Every human being must have posed this question at certain points in life. During those rare occasions when the contemplative spirit can take hold; at those times when outside world seems quiet and all the usual demands of living have receded from consciousness, this question might come forward from the deeper recesses of the mind. It might also arise, in the midst of horrendous difficulty, calamity or strife.
This is a very big question. Religion and religious belief exquisitely sidesteps the answer by invoking a third person(s). This third person(s) is, of course, fashioned into a super being endowed with all the powers imaginable. This ploy, however, does not make the answer to the question regarding the meaning of life any easier – as a matter of fact, it thoroughly confuses the issue, for it makes tackling the complexities involved totally unnecessary. We are left to the inscrutable whim of the god(s).
In my mind, every human life is unique. It owes its originality to all the subtleties that our genes impose upon our characteristics, the realities of our physical and emotional development and the unique aspects of our individual experiences. Many of these are essentially outside of the realm of our individual control. This reality taken on its own, of course, does not necessarily give meaning to life.
On the cosmic scale, an individual human life is no more meaningful than any other aspect of existence. The universe is magnificent and wondrous - replete with unimaginable immensity, beauty and power. In relation to the cosmic time scale we are remarkably ephemeral – our longevity is insignificant in relation to the life of a star or the time it takes for mountains to form or even the span of time required to refresh an underground aquifer. The amount of time that has encompassed the existence of human civilization is paltry in relation to the time it takes for light to reach us from a distant galaxy.
I believe that our life has meaning to the extent that we are willing to give meaning to it. Every moment that is experienced has bundled within it aspects that can amaze; that are wondrous; that can inspire thought; that can ignite the imagination; that can reveal some new dimension to existence. Embracing these moments can bring grief as well as joy and pain as well as pleasure, despair as well as elation. The wondrous faculty of the human mind allows us to truly appreciate the endless subtleties and dimensions of existence. We are also quite capable of passing through existence deadened to reality and therefore deprive it of meaning. This is a matter of personal choice.
I would conclude by saying that an individual life intrinsically has meaning in so far as it is an integral part of the web of existence. In this regard a human life is no greater value than all the other manifestations of the living. However, we, as a species, have been endowed with an uncanny ability to be aware of our own individual existence. This self-consciousness is a wondrous gift that can either be developed or squandered. The choice is ours to make.