I have a basic test I put myself through when I think about whether my work and/or my life has meaning at any given moment.
Consider what would happen if you were visited by alien scientists studying life forms from across the universe. They basically go from galaxy to galaxy, system to system, finding all the advanced cultures and determining their value structure.
And you’re one of the people who’ll be sampled from Earth. What do you tell them?
The question really reduces quite simply: When you tell the alien philosophers what you value in life, will it sound stupid to you as it’s coming out of your mouth?
Person1: “Um, I like cars. The louder the better. Red ones. Oh, and salty food.” Person2: “I mostly hate Republicans.”
Imagine you’re the person who says you hate lazy people most of all, and that you’re spending your life trying to get your kids into good schools so they can make good livings for themselves in the corporate world.
The scientist looks at you, after traveling billions of light-years, stares at you blankly for a second, and starts writing on his clipboard.
You can imagine him thinking…”Right…favors elitist organizations providing preferential treatment and material advantage in materialistic society. Also desires this for his children which will give him a sense of immortality since he lives for approximately 1.7 of our milliseconds.”
But really. Ask yourself what you could say about your current priorities and your current outlook on life that wouldn’t make him go, “Yeah…another one of those.”
I mean, even if you gave the best possible answer from an altruistic perspective, they’ve likely heard that before too. But you don’t want to be the guy who says, “I eat lard from a bucket–if it’s got sugar in it. And I love sitcoms. They’re funny. Hey, do your women have big boobs?”
Think about it. Would your answers raise the eyebrows of alien philosophers, or would you fall cleanly in the category of barely conscious?