Alan Watts on the meaning of life

The British philosopher reminds us that meaning is anywhere we choose to look.

Photo: Pictorial Parade/Getty Images
  • Alan Watts suggests there is no ultimate meaning of life, but that "the quality of our state of mind" defines meaning for us.
  • This is in contradiction to the notion that an inner essence is waiting to be discovered.
  • Paying attention to everyday, mundane objects can become highly significant, filling life with meaning.
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Personal Growth
  • Climate change denial draws headlines. But is it actually an obstacle to climate action?
  • A great majority of Americans say they're concerned about climate change.
  • The real roadblock is our unwillingness to pay money to help stop climate change.


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Want to achieve your goals? The Finnish have a word for that.

Sisu is an ancient concept that is an integral part of Finland's national character.

An ultra trailer walks past the Mont Blanc at La Flegere path on September 2, 2018 near Chamonix, as he competes during 170 km Mount Blanc Ultra Trail (UTMB) race around the Mont-Blanc, crossing France, Italy and Switzerland. (Photo by Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Sisu is an important Finnish concept that helps natives tap into an "unexplored inner strength."
  • Researcher Emilia Lahti surveyed over 1,000 Finnish citizens to discover what the term means to them.
  • Lahti discovered her own sisu when completing 50 ultramarathons in 50 consecutive days to fight domestic violence.
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Personal Growth

Big Think is evolving. Learn habits of mind from the world’s greatest thinkers.

At Big Think, we capture the thoughts of the world's most brilliant thinkers.

  • At Big Think, significance, relevance, and actionability are our editorial guide stars. They are the principles that we consider in every case when we say, "Is this worth our time? Is this worth our attention or is it not?"
  • Big Think Edge is the next step. We've created the single most valuable library of mentorship-rich, insight-driven applied learning that has ever been created.
  • Big Think Edge is an online learning platform that lets you stream short, actionable videos lessons taught by the world's top thinkers. Want to become smarter, faster? Join now, or learn more.
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How storytelling gives life meaning

Since the advent of communication, humans have used stories to create meaningful lives.

Still from James Cameron's 1997 film, Titanic.
  • "An experience of being alive" is what mythologist Joseph Campbell said humans strive for.
  • Though we live in an age of distraction, short videos still tell big stories.
  • That said, losing a connection to the environment to stare at a screen has disastrous consequences.
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Culture & Religion