Man's Search for Meaning

So few men have discovered their ultimate purpose in life. Is our purpose just to continually search for our purpose? Or is there something more—if we just search hard enough?

When I typed “history of search” into Google, the top link was to Search Engine History. This is a cool site that will take you all the way back to 1945 when Vannevar Bush published an article in The Atlantic Monthly that “urged scientists to work together to help build a body of knowledge for all mankind.”

He proposed new ways of indexing humanity’s rapidly expanding knowledge to more closely mimic the way our minds work. His dreams have blossomed into the powerful Internet search engines of today—especially Google.

This year marked the 20th birthday of the World Wide Web—“an infinite database, a sort of crazily expanding universe of human knowledge that, in theory, could hold every insight, thought, image, and product for sale,” as Steven Levy puts it (In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives, 2011, pp. 15-16). Google itself just became a teenager last month.

But 13, 20 or even 66 years only scratches the surface of the human need to search. I would like to propose a much earlier start to the history of search.

In the beginning

A well-known ancient historical account records a case of classic search. Thousands of years ago a woman, considering various dining options in a garden setting, accessed a couple of different sources with wildly divergent views of the safety of a particular type of fruit. Her personal decision engine did not serve her well, and she made an ultimately deadly choice.

Moses Ben-Amram recorded this story of his ancestor Eve in the third chapter of his book called Genesis—a book of beginnings. He records that Eve and her husband were evicted from the idyllic garden for blatantly breaking their agreements with the Landlord. Their search for forbidden knowledge was only the beginning of humanity’s endless pursuit of input.

From that time on, humanity has continued searching for elusive knowledge of the mysteries of the universe and the meaning of life. Metaphorically, it seems we keep searching for the way back to that idyllic garden.

As one ancient philosopher-king described his wearisome mission, “I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 1:13). He concluded, “Of making many books [and gathering knowledge] there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12).

A thousand years later a Roman citizen addressing the intelligentsia of Athens outlined the human search in spiritual terms: “So that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).

The meaning of life

If you type “the meaning of life” into Google, Wikipedia’s article about the Monty Python movie by that name comes up on top. But, down deep, that’s really not what humanity is looking for. Humor, fun, entertainment—we love these things. But in our hearts we want more. We don’t want just knowledge, we want understanding. We want to know why we are here, how we can make a difference in this life and if there is an afterlife.

Google could answer these questions—if a lot of people knew the answers and voted with their links and visits to show where the best answers were. But, if the history of search shows anything, it shows that most people do not have the answers to these profound questions.

It takes more than human intelligence—and more than artificial intelligence—to understand the things beyond this physical space-time continuum. And that’s where we would have to look to find answers to the ultimate questions: Why was I born? And what will happen after I die?

The answers boggle the human mind. But they are infinitely satisfying and forever exciting.

They are found in a database with a nonphysical component that interfaces with the divine—the Holy Bible.

The gateway to life—to understanding, meaning, true happiness and the idyllic Garden—is small (Matthew 7:14). But our Creator wants everyone to eventually find His truth (1 Timothy 2:4). He offers this encouragement to the weary searchers: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

Start your search today!