There’s nothing unusual about economists, and occasionally ecologists as well, telling us we can’t have a free lunch. Shall I be more controversial and suggest this principle applies also to the meaning of our lives? The non sequitur committed by religious and atheists alike is to take for granted that if metaphysics in the form of divinity or the fundamental nature of the universe doesn’t give us meaning for our lives (for nothing, that is, free of charge), then our lives are empty and meaningless. We just wait to die. Here I prefer the existentialist notion that we can create meaning in our lives – perhaps ‘generate’ would be a better way to put it – even with nothing more sophisticated than what we do for those we love and care for.
Basically that would be my answer to people ranging from my mother’s hairdresser to Jimmy Osmond who say life is pointless, and dismal, without God and all that goes with faith in the supernatural. Music fans might think in terms of life being a matter of heavy metal horror unless we go with Candi Staton as gospel singer rather than as singer of Young Hearts Run Free. But if my answer is to be any good, it implies we have to work to find and develop a meaning in our lives. I hope that’s not too depressing a prospect.