Social and political systems are forms of collective order destined at organizing human existence. Yet not many people will draw the meaning of their lives from political or social symbolization of order. Rather each individual thinks about his or her own situation and the meaning of his or her individual life.
Although this is more prevalent today, as societies are more fragmented and people tend to be more individualistic, in fact mankind has always wondered about such question: the value and meaning of individual life.
One obvious example is the Book of Job. I have seen the story of Job ridiculed in movies and tv series but I believe that sometimes the critics are missing the point. The point goes beyond a simple “proof of faith”. The point is a reflexion on human condition and its precarious, transient or even arbitrary character.
It should be said that the narrative was composed in different periods and it seems to have been edited at some point with the objective of eliminating traces of earlier polytheism. But on the other hand, it answers to very broad questions that go beyond the context of the religious evolution of the Jewish people and thus resonate in all humanity.
In archaic ages people believed that everything that happened was the explicit will of the gods. So if a catastrophe happened there must had been a reason for that. The prophets of Israel up to Job upheld this belief as good was rewarded and wickedness punished by the Lord.
The Book of Job though reflects upon that the statement and concludes that it is possible that good can still be matched by horrific catastrophes and disasters and that these are not necessarily the consequent of bad deeds. The servants and children of Job were totally innocent, yet they were all killed by the divinity. Job himself was a good, God-fearing, law-abiding man upon whom all sorts of calamities fell.
Now this can lead one up to conclude on the fundamental meaninglessness of the universe and life. But that is a big and unjustified leap.
It is not up to us, as individuals, to denounce existence’s lack of meaning. The vastness of the universe discourages such a bold statement, made only on the grounds of our personal experience and thought. Before that we should consider that our existence is only a part of a much vaster order of being.
In this context, social and political order, institutions, including religion, family, circles of friends and other forms of shared values and feelings are like mediators that can help the individual to integrate himself in what is, because “Life must be!” (CAMPBELL, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, p. 124).
But ultimately, if one wants to seriously pursue a quest for meaning, one will have to follow a more philosophical and personal trail. He who does that will have to be ready to deal with the truth and to “open his soul beyond terror to such a degree that he will be ripe to understand how the sickening and insane tragedies of this vast and ruthless cosmos are completely validated in the majesty of Being” (CAMPBELL, Ibidem, p. 125).