Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"The Meaning of Life"

I once taught a course called "The Meaning of Life" -- lots of fun, if ultimately inconclusive. But on the last day of class we looked at a clip from my all-time-favorite TV show "Northern Exposure" which implied that the M.o.L. is "that old-time rock-&-roll" (music and lyrics by Bob Seger). The point was less literal, of course: we all need to find the particular music of our lives and "dance" to it. Anyway, Terry Eagleton has a new book on the subject. Here's a review excerpt.

Eagleton finally plumps for happiness, currently enjoying a revival among economists, philosophers and even politicians. But he points out with Aristotle that happiness comes in many and devious forms. . . Happiness disengaged from selfishness and allied to the Greek love for humanity (agape) passes muster, at times almost lyrically so.
The meaning of life is thus not "what you make of it". It is not a passing pleasure, which humans share with animals. Indeed it is not even an answer to a question, but rather "a matter of living life in a certain way". It is an ethical construct and involves treating others as you want them to treat you, caring for those close to you, helping strangers, thinking long term.
The meaning of life to Eagleton is like a jazz band, individuals engaged on a collective endeavour in pursuit of happiness through the mutuality of love.

--Simon Jenkins, in The Guardian -- http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/politicsphilosophyandsociety/0,,2030253,00.html

NOTE to the invisible (hypothetical?) readers of this blog: With the end of Spring Break and my return to reality (and a very large stack of ungraded essays), Delight Springs shifts to a slower pace of publication. New posts will now appear on Tuesdays and Saturdays. But as always, feel free to comment on any of these bottled messages whenever they find you.

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