By Michael E. Ross Reporter
msnbc.com
updated 3/2/2006 6:37:53 PM ET 2006-03-02T23:37:53

“What's the meaning of life?” The right answer, in 25 words or less, could be worth $10,000.

TheMeaningOfLife.com, a Southern California-base Web site, is asking the eternal question as part of a contest to find the answer to that ultimate multiple-choice question.

Adam Christing, an author, motivational speaker and the site's founder, has been pondering the question for years, and he still hasn't found what he’s looking for.

“We live in an age where we’re bombarded by messages: ‘Buy this, do this, drink this,’ ” said Christing, a father of four. “People need to reflect on what life means to them — What's it all for? How do we make the most of our time? — and make choices consistent with that.”

Christing, 42, said his Web site looks to capitalize on the popularity of “The Purpose Driven Life,” the 2002 book that has sold about 25 million copies and is, according to Publishers Weekly, the best-selling hardcover book in American history.

But where that book explores life’s purpose from a Christian perspective, Christing's Web site approaches the issue in what he views as a broader, spiritual context.

“People in the religious community get stereotyped by those who are spiritual, and spiritual people are blasting the religious,” Christing said. “I don’t think God fits in any box. We can celebrate the tradition that comes with religion, and we can enjoy the freedom that comes from a more spiritual paradigm."

Epiphany at ‘the big 4-0’
In 1990 Christing created Clean Comedians, an entertainment booking company that specialized in family-friendly comedians, corporate motivational speakers and variety acts. “It was doing great, I got a lot of laughs,” he said. “But what I really wanted to do was inspire people to become who they were meant to be.”

He came to his own existential crossroads shortly after he hit “the big 4-0.”

He recalled working online at 2 one morning when he decided to type in the phrase “the meaning of life” to see what came up. A woman owned the domain name and used the site to  to showcase her poetry and photography.

Christing contacted her and said she was so  moved by his quest that she gave him the domain for free. “After that, I sold my business and went into this full time," he said.

If that wasn't enough of a wake-up call for a change of life, Christing said he was deeply affected by a friend's sudden death. “A friend passed away tragically right around the time I sold the business,” he said.

“He was 46. With three kids.”

Why wait for tragedy?’
Christing finds that taking a introspective look at life is a reflex, especially during traumatic events, holidays and life's milestones. "But why wait until tragedy hits before you start thinking about the bigger things in life?” he asked.

Christing’s Web site will award $10,000 to the person with the “most profound” response completing the phrase “The meaning of life is ... ” Entrants can use no more than 25 words to complete the phrase, and no borrowed quotes from famous people, please.

Christing says a winner will be picked from among each month's submissions and at the end of the year,  he and his judges — a panel of what Christing calls “meaning makers” — will pick a winner from the final 12.

Is there a right answer?
The inevitable question arises: Since he’s dealing with a question for which there’s no right or wrong answer, how will he decide which entry is worth $10,000?

Christing said “succinct and memorable” will be watchwords for judging entries. “Because we're listing the best of the entries each month, we'll get a sense that certain phrases and words really resonate with people,” he said. “That'll have a lot to do with the winner.”

Besides the allure of a big-money contest, his site carries articles on personal discovery, and sells CDs and DVDs featuring experts in various fields discussing physical and mental health, spirituality and personal growth.

Christing's already struck a nerve in cyberspace: “Someone offered me $100,000 for the domain name,” he said. “I said no. I'm well aware I'm doing a business, but it's about more than making cash.

"It’s about making a difference to people who say, ‘Hey, there’s got to be more to life than losing weight and making more money.’ ”

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