By Oswald Hanfling
“We have examined some of the ways in which religion may be thought to give meaning to life, or to overcome negative features that may seem to deprive life of meaning. One other connection of religion with meaning, involving yet another sense of 'meaning', ought to be mentioned. This kind of meaning is not about purpose, significance or moral perfection, but about such matters as pattern and rhythm. Consider the difference between a design drawn on a piece of paper and a meaningless scribble; a piece of music and a meaningless cacophony; the structure and rhythm of a poem and the unstructured deliveries of ordinary speech. Here we have another kind of meaning that is satisfying to human beings.
Now this kind of meaning (structure, rhythm) is also to be found in the rhythm of our lives. A Christian or Jewish life, for example, is punctuated by a pattern of feasts, fasts, rituals and seasons, and this gives meaning to such a life. That our days are arranged into weeks, for example, makes a difference to the meaning of life. And various other rhythms, timetables, etc., introduced in various ways, give structure (and meaning, in that sense) to our lives. There are also the great natural rhythms of night and day, and the seasons of the year. However, a religious life will usually have a greater richness of meaning, in this sense, than a secular one.
Another meaningful aspect of religious life concerns actions that are done because they are fitting - not in the purposive sense, but in the sense of being suitable to an occasion. Rituals and commemorations are fitting in this sense; and in performing them we have the satisfaction of acting in a meaningful way. The child at the Jewish Passover service asks: 'Why do we eat bitter herbs this evening?' And the answer comes: 'Because the Egyptians embittered the lives or our ancestors with hard labour'. This child does not ask because he does not know; his asking is itself a ritual, to be performed, year after year, on that occasion. Here is a meaningful pattern of action which has nothing to do with purpose or success.
The satisfactions obtained from such activities, and from the religious life in general, are to some extent a matter of individual psychology. What is satisfying to one person may be boring to another. What for one is the charm of regularity, will be a tedium of repetition for another. But however this may be, the advantages of the religious life, such as they are, do not affect the credibility of the doctrine. Those who believe must do so on other grounds”.
(Hanfling, The quest for meaning)
# 6 COR - El sentido de la vida - Categoría: Dar o captar
(The Meaning of life - Assessing)