Plato wrote “An unexamined life is not worth living”, as part of his discussion of Socrates’ life and execution. But that is an obviously false statement, because of all living things only humans have sufficiently developed languages to examine their past and potential future lives, and all living things have their own worth in living. Even a virus has an inherent compulsion that drives it onward in its quest for life. Of course the idea is intended to be applied to humans, and the observable fact that most people don’t examine their lives very deeply. The inane proof of that statement is the vast quantity of TV and other media that purport to examine life situations, but do so with puerile superficiality. If the story doesn’t include an abundance of car chases, gun fights, flashy explosions, and physical fights, its ratings fall off and the financial profits fall too. Serious attempts to provoke the viewing audience into self-analysis of their place in the Universe, or on Earth, or in their community or even in their own family don’t exist. We are expected to derive motivations for these things from watching other people engage these problems, but the instant the show ends the advertising begins, and there isn’t an instant left for cogitation and self-analysis.
There has been some self-analysis promoted by the spiritual awareness community, but most of that isn’t aimed at being a more productive person, but at being a more caring one. That is good as far as it goes, but life is more than feelings of love being projected out of a quiet mind, and a majority of people live their lives without much meditation or counseling. So, we come back to the question, “Is any life worth living?”, examined or not examined. I believe it is, but its value isn’t going to be found in the examination of it. Life becomes meaningful when we have things we want to do, actions we want to take, and opportunities to take them. To be successful at what we want to do may require some assessment of what one’s abilities are, what opportunities are available, and how best to blend one’s abilities with one’s opportunities. It’s the progress towards some self-chosen goal that gives satisfaction.
There is some value in silent meditation, but it appears the value in it for most people is calming them from their normal state of functioning anxiety and worry, to a place where they are quiet, and in that state they can be clearer in their analysis of their problems and can then approach them more effectively. Thus to my view this seeming waste of time succeeds in a person being more productive.
Some word play with “An unexamined life is not worth living”: The unlived life isn’t worth living. The unlived life isn’t worth examining. Am I not living no matter what I’m doing? Isn’t the time spent examining one’s life a degraded form of living? Isn’t playing a game living more fully than reading about how to play the game?
Living is thinking about something you would like to get done and doing a good job of doing it.