Psychologists don't study "The Meaning Of Life" (cue portentious music). Instead, we study meaning in life...as in the meaning you find in your life. We don't know any more than anyone else why life is the way it is; whether the universe came into being for any particular reason; or whether you, me, or the person down the street is here on Earth for any higher purpose.
What we look at is the meaning all of us create in our own lives. We've learned a lot about this meaning making we engage in, and in this column I will share with you some of the basics of what psychological science has revealed about living a meaningful life.
I have a tendency to unwillingly remember quasi-profound moments from mediocre movies. I'm not really sure where this uselessly persistent talent came from, but it is what it is. I remember one and only one thing about the movie "Revenge of the Nerds." The eponymous Nerds are pondering life's great mysteries late at night. For some reason, a football player named Ogre, not normally part of the Nerd Herd, is with the Nerds, absorbed in the infinite depths of a clear, starry night. The Nerds are discussing the conundrums and paradoxes of astrophysics and Ogre, not to be outdone, poses this stumper, "What if C-A-T spelled dog?" Such questions, aimed at probing the deep truth of Life's Mysteries, generally are not interesting to psychologists. Or rather, I should say that the ultimate answers to these questions are not what we study when we study meaning in life. We are interested in the way each of you comes up with your own answer. Where did the universe come from? Which will get us first, the sun going nova or a million-to-one asteroid? Why does pain and loss seem inevitable in life? Is there a God? What if C-A-T spelled dog?