like a totally horrible person for not doing that myself.

But I think the answer to that, and maybe to this thread in general, is that every person has their own way, big or little, in which they can help the world, and there are plenty of ways that each person can live their lives so they don't hurt other people too much.

You just have to find your own way, and then you can be happy. Don't worry about taking a vote from the rest of the community, just find your own thing.

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KarlEd
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quote:
Originally posted by The Pixiest:
Feer: SS addressed this. Some people apply lesser or even negative value to homosexual romantic love.

I understand this is his reasoning. However, I think it behooves those of us who do not harbor such negativity and self-superiority to refrain from making concessions to it.

In other words, if someone really feels that homosexual relationships are inferior and should be singled out and addressed separately in such questions, it should be left to them to create their own schisms. Why legitimize an opinion you do not hold yourself by doing their work for them?

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Samprimary
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6) achieved immortality through wisdom, now walks the planes
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Earendil18
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Achieved something valuable...to who?
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The Pixiest
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Good point, Karl. Of course you're right.
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rollainm
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quote:
Originally posted by Tara:
quote:
Originally posted by MightyCow:
I think that putting too much effort into living a "valuable" life can easily take away from the pleasure of just living.

Having goals is well and good, but attempting to arbitrarily decide that your life will have more or less worth if you do or do not accomplish specific things seems like a recipe for disappointment in the long term.

I think that my life has an immeasurable amount of value already, because it's the only one I get. Every second of it is the most valuable thing I'll ever have.

Anything that happens or doesn't is just details.

Yeah, this is true, but I think one of the reasons this thread was started was because, for a lot of people, they need to feel like their life matters in some way, or else they're not happy.

I know this is true for me. I have plenty of people and things around me to make me happy, and I take pleasure in a lot of things, but sometimes I feel unworthy of happiness if I think that I haven't spent enough of my life helping others. For me, helping others is a way of feeling like I deserve to be here. The feeling I get after I spend time making someone else's life better is a kind of peace that I get from nothing else in the world.

I can't get true pleasure from "just living" because I know that there are plenty of people in the world for whom "just living" is not a good thing.

Sometimes I look at people (like some of my friends) who have recieved awards for their community service, and I feel like a totally horrible person for not doing that myself.

But I think the answer to that, and maybe to this thread in general, is that every person has their own way, big or little, in which they can help the world, and there are plenty of ways that each person can live their lives so they don't hurt other people too much.

You just have to find your own way, and then you can be happy. Don't worry about taking a vote from the rest of the community, just find your own thing.

That's beautiful. Really. You didn't say anything new or profound, and yet, your words touched me.

You're both right, of course. Purpose and value are subjective concepts right down to the core. As for me, I'm in a constant struggle with this subject, and I doubt it will ever end. This is one area where I'm actually quite envious of most religious folk. As an atheist, I don't have access to such pre-ordained goals on which theists can so confidently rest. All of the achievements/goals mentioned in this thread are perfectly legitimate in their own ways, but what do such things ultimately bring? What makes them valuable? For the confident theist, the answer is simple. The atheist, on the other hand, is limited to such vague and mundane responses as "the prosperity of the human race." Donít get me wrong. Iím not trivializing this view. I just think it creates more questions than it answers. Itís not finite. Itís not satisfying.

My simple answer to the original question is #5 (romantically specific). There is nothing in this world more deeply gratifying or meaningful than the compassion, trust, and humility that exists between two people in love.

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Samprimary
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There should also be

5c) Someone who has a strong and lasting bisexual relationship with two people they love.

rawr!

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Launchywiggin
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I'm in the "valuable to who?" camp.

*sits by campfire* *sings along*

Now those guys lived meaningful lives.

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Tatiana
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I think you left off a big one, joy, happiness, having fun.

"Men are, that they might have joy." I believe that's true. Feynman's Nobel acceptance speech said it all. He did physics because it was really fun finding things out. The awards and accolades were nice in some ways but also rather annoying in many ways, and didn't mean very much. <heart> Feynman.

One of the ways people find real and lasting joy is service to others. Another is building things, creating things, like it could be art, music or stories or else machinery, buildings, roads and bridges, or even clothes, quilts or personal effects. Making stuff is fun.

Giving presents (and the flip-side, receiving) is also meaningful. Not because of the thing given but because of the gift. [Smile] The most meaningful gifts of all are attention, time, and affection/acceptance/appreciation. Gifts that say "I see you and know who you are, and I like who you are" are the best. I wish I knew how to give gifts that say that. [Smile]

The other things you list, like money and fame, power and privilege (or hawt virgins [Smile] ) all seem attractive really only when you don't have them. People who acquire these things usually find they still aren't enough to fill up the emptiness. The money is never enough, and turns out to be a full time job just having it, and fame means people who care nothing about you personally as a human being are always interrupting your dinners out to ask for your autograph. Power means people fawn on you for your power and despise you for your self, or else they are gunning for you to take your power away. It's always uneasy because it's never enough or else it's never safe. Privilege is something that you don't even realize you have until it's taken away. Then you feel worthless without it. <laughs> Pursuing these things, then, leaves you with nothing.

What is worthwhile and lasting and meaningful to pursue is a thing I like to call "the kingdom of heaven" (as a sort of secret codename). It is the joy that comes from serving people, from building and making, and from learning, playfulness, looking forward with a perfect brightness of hope, healthy growth, and wise stewardship of resources, many acts of kindness, and lots of love for and appreciation of others.

[ April 06, 2007, 05:54 AM: Message edited by: Tatiana ]

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Ken
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I am going to go with answer #5.

I think we should try to love as many people as we can. But if you are not ready to do this, then just try to love one person with all your heart

quote:
For 4, I don't think anything really needs to be said. Money itself does not make a life valuable, and charitable contributions don't redeem a valueless life. [/QB]
May I be cursed with wealth and never recover.
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MightyCow
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quote:
Originally posted by rollainm:
This is one area where I'm actually quite envious of most religious folk. As an atheist, I don't have access to such pre-ordained goals on which theists can so confidently rest. All of the achievements/goals mentioned in this thread are perfectly legitimate in their own ways, but what do such things ultimately bring? What makes them valuable? For the confident theist, the answer is simple. The atheist, on the other hand, is limited to such vague and mundane responses as "the prosperity of the human race." Donít get me wrong. Iím not trivializing this view. I just think it creates more questions than it answers. Itís not finite. Itís not satisfying.

When you're young, the first Christmas you realize Santa isn't going to bring you a present seems pretty lame. But when you're spending time with your friends and family, one less present doesn't make the time worthless. It doesn't make the other presents less meaningful.

When you first realize that there isn't a magic old man in the clouds who will punish the wicked and reward the good, it's a disappointment. That guy who cut you off in traffic won't get what's coming to him in the fiery inferno of Satan's halls, and you won't get an extra gold brick in your heavenly driveway for helping that old lady across the street.

So you make your own value, and you find value in what YOU want, not in what a several thousand year old books tells you was valuable to the people who wrote it.

You don't have to hedge your bets against an unknown afterlife. You get to live for the day. You get to do good for good's own sake, not to appease a vengeful God. You avoid doing bad things because you realize that they hurt you and those around you, not for fear of eternal damnation.

Listen to religious people. They don't know what's going on any more than atheists do. They're struggling for meaning, trying to find their path, and they have a guide book. We're all in the same boat. I don't think anyone would argue that the love of family and friends is any more valuable to someone of one belief than someone of another.

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katharina
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Do we have to rank them? I hope for my own successful life to have at a minimum two of the list and preferably four.
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