If you were to scan the headlines of any major newspaper in the world on any given day, you can be excused for thinking that life is a battlefield where the purpose of it all is to survive.
However, you may have also noticed that nobody gets out of here alive.
Thus, if life is not a biological battlefield, designed to ensure the biological imperative of survival of the fittest, then what is it all about?
Once the Existentialist philosophers figured out that survival could not be the purpose of life, they fell into despair.
In “Nausea,” a novel by Jean Paul Sartre, he suggested that the best one could hope for is to enjoy a little entertainment before the curtain went down.
However, life is much more like a game, a spiritual game. Specifically, it is a game of giving and receiving. “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap,” said the master teacher.
In order to reap good stuff, you are advised to “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverb 4:23)
What does this mean? Your heart is your imagination. The issues of life are your experiences. Thus, you are advised to imagine the best of things to start experiencing them.
Socrates suggested that the best thing a person could do to understand life is adhere to the idea of “Gnothi Seauton,” or knowing yourself.
These words were inscribed on the lintel at the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in Ancient Greece.
Thus, for our life to evolve we have to give up the metaphor of life as a biological battlefield and replace it with a new one–life as a spiritual game.
As a game, we win by sowing what is true, good, and beautiful.
In Dante Aligheri’s “The Divine Comedy,” he suggested that the path to degradation was to pursue “luxuria” or lust, “gula” or gluttony, “avarita” or greed, “acedia” or sloth, “ira” or wrath, “invidia” or envy, and “superbia” or pride. In other words, the way to lose the game of life is to sow these seeds.
So, if life is a spiritual game, how do we play it well?
We have been given one clue: we reap what we sow.
We also have another clue: know thyself.
When you put the two together, you get a formula for a happy, fulfilling life.
When you know yourself, you will also know what is true, good, and beautiful, and you will be able to sow it for an abundant harvest.
The way you get to know yourself is not through study of the world without. While this may be useful, it is not the way for deep self-knowledge. Instead true self-inquiry has to arise from praxis. In this way, you can access deep knowledge from within.
Praxis is daily spiritual practice for the purpose of self-knowledge. Praxis can include prayer, contemplation, meditation, and esoteric, spiritual, or religious practices.
The purpose of life is to be happy. You will become happy when you have self-knowledge. You can acquire self-knowledge through praxis.
When you do, you will sow things that are life affirming. In return, you will meet both your outer and inner needs.
Life is not about surviving it is about thriving. It is about realizing the “perfect pattern” referred to by Plato, or what we moderns would call the “divine design.”