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Meaning of Life (Essay Sample)


This paper was submitted to a previous client. It aimed to explore the meaning of life through the analysis of different authors and theories or schools of thought. the said authors include Dr. Ambrosio, Saul, Michelangelo, Marx, Frankl, and Simone Weil.

[Student Name]
[College Name]
[Course No/Title]
Exploring the Meaning Life:
A Look at the Themes and Personages of Philosophy and Religion
Different people and different occurrences throughout the history of man can reveal different meanings for life, and ways on how to live a meaningful life. Several authors and artists have attempted to provide a universal description of the meaning of life. However, a person's definition of a truly meaningful life can very well vary from the definitions of others around him/her. This concept was made clear by Dr. Ambrosio in his discussions on the meaning of life (n.p.). Indeed, a monk's definition of the meaning of life may be different from that of a farmer struggling to live through each day.
Even I have a meaning for life that can be considered as rather different (although in some aspects similar) from the meanings of other authors, including Dr. Ambrosio. I believe that a meaningful life is one that is spent in attaining one's innermost potential, only achieved through continuous learning. However, to be truly meaningful, this learning must be centered on a spiritual (not necessarily religious) core. Thus, in relation, this paper will attempt to expound on the aforementioned belief, in relation to the works of different authors who explored the various meanings of life. The work of Dr. Ambrosio will first be presented, followed by a discussion on the heroic citizen, and other accounts of Saul, Michelangelo, Marx, Frankl, and Simone Weil, in relation to my own meaning of life.
The Hero and the Saint
Dr. Ambrosio's discussion of the meaning of life is among those that confirm the idea that one definition for the meaning of life cannot be applied to each and every individual in this earth. Still, in his discussions, one concept that most struck me was his metaphor of the hero and the saint. After listening to the lectures, I came to understand the difference between the two terms. This difference will be further expounded on in the following paragraphs of the paper.
The characters of the hero and the saints were used as metaphors for the depictions of some of man's historical wisdom traditions: the concept of the hero can be traced from the Greco-Roman culture of secular humanism, while the idea of the saint came from the philosophies of the theistic religions including Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. In their simplest meanings, heroes refer to the human capability to question, and the desire for adventure, which reflect humanity's love for the question itself. On the other hand, the saint represents the contentment for life in its own, emphasizing the need to enjoy life as a gift, rather than question it, and waste time searching for a possibly non-existent answer (Ambrosio “Hero and Saint” n.p.). However, I do not believe that these metaphors are the ideal types of living meaningfully.
Still, in some ways, Ambrosio's hero closely represents my definition of a meaningful life – to continuously question and search for answers guarantees that I can continuously learn and develop as well. Although the concept of the saint has valid arguments, to be content with life and question the process of questioning (which can also be translated to the yearning for learning) can be rather absurd and almost goes against the purpose of humanity. Indeed, what separates man from animals and plants is his rationality – his ability to think and question.
Nevertheless, a discussion of the heroic citizen, to be presented below, may help shed light to another connotation for a meaningful life.
Heroic Citizen
In relation to the concept of the hero, the Greek views on the heroic citizen differ a little from that of Ambrosio's. In fact, the concept of the heroic citizen underwent such a diverse transition from that of the Greek Myth-o-poetic traditions, through the emergence of Greek tragic drama, to the late stoicism of the Roman imperialism (Ambrosio “Philosophy” n.p.). Indeed, in the days of the Greek civilization, heroic citizenship involved the hero's observance of his right to vote in assemblies, as well as the privilege to protect the people he loves by going to war, and the freedom to enjoy the loots of the said war. Still, in looking at the mythologies of the Grecian cultures, it can be seen that the characteristics most inherent among heroes were their strength, their wit, and their connectedness to the gods that ruled over them (Willis 28).
