The Meaning of Life


A travelogue of our trip through the Universe with slideshow

“What do you mean God doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up?”

I had just completed a psychological evaluation of the man’s wife, while I left the husband in my outer office where he discovered my picture book, THE MEANING OF LIFE: A Child’s Book of Existential Psychology. And was he mad! Imagine God not knowing what He wanted to be. It’s preposterous.

Now, here it is ten years later and I am still rattling the marble inside my skull by slapping my head. The husband’s understanding of what I had written was based on his faith, while my tale was based on observation and my understanding that an Eternal God would never grow up. A Supreme Being would have neither a beginning nor end nor even an adolescence. His indignation was meaningless since it contradicted even his understanding of God, but it was the kind of misapprehension that can get people killed. History is littered with such victims.

The second objection is raised by people less angry, but still rigid in their thinking. “This is not a children’s book at all.”

When I conceived of this tale, I asked myself, if I were to come into the world today yet again what would I want to know about it to help me on way? Out of this came my little picture book, a book that might be put in a child’s hands to introduce some of the problems to be encountered, problems that, even as adults, we do such an incredibly shabby job at solving.

Though I did not realize it at the time, I was creating my own version of an experiment envisioned by 16 year old Albert Einstein. As Einstein imagined it, if he were to observe a beam of light, while travelling along with it, what would it look like? His imaginings brought him to a redefinition of the phenomenal universe.

In my story, I imagine an individual’s life from beginning to middle to end in pictures, taking mere minutes to observe the whole, while making the assumption that, like light and God, we have no beginning nor middle nor end except within the confines of how we perceive it.  It is hoped that these imaginings, presented with pictures, would deliver people to a personal, experiential universe, one that defines our existence. What would happen to our individual perceptions of ourselves as we approach the speed of Life as we experience it from day to day, year to year, decade to decade, until we finally land in that other place.

If we can imagine that, I suggest, we can begin to contemplate the Meaning of Life as we know it and we can compare notes with our fellow scientists and travelers.

And to those who are obsessed with whether this is a book for children or not, I would answer that a child lives in a world that is mostly incomprehensible. Then, the child gets older only to be baffled by the fact that adults, including their parents, fail to fully comprehend the significance of events that are of importance to that child. (How can our parents not fully grasp the significance of life as we experience it?) And when we get old, we are usually humbled enough to accept that there are still many things that we have failed to grasp. But, if we can’t share it, each generation with the other, what would be the meaning of what we had experienced, of what we suffered?

Here, then, is the Meaning of Life as I understand it. Travel with me.

Listen to Dr. Lev discuss his children's book The Meaning of Life: A Child's Book of Existential Psychology.