- The sound of wind blowing through a forest
- A close group of friends
- A significant other
- Sitting in the sun
- Being in nature
- Having children
These things may seem random and unrelated but they may be more related than you think. All are approaching what many people would describe as “the meaning of life.” It is easy for us to provide experiences like these that we can put a finger on and say “this definitely makes my life feel meaningful.” All of these tend to put us in awe, or even hurt, because we realize that life is so beautiful and that our time here is limited. So why is it so hard to define the meaning of life then?
While Wikipedia may attempt to address the question by acknowledging all of the historically accepted definitions that have exited throughout human cultures in the past millennia, which is probably the most politically correct way to go about it, I propose a scientific study to address the question. This is perhaps the most unconventional research topic that I have ever thought of or even heard of, but I believe it could be done. Obviously the only way to know the true meaning of life is to find it yourself through introspection, but science should still be able to shed some light on the definition.
First, a researcher would survey a select group of randomly selected participants and ask them to list the top three life experiences or sensations that they would consider to be related to the meaning of life. The wording in this survey would be critical because it could influence their responses, so care must be taken to ask the question neutrally. I foresee much debate and consideration being put into the choice of wording in the question.
Once the survey is completed, researchers would select the responses that reoccurred the most often and make a list. Perhaps a reasonable list would include ten experiences or sensations. From here, ten small psychological experiments would be designed to analyze the experiences or sensations. These experiments would be aimed at looking at what emotions, neurotransmitters, hormones, etc are present during each experience/sensation and which parts of the brain are the most active. The goal would be to find a link that is in common with the experiences.
The results would hopefully break new ground in psychology and potentially find cures for depression and loneliness that do not involve drugs. Psychologists may be able to more accurately help patients solve life problems by helping them find the parts of their lives that are meaningful and the parts that are not meaningful. Lastly, the results may be able to help us design a better society and better cities that place emphasis on making our lives more meaningful and thus increasing overall happiness, health, and life satisfaction. It’s hard to argue with someone who is backing their agenda with the scientifically proven meaning of life.