What is the purpose of life?

That’s what Camilla Unwin asked J.R.R.Tolkien.

He answered this:

“… If you do not believe in a personal God the question: ‘What is the purpose of life?’ is unaskable and unanswerable – To whom or what would you addres the question? But since in an odd corner (or odd corners) of the Universe things have developd with minds that ask questions and try to answer them, you might address one of these peculiar things. As one of them I should venture to say (speaking with absurd arrogance on behalf of the Universe): ‘I am as I am. There is nothing you can do about it. You may go on trying to find out what I am, but you wil never succeed. And why you want to know, I do not know. Perhaps the desire to know for the mere sake of knowledge is related to the prayers that some of you adress to what you call God. At their highest these seem simply to praise Him for being, as He is, and for making what He has made, as He has made it.’

“Those who believe in a personal God, Creator, do not think the Universe is in itself worshipful, though devoted study of it may be one of the ways of honouring Him. And while as living creatures we are (in part) within it and part of it, our ideas of God and ways of expressing them will be largely derived from contemplating the world about us. (Though there is also revelation both adressed to all men and to particular persons.)

“So it may be said that the chief purpose of life, for any one of us, is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in Gloria in Excelsis: Laudamus te, benedicamus te, adoramus te, glorificamus te, gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam. We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendour.
“And in moments of exaltation we may call on all created things to join in our chorus, speaking on their behalf, as is done in Psalm 148, and in The Song of the Three Children in Daniel II. PRAISE THE LORD… all mountains, all orchards and forests, all things that creep and birds on the wing.

“This is much too long, and also much too short -on such a question.

“With best wishes…”


From a letter to Camilla Unwin, 20 May 1969, Lakeside Road, Brannsome Park Poole.


5 comentarios sobre “What is the purpose of life?

  1. Ese Tolkien. Sabía tanto del mundo que ya no le cupo su saber en este y tuvo que inventarse uno propio.

  2. diego, ¿conoces el canto gregoriano correspondiente a esos versos? si no con mucho gusto te lo puedo rippear de un cd, lo malo de mi cd es que son monjes españoles y que sus eses suenan insoportablemente españolas por más que traten de ocultarlas

    por último, no estoy siendo ingenuo al pensar que sólo existe un canto gregoriano correspondiente a esas palabras, como la vez que le dije a memo ortiz que “si ockham había escrito el quodlibet”, y el hombre botas me respondió desde las alturas “sí, tiene algunos quodlibeta

  3. Diego, por fin has logrado algo con tu blog, me has dado una nueva luz para entender la vida cotidiana. Y mira que para mí ese es un tema serio (Cfr. Mi blog, el post que se llama “Una nueva luz para entender la vida cotidiana”)

    Me has mostrado, querido amigo, una de esas realidades que todos los días se detienen frente a nuestra nariz; una de esas cosas que, por no tener olor ni sabor pueden pasar desapercibidas tan fácilmente.

    Me has mostrado lo chistoso que es el parecido entre las palabras valor y volar.

    Muchas gracias.


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