Indeed, Nova has captured the vein of my thoughts concerning HPatHBP quite succintly, I must say. Although I don't feel Diagon Alley to be very much removed from previous depictions.
One of the primary reasons why I hadn't reviewed it quite as exhaustively as Nova had was (and I must admit) that I was still suffering from what some future psychologist may term Post-Potter disorder, defined here as the curious pathological sense of deflation felt by someone in the post-Potter period. A post-Potter period being the aftermath (usually about three days; experimental verification pending - anyone looking for a PhD dissertation?) of the reading of the latest Harry Potter book.
A curious deflation resulting in the subconscious desire to disassociate with the object of obsession has resulted in a fruitful loss of pathological fawning over the Harry Potter genre. Thus the lack of a detailed review like the one below.
What indeed, is the meaning of life? I just discovered that I unwittingly possess some elements of an existentialist viewpoint; that the Universe is inherently without meaning and that Life creates it. Read Soul of the Universe to see my interpretation of life and meaning.
It may be that I am unable to hold on to the Nihilist belief that life and everything is merely an accident in a meaningless Universe. Or to the theistic view, which asserts that God gives our existence meaning. Ultimately I am always a fence-sitter in such matters; being an agnostic I find the compromise best - and the compromise is this - that the Universe waits for meaning to come into it, but still bound by a self-serving and self-sustaining code of civility and morals that enables optimal coexistence. Without such morals, life is robbed of meaning.
Also, perhaps Life is a form of deity; in which the ancients have asserted, and self-propagation is our inherent purpose. Furthering our species in the dance of life, the Universe's most complex creation. But consciousness and sentience transcend primal impulse; so we create more meaning out of the one purpose of self-propagation. Indeed, this meaning of being useful to society is a form of aiding self-propagation; all moral acts do so.
Thus, perhaps, meaning is defined as fulfilling the mandate of self-propagation in a moral manner that befits everyone, because each life is precious, individual, unique and has as much a right as anyone else. Unfortunately this optimal scenario is impossible given our natures; human society is built upon the monuments of stratification and differentiation. What, then, is achievable meaning?
The answer is not definite. Communism, an attempt to bring about this Utopian society, has failed.
But perhaps a weak semblance of this meaning can be achieved. Poverty and inequality result from a number of factors: lack of resources, inefficiency, corruption, incompetence, lack of oppurtunity. Only when there is an excess of resources, accompanied by global unification, global social welfare, and technological advance can the problem of poverty be solved.
To create resources, one must have materials. To harvest, process, and refine these materials, one requires energy. Energy poverty is a problem inherent in societies such as ours, where we have not come out of an age where energy sources are either too dirty or too expensive. Or both. Is technological innovation, then, the answer to solving the world's poverty problems? Not entirely. The human race is still bound by its own vice; whatever it takes, the individual human being must transcend, even further, the innate impulse of self-preservation and self-propagation for the good of society. Eugenics is not the answer, slow nuturing is. The slow advancement of civilization. (One wonders whether the men and women of the Middle Ages were as bad/good as us.)
When clean, cheap energy comes and solves the energy problem, perhaps then the resources problem may be in turn eradicated. The Solar system is a mine of resources that is many times that of Earth's. And technological innovation can make the process of refinement even more efficient. Then comes he logistics problem, the fair (but still capitalist-bound) distribution to humanity that will bring every human being up to a comfortable standard of living.
Perhaps this is a naural progression of society, that is accompanied and aided by technological advance. Perhaps the rate of increase of civilization is the key to achieving meaning in life, along with efficient self-propagation of species.
Therefore, perhaps the key to achieving meaning is aiding technological advancement, and thus technology, in the long run, aids in the moral and spiritual fulfillment of self-meaning.
This is all quite naive speculation; the processes involved in the achievement of uniform self-sufficiency and a reasonably high standard of living would be huge and unwieldy. But perhaps that is the way of all plans; gradually, perhaps, natural progression achieves the (still captialist) utopia dreamt about for as long as we have walked this earth.
It is the central focus of our search for meaning in the Universe; my stand is that we have to create it for ourselves. And there are certainly ample oppurtunities to do so, don;t you think?
As they say, the Sky's the limit. And the sky, here, is not the insubstantial stuff of terrestrially-bound dust, but the infinite vistas of the nighttime sky's starry realities. We only have to reach for it.