Today while studying, I realized that I am definitely not choosing my future career in an attempt to make myself happy, or because I think I will enjoy it more than anything else. That's just not the guiding principle here. If it were, I'm not sure what I would pick.
Is that bad?
I have chosen my future career because I believe that easing human pain has some greater significance than just what we see. I believe it has meaning beyond the material world, because I believe people have meaning beyond the material world.
I've chosen medicine as the antidote to the dark moments when I cannot see why any of it matters.
If I give life a long, hard look, I feel often like it's not worth living. It's just bits of happiness and bits of pain, and in the end it passes away into darkness anyway.
Many people feel that those bits of happiness are somehow worth something for their own sake, but I have a hard time believing that. I seem incapable of simply enjoying them without them having some value beyond what is obvious.
The existentialists deal with this. If life is meaningless, then why bother?
So my panicky antidote to the existentialist conclusion arises, that there simply must be some meaning. From there, I usually jump directly to an axiomatic acceptance of the transcendent value of human beings, moving if pressed into a conclusion that "if God thinks we matter then we do".
How I get from "I don't want to commit suicide" to "human beings matter" is not clear to me.
But if human beings do matter, then meaning can be had by benefiting them in some lasting way. Some people choose to do this through teaching, some through medicine, some through research, some through art, and some through reproduction.
So I try, and I don't think about the leap too much. I'm afraid that if I do, I'll decide it's not warranted and... well, it's not going to happen.
But sometimes when I'm down, it's hard to muster the energy to make that leap. Then the meaninglessness I feel starts breathing down my neck, and I shudder.
The glorious reality, however, is that whether I feel there is meaning does not determine whether there is. Logically, a transcendent God can give meaning to our existence. A God who is God is capable of exactly that, a fact that is true whether I feel it or not.
(A "God who is God" is defined in my mind by, "My thoughts are higher than your thoughts, and my ways are higher than your ways, says the Lord". He is not a weak-sauce god who thinks as we do. He is not a slave to our wants, to our beliefs, or even to our logic. He is a God who created the logic that produced our world, which produced our brains through natural selection. He is not of this world. Higher than my thoughts. Higher than my ways. This is a God who is God.)
And if he could give meaning to our existence, who can maintain that he hasn't done exactly that? He certainly believed he had.