The meaning of life in one word?
Well, sort of …
• It matters
• What matters
• Mattering – you matter
So, matter, matters, mattering … 
Matter: Connection requires stuff. Matter is stuff. Without stuff, nothing matters.
It matters: The fact that there’s stuff and that we emerged from that stuff (stardust) places everything in a context, an import for being.
What matters: Interactions & relationships – at every scale from the cosmic (10^n) to the local, interpersonal, and personal – set the stage for valued connections. Dependence and interdependence.
Mattering: Within more immediate connections and interactions, each of us matters. 
 My working one-word answer for some time has been “connection.” But a recent article noted: “Increasingly a consensus is building that mattering stands on its own in psychological terms” – regarding mental health. Perhaps social health, a society’s health, as well.
While possibly available from several sources, this article was published as “Do You ‘Matter’ to Others? The Answer Could Predict Your Mental Health” by Scientific American on 10-6-2022.
 With the caution that mattering has a darkside. Life (and history) is full of examples where mattering is pathologically twisted. Preying upon “people’s need to feel valued and seen by others as important.”
4 comments on “The meaning of life in one word?”
Here’s an article which summarizes a study on the role of daily conversation in maintaining a sense of belonging. A sense of connection. And managing stress.
• Science Daily > “Just one quality conversation with a friend boosts daily well-being” by University of Kansas (February 2, 2023) – These are among the results of a new study co-authored by University of Kansas professor of Communication Studies and friendship expert Jeffrey Hall, director of KU’s Relationships and Technology Lab.
Connections matter. Even casual contacts.
• The Washington Post > “How — and why — you should increase your social network as you age” by Judith Graham (April 22, 2023) – Relationships aren’t only about emotional closeness, … They’re also a source of social support, practical help, valuable information and ongoing engagement with the world around us.
In the news cycle, this week a United States Surgeon General advisory on Tuesday, May 2, 2023, addressed the need to cultivate more connected lives and more connected communities – resilient belonging, mattering. For everyone, for young people and older adults …
• U.S Department of Health and Human Services > “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation 2023” (PDF) – a framework for the United States to establish a National Strategy to Advance Social Connection based on six foundational pillars:
• LA Times > “Americans face epidemic of loneliness” by Alexandra E. Petri (5-3-2023) – Surgeon general warns that isolation also has ‘profound’ health risks …
• CNET > “Loneliness Is an ‘Epidemic,’ Surgeon General Says. Here’s What to Know” by Jessica Rendall (May 2, 2023) – Advisories are reserved for “significant public health challenges” that require immediate awareness and action, according to the surgeon general’s office.
There’s no “loneliness gene,” eh.
Thinking about America’s societal myths and “cage of norms” … erosion of deep community … escaping the past … “what connects and what alienates” … being tethered for weathering the times …
This article cites depictions by America’s early art movements and by Hollywood films (like John Ford’s Westerns): Fundamental American tall tales portray a nation built on notions of rugged individualism and heroic loners.
Societal strains of individual-over-community sentiment  can be as deadly as biological epidemics.
Will our plans for space exploration and off-world colonization just be other settings – more vast landscapes – for such sentiment?
• AP News > “How the American Dream convinces people loneliness is normal” by Ted Anthony (May 16, 2023) – In the age before democracy, for better and for worse, “People weren’t lonely. They were tied up in a web of connections …” [Colin Woodard, director of the Nationhood Lab at the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy.]
 The importance of place and community is discussed in Rana Foroohar’s 2022 book Homecoming – The Path to Prosperity in a Post-Global World. For example, the difference between people as “somewheres” or “anywheres.”
See also these books re social change in America:
Putnam, Robert D.. Bowling Alone – The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Simon & Schuster (2000). Kindle Edition.
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Basic Books (2011). Kindle Edition.
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