Finalist, 2003 Kids Philosophy Slam
Joyce Meng, Age 16
Fairfax, Virginia

Fame, the Meaning of Life

     As creatures of reason, humans have sought to create an artificial, fictitious dictate, which assigns value and purpose to existence. This purpose gives life a direction and sets a standard to reach, thereby providing the potentiality for self-fulfillment. Although the physical manifestation of the meaning of life relies on subjective interpretation, its underlying foundation is universal. The meaning of live is used to alleviate the fear of death and suffering, acting as a motivator against arbitrary existence and a justification for self. The meaning of life is to find the will to live.
     Fame manifests the fundamental component of the will to live as a challenge to death. Even in the most joyful experiences of life, the looming shadow of death and human frailty pervades. As French mathematician Blaise Pascal stated, "when I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed by eternity before and after, and the infinite immensity of space of which I am ignorant, I am frightened and astonished."
     This universal feeling of apprehensiveness permeates life. In my happiest moments, the same uneasiness occurs as I recognize that euphoria must eventually pass and that one day, the feeling of being able to experience emotion itself will disappear. Therefore, finding the will to live against the uneasiness is the meaning of life. To live without rationalization – to forget death, the counterpart of life, is to deny the value of life itself. But to conquer death by finding permanence and individual value within human society results in the capacity to live freely, where death no longer is a burden.
     Two summers ago, my aunt died of breast cancer at the age of 37, leaving behind a teenage son and a devastated spouse. For this generation, her memory persists. But within a few decades, will her existence be erased in the infinite span of time? It pains me that an individual's worth is trivialized by time. Permanence, the conqueror of the ephemeral nature of mankind, protects individual worth. Fame achieves permanence, where an individual's ideals and existence exerts such a great influence upon society until the individual is galvanized into the history and social fabric of society, achieving immortality.
     Furthermore, fame is a necessary component of self-fulfillment, a pathway to the meaning of life. Since an individual cannot exist independent of society, the greatness of an individual is seen only in relation to societal standards. Fame, the recognition of an individual's worth by others, results in influence and self-worth. With influence, an individual transcends limitations, finding a mechanism to enact his ideals to shape the future society. This ability to affect noticeable change is the ultimate indication of self-worth.
     In conclusion, the meaning of life is the struggle of an individual to overcome anxiety of mere existence and death to find the will to live. The will to live is manifested in the quest for permanence and self-worth, the antidote for death. Although perhaps no one can reach absolute permanence and self-worth, the attempt always brings the individual closer, motivating him to find self-fulfillment and enjoy the pleasures of life.

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