A long post i wrote some time ago, kind of sums up my views on the subject :
What is the point of life ? It is a question that has haunted humanity since the dawn of civilisation, a question that has spurred many a great thinker to dedicate their lives to try and come up with an appropriate answer. But what if their is not one great meaning to this fascinating series of biological processes we have affectionately named “life” ? What if, despite their huge intellectual capacity and ability to see past the obvious to conjure some mind bending abstract theory about various aspects of the human mind and body, the great philosophers of the past were mistaken on this particular mystery?
Yuanfen. The Moirai.The meaning of life. Fate. All these are simply different wordings of the same belief, namely that a certain life defining purpose which we are supposed to follow was somehow included in our DNA when mankind originated. Whether they invoke some divine being or stick to the natural laws of the physical world,, they all incorporate to some extent the belief that we have no control of our future, no free will, and that we spend our short life living in the illusion of possibility. Even the third one, the idea that life itself has some kind of overarching grand design, some all encompassing purpose imbedded in its very foundations, leaves us with little to no choice as to how we live our lives, should we want to end up happy or fulfilled. This manner of thought can for many people lead to some kind of existential crisis, deriving from their fear that they will never figure out the reason they are alive and are doomed to wander the surface aimlessly until their time expires.
There simply is no reason to believe that life has some specific structure, some kind of purpose, to it. Every single human life history has witnessed throughout the ages has been unique, shaped by the desires and flaws of the individual. To proclaim that the universe has as special plan for humanity is to participate in a kind of anthropocentric view of reality we have not entertained since the church proclaimed the world revolved around us, both literally and figuratively. All our knowledge and experience of the universe up until the present moment leads us to conclude none other than the fact that the cosmos, the endless planes of space and infinite lakes of time that form the past,present and future of our reality, must be cold and impersonal. As I mentioned in my last text, mankind is but a visitor on this celestial body. We came, we saw and after while, we will inevitably be conquered, our life source lost to the cruel thief that is time, and Earth will carry on revolving around the sun, continuing to do so until long after any trace of civilisation has disappeared.
But what of it, I hear you believers of …… cry out ? What does it matter that fate has no empirical evidence to back it up ? Why should we not indulge ourselves into believing we are special, refusing to live in a reality which is supposedly indifferent to our sufferings ? Surely no harm can come of such an innocuous train of thought ? If it were truly such an innocent belief, I would have no qualms about letting it run wild in the minds of more spiritually situated individuals, but as you might have guessed, that isn’t the case. It makes it too easy for people too make excuses for when things go wrong, lets them avoid responsibility for their own failings. Failed to land a place at that university you so desperately wanted to attend ? Oh well, it’s not your fault, it simply wasn't meant to be. Get dumped by your boy/girlfriend ? It’s alright, everything happens for a reason.
While I understand the fact that in harsh times like these we have always had a need for something to sooth the pain, I honestly don’t believe that what is pleasant is always the best thing in times of emotional turmoil. It is as the idiom says : after storm comes sunshine. But if we don’t let ourselves experience storm, numbing the pain by referring to the grand plans of life’s great architect,fate, we are in fact missing out on an oppertunity. There is no life without suffering, no man or woman has ever walked the earth, nor will one ever, that has not experienced misfortune in their time. By accepting small misfortunes on a daily basis, we become weathered by the storm, so to speak, so that when a serious crisis arived, like when a parent passes away, we are better equipped to handle it. However, I realise this text can sound a lot like preaching the impossible, telling all of you to “embrace misfortune” and to “weather the storm and come out victorious at the end”. It’s not supposed to. Off course suffering is ****, if you excuse the language. No one likes it and no one wishes to have more of it, rightly so. But we should avoid hiding from it under a cover of security, and learn to live life to its fullest, the miserable parts
Instead of trying so desperately to come up with a purpose for our time spent on Earth, we should allow ourselves to simply enjoy life, to spend time discovering ourselves and figuring out a meaning not for life itself, but for the unique individual each of us is. Too many people these days spend what little time they have left on this planet chasing money and fame, convinced that the purpose of their existence is to do as has been done by so many before them, to uphold the status quo, and while this may render plenty of people genuinely happy, for most of the population, is does not. We spend 14 years in basic education only to be taught that to be successful and happy we must go to university. Our studies in college then culminate in us becoming employable and we feel as if we can finally catch a breath, yet we are immediately pressured by society to get a stable job as soon as possible and avoid taking any risk whatsoever, so we can work for 40 year and pass the responsibility of upholding tradition on to our sons and daughters. Mind you, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with this kind of life, and if what I just described excites you, then by all means, follow your dream. In the end, though, most of us end up lying on our deathbeds with regrets filling our thoughts, dreaming about things we wished we could have done differently in our lifetime, yet didn’t because when the opportunity for change presented itself, we couldn't bring ourself to believe that our life could receive new purpose so late in its cycle, so we stuck to the future we had envisioned when we were young and inexperienced.
Don’t make the mistake we have seen so many of the previous generation make. Don’t be someone who is alive but never lives. If you have a desire to do something, any interest or talent that keeps you up in the night, dreaming about the future, pursue that dream - hone those talents to perfection. This isn’t about being able to do anything we want, the harsh reality is that everyone is born with flaws that limit what they are realistically able to do achieve in their life. No, this is about doing what you love doing and excel at. There is no reason to settle for mediocrity, no reason to curl up in front of the tv and tell yourself that your dream simply was not meant to be. No one captured the essence of this concept as well as Langston Hughes did, when he wrote : “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly”.
So rather than surrendering to our innate desire to find patterns where there are none, to assign explanations of the unexplainable to some divine being we cannot witness, why not simply accept that the beauty of life lies in its randomness, in the fact that the future is still up for grabs. As a friend once told me, it is your imperfections that make you perfect, and life certainly has plenty of imperfections. Keep dreaming, keep trying to impose your own purpose on your life. For if you are able to do this, if you are able to keep going until you have achieved your goal, to rally your spirits in times of hardship and persevere while everyone else falters, you will have achieved something very rare in today’s society, something that will have taken you the closest one can get to anything resembling a meaning of life and perhaps most importantly something that will enable you to smile as death comes to great you like an old friend, with no regrets to weigh you down, anchoring your body to the pains of the mortal realm.
You will, in short, have lived.