My son asked me this million-dollar question, “what’s the meaning of life?”, and he is 11.

Got another opportunity to “chat” with my son yesterday, which I would never get it wasted. πŸ˜€

It was towards the end of the day, after he spent a lot of time during the day on absolutely nothing except all the “screen time” (phone games, PC games, switch games, youtube game plays, online chat with his friends, etc.), and I was able to ask him this question:

“Eric, have you done anything meaningful today?”

“Assuming a person can live up to 100 years old, and that will be roughly 36,500 days. Once you “spent” a day, it will be gone forever and one day less to live. So, do you ask yourself the question, what I did for THAT DAY, and did I do anything meaningful to make it worth it?”

I know this is not just one question. As a matter of fact, I had to start with a casual conversation for about 10 minutes that led to real questions like these.

He didn’t know how to answer my question, apparently, as he returned a puzzled look; and after a short pause, he threw back at me this million-dollar question:

“Dad, what is the meaning of life?”

I knew at the moment that he was serious with this question, for the way he asked that showed a sincere expectation for a real answer. Gee, he may even have had this question in his head for awhile, for the serious look he gave me.

I knew this was being a critical moment of our conversation and I had to do it right. I started with a casual response in an attempt to tune down the “seriousness” of the question and get him relaxed a bit, with a genuine smile on my face:

“Eric, you are asking a very philosophical question, do you know that? People, actually philosophers, spend life time to study this question. As a kid, you do not actually need, yet, to worry about a question like this. πŸ˜€”

Then, I took him to a place that I wanted all along:

“Eric, let’s ask this question instead, ‘what is the meaning of your dad’s life?”

I didn’t wait for his answer, but offered him mine right away:

“The meaning of my life is measured by those who depend on me.”

“For example, I provide a safe and secure place for you and your sister to live; I work hard to earn income so that you and your sister can have a comfortable life; I ensure you and your sister to receive good education.”

“These are just examples for my meaning to the family. How about my colleagues, co-workers, and my work? My colleagues rely on me to make right judgment for them. My company relies on me to make the right calls for its products. And the consumers of my companies’ products rely on me to make those right calls. And these are my meaning to them”.

After this, I took him to “Steve Jobs” πŸ˜€:

“There are people who have had a greater meaning of life because what the did to other people. Say, Steve Jobs, he invented the smart phone, and how that invention has changed people’s life for good”.

With, hopefully, an adequate explanation of this concept, I now returned to his original question:

“Now, let’s try to answer the question ‘what’s your meaning of life?'”.

“Your life means everything to me and your mom, and that’s all there is to it at this moment. Later in your life, you will expand this meaning to other people, like your wife, your own kids, your colleagues, on and on. So, what you are doing now and the choices you make, in the childhood, determine how much and how expansive you can mean to other people, later on in your life.”

“And this is exactly the reason why I asked you this question ‘have you done anything meaningful – TODAY?'”.

Obviously, this is not an easy conversation with a 11-years-old. His responses during my “lecture” showed that his mind wondered in different places while trying to digest my words. I don’t anticipate that he “gets it” for what I was trying so hard to convey; but that’s okay. I’ve planted the seed, and that’s all it matters, for now.

My son, in the end, concluded the conversation with a perfect line, “Dad, you are just like Master Oogway (乌龟)…” πŸ˜‚


The Meaning of Life according to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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