Photocopies and the Meaning of Life

“So, René, what is the meaning of life?” I looked at Roberto, lifting my eyes from the photocopying machines. It was our first year of business school, and Roberto and I were working on a joint project for our industrial production and processes class. By then he knew I was a Christian but, being a shy Asiangirl reading book-Brazilian student, he did not confront me head on, but chose this unprepared moment, when we were photocopying articles together, to come with the loaded question.

I don’t quite remember what I answered him. Maybe I willfully forgot it, cringing at such a lofty challenge presented at such a humdrum moment: the buzz of the Xerox machine, people walking past us, thoughts about what I wanted to have for lunch. I answered, I think, that life is about loving and being loved, that love is the consummation of our existence. But my precise words, I don’t quite remember. I wonder if Roberto does.

This episode surfaced to my consciousness as I came across two quotes this past week: two attempts to answer what the scope of our existence is. The first came at Richard Foster’s obituary of writer and Foster’s friend and mentor, Dallas Willard. Amidst anecdotes about their years together and Willard’s life legacy, Foster singled out a special quote.

The aim of God in history is the creation of an all-inclusive community of loving persons with God himself at the very heart of this community as its prime Sustainer and most glorious Inhabitant.[1]

The aim of God in creating giraffes and daisies and galaxies and humans – if we believe in God – is the creation of a community, an inclusive community of love. That’s God’s goal, his first thought every morning and his last thought every evening. That is God’s vision for human history, what makes him tick, according to Willard. It is a beautiful description of the Christian worldview.

children at the beach

The second definition came in a chapter about gender identity in Miroslav Volf’s Exclusion & Embrace. Drawing on Trinitarian doctrine, the Christian belief that God is, at once, one being yet a loving community of three persons, Volf affirms,

“In a sense, this ‘bringing down’ is the goal of the whole history of salvation: God came into the world so as to make human beings, created in the image of God, live with one another and with God in the kind of communion in which divine persons live with one another.”[2]

Volf’s answer is similar to Willard’s: God created the universe out of the fullness of his being, to form a community of intelligent persons who can share in his love and happiness forever. God wants to bring this community down and include us in it. God is like a dynamic of love who enters the world so as to redeem and include sinners in its eternal, ecstatic embrace.

These are breathtaking definitions. What is yours?

René Breuel


[2] Miroslav Volf, Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), 81.

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2 responses to “Photocopies and the Meaning of Life

  1. Pingback: What is the meaning of life? | Wondering Fair·

  2. Pingback: God is not an idea | Wondering Fair·

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