At the end of his years Maugham wrote in his journal, “Throughout the ages many have found in the belief in life to come an adequate compensation for the troubles of their brief sojourn in a world of sorrow. They are the lucky ones. Faith, for those who have it, solves difficulties which reason finds insoluble.”
In many ways, Maugham was a tragic figure, for the very reason why he wanted to know the meaning of life – his acute power of reason – prevented him from taking the first step by accepting even the possibility of freedom and enlightenment and God. He suffered in some sense from a failure of the imagination, which he condemned as a refuge of those who could not achieve their desires, those defeated by life's complications. “By imagination man compensates himself for his failure to get a complete satisfaction from life.”
Maugham seeks to find the meaning of life in his early entries and, indeed, through much of his latter ones devoted to philosophical observations of life. What is the right way of living life? He wants to know the standards by which one can make a determination between the possible ways of being in the world. One of his conclusions is that man always seeks that which is pleasurable, even if he claims that he is acting selflessly. He also believes that much of the real cause of human reality being as it is has to do with violence – might makes right.
There are many other aphorisms that Maugham comes up with, the one on hope states, for instance, states that hope is the greatest evil of all those unleashed by Pandora's box, for hope makes men endure cruel twists of fate. About reason Maugham writes, it helps us to do with equanimity what we would rather not do. Suffering for Maugham is an abomination: it does not ennoble and its effect on character – contrary to popular wisdom – is corrosive. Suffering, rather, makes men degenerate and lose their good sense. “The effect of suffering is to make people narrow.”