When you just finished reading The Sign (great book, by the way, except for the parts where the author decides to spontaneously express his views on abortion and faith) and your mathematics teacher raises a question about the meaning of life, and you are the kind of loquacious, extremist sucker I am, there is no getting away from it. The subject to me is like a glowing lightbulb the size of the Indian Ocean to a moth. Here it goes.
I believe that there is no God. In the very beginning, some quantum conflux and the most insane of contrived coincidences combined to make the universe in which we now reside. Through cascading and improbable happenings of chance, life was created and slowly adapted over the millenia into what we are today. This is my belief because there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. The obvious argument of how ridiculously unlikely this is is easily rebutted by the comparison of humanity to an intelligent goldfish. Imagine the goldfish wondering why its tank is filled with water; the answer is that without the water, it wouldn't be there to ponder it.
So... the creation of everything as we know it was a purely mathematical coincidence. Without a postulated guiding intelligence involved in its formation, it becomes apparent that our existence is completely and utterly meaningless.
However, we being the fallible creatures of impulses and desires we are, humans are unable to accept this. Given this conclusion, by logic it can be seen that even if we were to firebomb everything and wreck the planet, there are no true repercussions to our deeds. Yet we have not (except for a minority of affected individuals who are outside the reach of this post). The reason for this is simply that we are unable to truly accept this idea. With this insight in mind, there are two options for the human mind: create a coping mechanism, or go insane.
Let me talk a little bit about the first option. Creating a coping mechanism in this case could mean blanking out this realization. It could mean fabricating a meaning of one's own to append to life. It is my belief that religion is such a fabrication.
My coping mechanism is strange. I acknowledge that life has no meaning, but I persist in the clockwork operation of daily life. This is because I believe that humanity as a whole has given our lives meaning. Out of those initial caveman struggles to survive has grown a complicated social system, with nuances such as castes, responsibilities and human interaction. I make it a point to adhere to these rules, as though I may feel that the burden of life holds no water, others do not think the same. In effect, I am bound by my responsibility to my friends and family. This allows me to continue.
But another, and yet more powerful, aspect of my coping mechanism is this. It is my conclusion that life has no meaning, but it can be given meaning by the actions of humanity. Is it not then my responsibility to give meaning to the lives of others, and to enrich others' lives, so that they do not recognize the terror of nihilism? This is why I tell jokes, I exercise my wit and why, in fact, I have embraced life.
To me, the meaning of life is to give meaning to it.