The Meaning of Life

An Essay by Kadri Bussov 

The meaning of life – the big question that Deep Thought calculated to be 42! It is a question everyone at one point or another in their life ponder. Whether it is for a fun philosophical reason, academic interests or is triggered by a personal traumatic event.  

I vividly recall the moment I was told my great grandmother had passed away on my fifth birthday. We had just arrived at her country house, where she lived. Standing outside the fence, my mom gently approached me and broke the news. She explained the concept of death to me, emphasizing its sadness and the tradition of not celebrating birthdays during such times.

I remember the solemn preparations for my great grandmother's funeral, with her body being taken to the pantry. Though I wasn't allowed inside, I knew my grandmother, mother, and aunt were preparing her according to Estonian customs. Two years later, a similar scene unfolded when my grandfather passed away in the same house, with the same rituals being observed. This time, my cousin and I sneaked in to catch a glimpse.

My family never mystified death; instead, they embraced it as a natural process. Growing up, I witnessed numerous funerals and processions, which sparked my fascination with death. I often pondered what happens after we die and questioned why such knowledge eludes us.

I believe that because I was never given a comforting narrative about death, I became endlessly curious about it. I would spend hours thinking about the concept of dying, the inanimate result of our body, and the absence of the mind. Where does it go? Does it go anywhere? And if it does, why and what happens there? I remember lying in my bed and wishing to be old so that I could die and finally get the answers to my questions. I would spend hours asking people around me what they think happens after we die, and I read as many books about religious beliefs about the afterlife as I could get my hands on. None of it could satisfy my curiosity or leave me with an answer I could accept.

Yet, amidst my search for answers about death, I began to contemplate life. As I delved into various religious beliefs, I realized the immense energy humanity invests in grappling with questions beyond our comprehension. It struck me as unreasonable to prioritize the pursuit of understanding death at the expense of embracing life.

My experiences with death were grounded in reality, devoid of belief-based narratives. Witnessing the transition from life to death firsthand reinforced the undeniable truth of mortality. Despite my curiosity and search, the only constant was the acceptance of death in its finality as inevitable.

This acceptance raised another profound question: if there's no immortality for our minds, what then is the purpose of life? At the tender age of 11, this question loomed large. Perhaps it was precisely my youth that allowed me to come up with an answer I could accept and carry with me throughout my life.

The world of an 11-year-old is small, centered around family, friends, and school. Amidst profound existential ponderings, life itself remained simple. Thus, when asked about the meaning of life, only one answer seemed fitting: life itself. It encompasses the small victories and failures, the love of family, and the pain of bullying. It's the fear of exams and the excitement of summer vacations.

So, I came to understand that if pondering death leads to cosmic musings of immortality, then seeking the meaning of life leads to acceptance and appreciation of the here and now.