However, as the times changed and the societal context varied as well, the definition of the heroic citizen changed too. From their connectedness to the higher beings, the heroic citizen now became separate from the gods and religion, through the refuge provided by the Roman stoicism. Indeed, the later portrayals of other later Greeks and Romans, the hero at no time asks for mercy, even viewing death as an avenue for learning something anonymous (Gutchess n.p.). In the end, the hero and a heroic, meaningful life came to mean in essence as an entity indifferent to human needs, but is shaped by self-control especially in the face of obligation and destiny.
This view of the meaningful life from the side of the heroic citizen is one that I do not necessarily agree with. I believe that above all else, man is connected to the spiritual, no matter what his religion may be. Although the stoicism of the Romans allowed for a continuous learning, the final outcome of such stoicism can hardly relate to a meaningful life. Man is connected to the Universe and to God, as much as he is connected to himself and self-control does not necessarily guarantee a successful answer to the quest for the meaning of life. In fact, some of the greatest successes in history can be realized as involving those times that originated from instances when the hero/heroine has let go of his/her self-control and acted according to the dictates of his/her heart.
Saul of Tarsus
The description of the integration of the Greek and Roman hero is perhaps among those that most caught my interest. In Ambrosio's “Philosophy, Religion, and the Meaning of Life”, he explored the concept of the amalgamation of the Greek and Roman heroes, wherein he discussed the possibility that a hero can be a saint at the same time. Seemingly an impossible concept, I was at first doubtful as to whether Dr. Ambrosio could set up his arguments to convince the reader that such a possibility is indeed probable (Ambrosio “Philosophy” n.p.).
Nevertheless, Dr. Ambrosio was able to convincingly establish that the fusion of the hero and the saint is indeed possible through the person's conversion to Christianity and the totalization of their missions to continue their questioning by serving as men of God. The case of the martyr Paul, previously known as Saul of Tarsus, and that of Augustine of Hippo, who both exemplified the meaning of a hero-saint. Before Saint Paul embarked to spread the Gospel to the Jews and gentiles, the notion of a hero was a person with secular ideas who embarked on chivalrous adventures that brought him – or his nation – recognition. Similarly, before Augustine of Hippo fully embraced the Christian faith, his society's concept of a hero is a person who observes the heroic virtue of citizenship.
However, after God revealed himself to Paul and when Paul began his preaching to convert people towards Christianity (Jones 80), the Greek concept of heroism changed drastically. Perhaps what increased Paul's “heroism” the more was the fact that he underwent several tortures and criticisms from the Jews and similar other nonbelievers of Christ. After he has survived this, people came to recognize Paul as some sort of superhero. The change in the view of heroism was also effected by Augustine Hippo, although he did not go through the same ordeals as those that Paul went through (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy 354), his works opened the eyes of mankind towards the reality that heroes and saints can be one, and that in fact, one cannot be a hero without simultaneously being a saint.
In this definition of the hero and the saint, I strongly agree with Dr. Ambrosio. It is somehow a comfort to know that a meaningful life can be achieved through a combined implementation of the person's heroic and saintly side. Thus, in applying this combination (heroic-saint) in my view of a meaningful life, I can say that the heroic aspect guarantees the continued learning, while the saintly side sees to it that growth is holistic or compete.
Unfortunately, the recognition of the possibility that a hero and a saint can co-exist within a single human body was not much accepted or widely-known/accepted after the times of Paul and Augustine, although the concept of what a hero is has began to change and transform. However, it was not until later that this change occurred. This slow transformation can be most seen in the work of Dante, especially in his Inferno, wherein his fatalistic description of the life of man portrayed an old view of the hero, which is separate from the saint. In Dante's inferno, the concept of predestination was highlighted again and again, wherein man has a certain destiny which he will eventually end up to (Alighieri xix). This concept of a destiny rather conforms to the older definitions of heroes by the Greeks, wherein the gods and prophecies determined the fate of heroes, who were then considered to be separate from saints.
However, changes in these views can be seen in later art works, especially those of the sculptor Michelangelo. Indeed, viewed as the bridge between the modern and the old, the said sculptor underwent various agonies and ecstasies that ...
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