John, I enjoyed reading this as I’m always interested in other people’s explanations into what they view as the purpose and meaning of the human existence. If you’ll let me, however, I’d like to address some other things to consider (politely of course and in the spirit of friendship).
You state that service and alleviating suffering should be mankind’s end goal and purpose, of which I agree to an extent, but cannot be the purpose of the human existence. A person often will point out that one’s purpose could be a great career, serving others selflessly, creating radical change in the world, or even one’s family. But philosophically, those definitions are nothing more than subjective illusions. It’s nothing more than one person’s interpretation of what their intrinsic purpose could be, but it’s not the meaning of the entire human existence.
This is because it’s impossible to leave your own personal beliefs (moral or otherwise) at the door because they’re impossible to prove. Let me show you what I mean.
Person A says we should remove safety nets for poor, get rid of welfare, and let them starve as scientifically it’s survival of the fittest. The stronger species will always survive.
Person B says the poor have right to live. They’re human beings like us.
Person A retorts that scientists today believe the concept of human is artificial and impossible to define. They can point to a greater ethic stating that in order for the majority to live, others must die. It’s how nature works.
Person B could then try a pragmatic argument about how helping the poor makes society work better and gives us value. Person A, however, could come up with just as many reason to let the poor die to create a more efficient environment.
At this point most of us would agree with Person B and say starving the poor is unethical! But it’s just as easy for Persona A or anyone to point out that “Who says ethics has to be the same for everyone?”
Quite the pickle, yes?
So questions like purpose, meaning, the divine, or the absurdity of life make a huge difference in the way we interact with the world and others, and there’s a big reason why.
In his book After Virtue, Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre uses an illustration about our need for narratives to derive meaning. Imagine for a moment, you’re waiting for a bus and a young man walks up to you and says, “The name of the common wild duck is Histrionicus histrionicus histrionicus.” While you may understand the sentence the man uttered, it makes no sense without a greater narrative. Perhaps the man is homeless and mentally ill. Maybe he’s just mistaken you for someone he met at the library who asked the Latin name for a wild duck? Or perhaps he’s a spy trying to identify his contact. The first narrative is sad, the second comical, and third dramatic. His point in the illustration is to show that without a handle on the story, there’s no way to understand the meaning or how to answer the young man.
So indeed, what is the meaning of life at this point? Your narrative would say say to alleviate suffering and serve others. Noble, but again, subjective. For me, I’ve found the divine answer offers the best solution (which is also subjective to a degree). It was something author C. S. Lewis said that got to me. He remarked that“God is not the sort of thing of thing one can be moderately interested in.” If God does not exist, there’s no reason to be interested in God at all. On the other hand, if God exists — much like humanist thought leaders Sartre and Camus pondered — then it is paramount to our interests, and our ultimate concern ought to be how we relate to this being and derive our purpose.
All in all, I’m glad you’ve chose to explore this question as I believe it’s something many people ignore and numb with netflix or being entertained. When we ignore the story of life and our purpose, or ask others to, we do ourselves a disservice, so I’m glad you’re asking a bigger picture question and have found an answer.
I mean no ill will in this (ask Kris, she’ll tell you I love to read her work and push back a little), but just wanted to provide another perspective and viewpoint. Best to you brother!