"So what's the meaning of life?" a friend asked me over chat recently. As if my travels had imparted some sort of rare wisdom unto me.
But maybe they had.
I've happened upon a lot of graves in my travels, some of them millennia old, holding the deceased of various backgrounds, faiths, and reasons for being there. Something kept bringing me to them beyond morbid curiosity. And it hit me in Athens, at the Kerameikos site and museum. So many artifacts there were found at gravesites. They buried tools and toys, and made ornate tombstones to celebrate the memory of their deceased (until that was outlawed, anyway). This was three-plus centuries before Christ walked the earth and one of his apostles came to visit.
In Kerameikos stood a low trapezoidal wall and a stone tablet proclaiming it the HIEPON TPITOΠATPEON: Sanctuary of the Tritopatores. It was a church, essentially, established in the fifth century B.C.: here believers offered the Tritopatores food and drink, and sought blessings during wedding rituals, praying specifically for the birth of sons.
But by the third century B.C. the sanctuary was no longer in use, and no one, to the knowledge of me or the Kerameikos Archeological Museum, at least, still worships the Tritopatores. They are forgotten gods.
Were the Tritopatores real? Who's to say? I mean, the only ones who truly know aren't around to tell us.
And you, too, may believe in a god that one day is forgotten. Does that make your god any less real? I'm sure that's a difficult idea to process, let alone accept, especially if you've believed all your life. But it probably was, too, for those who worshipped in the HIEPON TPITOΠATPEON.
Belief in any god is a bet--a smart one, if you believe Blaise Pascal, but regardless, the full payoff doesn't come until after this life is over. And in that fact, we can find the only promised meaning.
The meaning of life is that it ends. And what you do with it before then is what gives yours meaning.
So, what is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of yours?
Hat tip to Evan Hadfield of Rare Earth, whose voice I heard as I wrote this. Check out his videos--they're some of the best viewing on the YouTubes. I've embedded one of my favorites below: