UGD Mid-term paper - Natalie Yu(1155000186 UGD 298U(Tutor...

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Natalie Yu (1155000186) UGD 298U (Tutor: Justin) March 14, 2011 Meanings of Life: Undergraduate Take-Home Midterm Questions 1. What is the relation between “the meaning of life” and ikigai? To understand the relations between “the meaning of life” and ikigai, we must first define the two and the differences between them. With the definite “the”, the meaning of life is universal. There is only one ultimate purpose of life and it applies to everyone, regardless of variable factors such as one’s gender, race, and age. The meaning of life is usually advocated by religions and isms or doctrines, such as patriotism. A religion claims a certain meaning of life. That meaning is absolute and varies between different religions. Take Christianity as an example, humans are creations of God, and humans are to live according to the commandments and teachings of God and to spread his words. If they do good, they will be able to reunify with God for eternity in Heaven, where there is no more suffering and is the happiest place. Contrarily, if one does bad and commits sins, he/she will be condemned and suffer from eternal fire in Hell. Believers in any religion are supposed to live accordingly, abided by the teachings of the religion. Most of them do so trying to obtain a rewarding life or life after death, and to avoid punishment from a supernatural power. As for an ikigai, it literally means “that which makes your life worth living” in the Japanese language (Matthews: Meanings of Life in Anthropological Perspective
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lecture notes). Even a vocabulary in similar sense does not exist in every language, yet everyone has the sense of what the most important thing is in one’s life or what one lives for. Ikigai obviously varies from person to person. People with different ikigais are having different “meanings of life”, and one has the meaning of life to his/her own. The most dominant ikigais are work, family, posterity/creation, and religion (those who have a religion as their ikigai then believe in a certain meaning of life discussed above). An ikigai explains a sense of purpose, personal significance and importance to a person. Human beings need an ikigai to live on (with some extreme exceptions) to prove that they are wanted, needed, and useful to someone else, a larger institute, or the society. In a society, people of the same age usually have similar ikigais. Such as the youth seeks ikigai in their future endeavors, the mid-age seeks ikigai in their present, usually work and family. Anthropology studies on ikigais rather than the meaning of life. Because of the anthropologist approach of “cultural relativism” - prescriptively studies the behavior of people of different cultures, with no judgments regarding whether one culture has correct values or practice. Since each single person including anthropologists has to be brought up in or influenced by at least one certain culture, it is impossible to study the meaning of life, defining an ultimate universal meaning of life for every human being.
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