How Music Shows Us Purpose In Life

I was talking to a friend the other day, and he said something that really made me uneasy. What made me uneasy was the seemingly casual demeanor he portrayed in his statement which really solidified how easily and somewhat unthoughtful his words were. And it’s not that I think my friend is a bad person, not at all, but it was just shocking how cheerful I know he is that he could have a belief in life that is so dark and apathetic.

His statement?

Life is meaningless, so what’s the point of living?

Immediately, I had to ask him, why do you think this? And he responded, isn’t it evident? Look at the world, it’s pointless. And I really wanted to know how he got this mindset, and what’s even more strange is that if you look at the way he lives his life, you’d never guess he could say that.

We didn’t have much time to really debate this topic, but he did bring up some points to me that I couldn’t help but think about, and I was thinking, is there a good way to prove a meaning to life? Then I thought this.

The very fact we are able to derive the idea that there is no meaning in life, indeed confirms that there is a meaning to life, though, the meaning we’ve interpreted for ourselves, maybe doesn’t justify the suffering. Thus, we ask if there really is a justful meaning, and even conclude there isn’t.

And that might be quite a lot to take in, so let me see if I can break it down in a way that might make more sense.

I usually don’t include outside images, but I feel like this image is just so powerful.

The best way I can explain meaning in life is actually through music. I’m not going to play you a song or anything, but I’m going to ask you to really think about what I’m going to say, and please try.

Here it is:

Have you ever listened to a song that made you feel something? And maybe you don’t know what you felt, but you know there was something, and you know it was real. When you get this feeling, a lot of times, you don’t know how to describe it with precise words, though, you might be able to loosely illustrate it with scenes of imagery or a short narrative. And that’s really what a good song does, it tells a story.

But here’s the thing. A critic of music might say, why even bother listening to a song? It’s going to end anyways. And the funny thing is, almost all of us can recognize that’s not a very good representation of what music is, and the purpose of music is not just to listen to it knowing it’s going to end, but to invoke the emotions we might not be able to feel without it, and maybe even to overcome problems we might not have been able to overcome in the absence of it.

And that’s what music does.

It puts us in a state of being where we transcend reality, and puts us in a place that we don’t know where we are exactly. The distinction of where we are physically, and where we are metaphysically becomes warped in a way where we enter a place that’s, in a sense, not real. And then the song ends, and you’re back, and you realize you never went anywhere, but it feels like you did. You’re able to describe where you were, “ in a garden of flowers” “in the woods” “back when I was 7 sitting in my room”, and you’re able to describe as if you really were there. This is why people often say “I got lost in the music.”

How does this relate to the meaning of life?

Well, just like music, we’ll do things in life things we’re not fully engaged with i.e. we’re bored. And there are songs that we may find boring, but we don’t dismiss music as a whole, so we shouldn’t dismiss life because we’re bored of it. Once again, there are songs that might make us feel weak and afraid; it exposes us. But still, we don’t dismiss music then, and we shouldn’t dismiss life just because we feel vulnerable.

And so, you might be saying, well that’s just music, we’re talking about life here. Those two are totally different. That’s when I’ll say, no, not really.

And why?

The same feeling you get when you’re listening to a meaningful song, the same sense of timelessness you feel, the same way you can lose yourself in the face of suffering when listening to that song, this can be achieved by living a meaningful life.

And that really says something.

It says, life is suffering, yes. But we can orientate ourselves in a way that we’re aiming at something so meaningful that the the suffering of life is no longer relevant, or even we can accept that it exists. It’s the same as if we’re listening to a powerful song, how we can only appreciate it’s deepness once we accept the level of suffering it took to write it. With the same processes we use to identify a meaningful song, we have the inherent ability to identify when we’re doing something meaningful in our lives. And again, it’s something you can’t really explain. You might find someone so engaged in what they’re doing they say, “Man, I’ve been doing this all day, and I don’t want to stop.” And it’s not only can they can do this for one day, but for the rest of their life.

I’ve heard it described like this. When you’ve found something in your life that’s so meaningful that you can look at the suffering of the world, and even in spite of that suffering, not become resentful or cruel, but actually work to make the world a better place, that’s been described as a “Brief habitation with the kingdom of God.”And I’m not trying to become religious here, I’m only saying that you will never find anything as useful as that.

So, you ask, What’s the point of living if life has no meaning?

My response would be this. It’s not that life has no meaning, you just haven’t found the right song.