I used to discuss the meaning of life with one of my dearest friends back in Poland. These were some of the most futile discussions I have ever had, but on the other hands they were extremely entertaining. I still love doing it. It reminds me of a joke quoted in Jim Baggot's "A Beginner's Guide to Reality", this is actually a kind of parable:
One day a fisherman was lying on a beautiful beach, with his fishing pole propped up in the sand and his solitary line cast out into the sparkling blue surf. He was enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and the hope of catching a fish.
About that time, a businessman came walking down the beach trying to relieve some of the stress of his workday. He noticed the fisherman sitting on the beach and decided to find out why this fisherman was fishing instead of working hard to make a living for himself and his family.
"You're not going to catch many fish that way," said the businessman, "You should be working harder rather than lying on the beach!"
The fisherman looked up, smiled and replied, "And what will my reward be?"
"Well, you can get bigger nets and catch more fish!" was the businessman's answer.
"And then what will my reward be?" asked the fisherman, still smiling.
The businessman replied, "You will make money and you'll be able to buy a boat, which will then result in larger catches of fish!"
"And then what will my reward be?" asked the fisherman again.
The businessman was beginning to get a little irritated with the fisherman's questions. "You can buy a bigger boat, and hire some people to work for you!" he said.
"And then what will my reward be?"
The businessman was getting angry. "Don't you understand? You can build up a fleet of fishing boats, sail all over the world, and let your employees catch fish for you!"
Once again the fisherman asked, "And then what will my reward be?"
The businessman was red with rage and shouted at the fisherman, "Don't you understand that you can become so rich that you will never have to work for your living again! You can spend all the rest of your days sitting on this beach, looking at the sunset. You won't have a care in the world!"
"And what do you think I am doing now?" Answered the fisherman.
The absurdity of human predicament (as marvellously described in Mark Rowlands' "The Philosopher at the End of Universe") lies in the fact that it revolves around two different views on ourselves: the outside and inside view. Or, in other words, our actual achievements and their pretension. All philosophy runs on absurdity of human existence.
From the inside view, your life might be fulfilled with meaning, you have a job, you have a wife and children, say boy and girl. You wake up everyday in the morning at eight to be able to make it to your office before nine, you work eight hours and go back home where you eat you lunch. You watch some TV, presumably a movie or a football match, or some news. After a while you play with your kids a little bit and then make love to your wife. When you get the salary, you can buy some food so that your family could thrive and you change your car after several years. You make your children grow healthily and happily. You send them to college and so on. In fact the chain of events has some meaning to you because you fulfill your life with significance, you complete your "objective" and find yourself another. This is our inside view, our inside story, which works perfectly well...
But there is always the other story to be told, which is the outside one. According to it, your life has no meaning. It is absurd (and please remember that in philosophical terms absurd does not mean stupid It just repsesents the clash between the two views to ourselves). Practically, we are living on a meaningless planet in some meaningless galaxy and even if there are some beings in the outer space they will probably not make it here until we all die. Sad, isn't it? We have been around for infinitesimally small amount of time in context of the planets or even animals in general. We mean nothing. But on the other hand the both stories, the external and the internal one, cannot be true at the same time. They aren't simply compatible. To see it clearly you might consider the myth os Sisiphus, the diligent guy who rolled the extremely heavy stone up the mountain all his life only to learn that it would always roll down as soon as he reaches the top. He had to begin his labor over and over again, for eternity. Sisiphus' work was very hard and tiresome, it shattered his nerves and muscles each time he had to repeat it, but actually it is not the difficulty of his task that contributes to his misery. His miserable predicament was defined by the fact that (from the outside view) nothing could count as success. He never achieved anything, he never built anything because the stone rolled down forever. The task aimed at nothing.
But this is just a rendering of our own lives. In a large sense, there is no difference between Sisiphus situation and ours. Practically we do the same job, only that our tasks might be more elaborate. The fact that we lived and died is like a stone that has just rolled down the peak. As you can see, existence is futile. (ha! now I remembered the beginning of "Star Trek 8: The First Contact" with its funny Borgs repeating "Resistance is futile!")
In a detailed (i.e. inside) view, even Sisiphus' story does not seem so bleak. We can count each of his steps up tho hill as a decent achievement and we can consider his very will to do another step as a sign of power to endure and fulfillment of his existence with meaning.
You do not choose the view to your life. The views just exist and consist in the most difficult philosophical questions. You just do your job, and your sons do the same (or just similar) jobs when you die, and when the end of the world comes, the descendants of earthlings will do the same job over and over...
Ah yes, and a happy new (another?) year!