During an event in Boston on Thursday, Neil deGrasse Tyson fielded an inquiry from “Jackson,” a precocious 6-year-old, who asked a question that’s occupied a lot of heavy thinkers: “What’s the meaning of life?”
While many adults might respond to such a query with a deer-in-the-headlights stare, Tyson didn’t flinch. Instead, the astrophysicist launched into a deeply considered response, tailored for a 6-year-old, about the wonder of learning. Just check out the video above to hear his answer.
“I think people ask that question on the assumption that meaning is something you can look for, and then, ‘Oh, I found it! Here’s meaning, here’s what it is,'” Tyson said, gesturing as if he were picking something tangible up off the stage.
He went on to add:
“And it doesn’t consider the possibility that maybe meaning in life is something that you create, that you manufacture for yourself and others. When I think of ‘meaning’ in life, I ask, ‘Have I learned something today that I didn’t know yesterday?’ Bringing me a little closer to knowing all that can be known in the universe. Just a little closer, however far away all the knowledge sits. If I live a day and I don’t know a little more that day than the day before, I think I wasted that day.”
Tyson used this speech as a launching pad to advocate for maintaining a sense of wonder, regardless of age. As he did several months ago when a first-grader asked how she could help save the Earth, he encouraged young Jackson to explore the world around him, whether that’s by banging pans on the kitchen floor, jumping into puddles or catching snowflakes in his mouth.