Descartes said ‘I think, therefore I am’. It made him famous. But had he not thought at all, chances are he would still have been, only less aware, more thoroughly dictated by basic instincts, like wild animals, swept along by karmic forces, captured by the whirlpool of reincarnation, too stupefied to realise or wonder why, but less vain. That’s all. Plus if he didn't think, all that wouldn’t have existed in his mind to bother him anyway.
Thinking per se may not be an existential prerequisite as suggested by Descartes, but is possibly the starting point for the quest of……uh, a more fulfilling existence? purposeful life? enlightenment? deeper confusions? In spite of all the frustrations and rewards it brings, however, contemplation maybe the only fundamental distinction between humans and beasts.
The problem — or good news — is that mental clarity will almost certainly lead to the realisation that life as we know it is superficial. All human dramas — fame and fortune, love and hate, right and wrong, even life itself, are arbitrary and transient, perpetually changing, shifting, transforming. Some find that liberating. Since all is illusive, what’s there to worry about? Just drift…Others find it depressing to accept that humans are not a celestial exception, that life doesn’t come with a divine purpose.
Yet others dig on. What’s there to lose anyway? Perhaps a quest for enlightenment is the only ‘meaning of life’ there is? Though seeking to understand the next level of reality could be a formidable journey.
In about 60 words, I've summed up the meaning of a searching life in a flowchart. Possibly a bit ridiculous, I know, but what isn't these days?