Purpose vs. Meaning
“The secret of man’s being is not only to live but to have something to live for.”
The commonly used interchangeable words undermine the subtle but striking difference that exists between these words. There is a context for using each word. In fact ‘words’ have a meaning and a purpose in itself. ‘Purpose in life’ or ‘Purpose of life’, both convey a different meaning. It is the context which makes the content meaningful.
Meaning is external whereas purpose is both internal and external. Purpose comes from within and meaning is what we attribute to an external thing. Purpose is more personal whereas meaning is towards a more professional orientation. For example, we say what the purpose in life is and what the meaning in doing a mundane job is. Perhaps purpose is philosophical in nature and meaning is pragmatic in nature. We relate the living being with purpose and inanimate objects with meaning.
What is the purpose of doing a thing? Or what is the meaning in doing it?
Which is correct or more appropriate?
Here it is not about the correctness but about the appropriateness. Purpose of doing a thing possibly gives a deeper meaning than the meaning in doing it does so. To further qualify the differences, it is appropriate in saying; what is the purpose of starting a new venture not what is the meaning of starting a new venture.
Life is purposeful provided we are meaningfully engaged. We try to derive meaning in our work and activities, and derive satisfaction. One of the important purpose of life is to be happy and generate peace within through our external work engagement. The means to achieve that happiness and peace could be different but the purpose of each means remain the same.
Is there a difference in individual meaning in life from the overall purpose of existence and the universe? This has been a perennial quest by the scientific community and religious fraternity for years. Science has not been able to scientifically explain the meaning of life but Religion has been able to satisfy the purpose of life through meaningful discourse and conversations.
We make meaningful interpretation of life and break purposeful complexity of life to derive peaceful happiness.