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Survival of the Species

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Survival of the Species

Since Jan. 1, 2015, I’ve been interviewing one person each day about the meaning of life. Mostly total strangers. The Meaning of Life Project is my way of sharing what I've learned.

Since I began this project, I don’t really see the value in small talk anymore. It’s much more interesting to attack the big questions right away.

Now when I met a stranger, I ask them their thoughts on the meaning of life. It seemed really odd at first, but I’ve been doing it for nine months now and feel foolish that I didn’t start sooner. How many wasted conversations could have been spent plumbing the depths of our souls? 

Maybe "wasted" is too strong a word, but it's undeniable that this project has given me an incredible new view into the true warmth of humanity.

The questions I ask are simple. “What advice would you give to a baby? What would you would change if you could go back into the past? What, to you, is the meaning of life?" The answers – and the conversation that follows – open a window on what it means to be human. As my year-long project runs it’s course, I’m not sure I’ll be able to give it up. I want to keep finding new connections and unpacking the answers from these interviews.

This month, I saw one particularly interesting pattern in responses. Love, family and experience are focal points for most people who are asked about the meaning of life, but male interviewees also state quite simply and elegantly that a big part of the meaning of life is to procreate. For them, the sheer survival of the species was a clear and present goal. [My sampling is far from scientific, so insert the disclaimer of your choice here before continuing.]

Below are the fascinating responses from those among us focused in on this most foundational goal. Thank you to my interviewees for shining a spotlight on the importance of our survival.

Male, 50

"The meaning of life is to aid the cause. Provide the next generation of capable people."

Male, 34

"No matter how hard things get, there is an instinct to push on. Just in surviving and persisting... there is value in that."

Male, 37

"We are here to have children, and to pray to have a better life in this world. Each family is an important bridge to the next world. Thank God you are on the right track, listen and learn."

Male, 80

"Be honest. Work harder at school. The purpose of life is to procreate. Without procreation there wouldn’t be any more of us."

Male, 33

"Life is to have a family. To procreate and be positive. Be good and kind to people. Teach compassion and kindness. You only have one life, make the best of it. Don’t let fear hold you back. 

Think about other people... like you want to be treated. Live without regrets. You are not able to get that time back. Share."

Male, 19

"Make sure to take advice. Face the challenges, do not avoid them. Biologically speaking, [the meaning of life is] to reproduce. The brain is set to reproduce; when we fall in love, we think of reproducing. We seek out a stable family with a mother and father. [Then], a baby will grow well. I am proud of being a human being – the most complex emotional creatures – to enjoy the purpose of creating."