The Meaning of Life is Conscious Presence — Jacob Needleman

What it means to be fully alive

Thomas Oppong
5 min readNov 7, 2022


Artwork: St. John the Evangelist at Patmos/1645/Alonzo Cano/Public domain

The meaning of life is one of the oldest questions in human cultures — and it’s as relevant today as ever before. As humans, we naturally tend to ask questions about the meaning of life and how to find meaning in it.

The quest for answers often comes from deep longing and an inherent need for connection with something bigger than ourselves. It’s also related to our powerful drive to survive and procreate.

The media has been selling a specific meaning paradigm for decades: a great career, money/riches, or power/status. But there is no single meaning to life — what makes you come alive is not just a pale imitation.

There are many different meanings of life. In fact, those meanings often overlap each other (or at the very least they speak to similar themes). But the real meaning of life is personal.

If anything, these different meanings help give form and direction to our lives as we pursue them. We might not even realise it consciously, but most people from other cultures know that particular values or purposes lie at the centre of their lives — and for a good reason.

Jacob Needleman philosopher, author, and religious scholar, once said the meaning of life is conscious presence.

“To be present, truly present, is to have conscious attention. This capacity is the key to what it means to be human. It is the key to the meaning of human life itself. Without a conscious presence, there can be no real, enduring love, compassion, will or wisdom, or justice in the world,” he said.

Conscious presence is being present with yourself and the world around you, allowing you to be fully aware of your current mental state, physical surroundings, and external relationships.

Conscious presence is when you are fully present in the moment, experiencing your current state of mind, surroundings, and interactions with your whole self.

It means being aware of what you’re experiencing and its meanings so that you can make sense of life in the most meaningful way possible.



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Thomas Oppong

Author | Habits, Philosophy & Psychology. As seen on Forbes, Inc. and Business Insider. For my popular essays, go here: