If you are like me, you would have spent quite some time thinking what life is about or wondering why we are even here in the first place. If you haven’t, you are probably 20 years old or less or you just are not aware of who you are, and in either case this post is probably not for you. But if you have done some thinking, like I have for the past 15+ years, then you must read on and should share your thoughts in the comment section.
I always wonder about life. Sometimes I ‘know’ it’s an exercise in futility (i.e. my thinking about life) but I can’t help it. I think about life, the world, it’s origin, my life, why the world exists, why I exist, what I’m meant to do with the fact that I exist, what the definition of a successful life is, whether death really is the end of life etc. I have been thinking this way for over 15 years now and I can say without a doubt, that I don’t know exactly what life is about! I can say with equal certainty that I don’t know exactly why I am here … but what’s interesting is that neither do you, nor anyone else for that matter. But just like anything that lacks indubitable answers as to their existence, maybe we can use some type of logic to ‘explain’ them.
I won’t even try to tell you about the origin of life, because I don’t know, and no one does, but maybe I can help us think about why we are ‘here’. Let me say here that this post is written outside of a religious context.
One thing that never changes is nature. There’ll always be seasons. There’s gravity. There’s light, and there’s the absence of it. All living things exist based on a straightforward but complex system involving food, sleep (even plants ‘sleep’), and procreation. Nature is the only ‘thing’ that is as constant as life, and so maybe we can say that the meaning and essence of life as well as its purpose has to be tied to nature, to what’s natural; to what’s common to everyone. To what is common to everything. Let me be a bit morbid. They say we shouldn’t talk about death, but sometimes we find answers when we take a close look at those things we are afraid of. One question that messes with my thinking about life is this: if we are all going to die, why do we have to live? why do we even strive to live? And in that question is where I have found some logic towards arriving at the answer as to why we live, why we must live; the likely answer to what the purpose of life is.
Yes, we will all die but no one is going to put an end to his or her existence because of that fact. Even though we all know we’d die, we do our best to avoid death; I find/found that strange up until just now. We apply ourselves to acquire wealth and property, to build solid relationships, to grow, to enjoy health even though we know that when we die, all will be over and we’d take none of anything with us. So why do we strive to live if we are going to die? It’s by answering that question that we may understand why we are here, why we must live.
Don’t mind my going around in circles. I’ve been going around in circles for over 15 years and so a few more minutes won’t hurt. I’ll stop dancing around now and answer my question. The purpose of life, has to be, to continue life. Simple. We are here to continue life. We are here to create and sustain life so that this phenomenon called life continues. We are not here to be Doctors, or Engineers, or Bloggers, or Artists, or anything; these professions were created out of life’s experiences; they exist only just to make life better and I’ll explain further later. 20 years ago we didn’t have blogging as a profession, and in the next 20 years, there’ll be jobs existing that we have not even dreamed of now. We are primarily here to continue life. We are here to create and sustain life, and the lives we create will continue to create and sustain life … world without end. Think about it. That has to be why we are here. But, it’s not that ‘simple’, because there are still questions unanswered. For example, why is there a natural drive for accumulation of wealth, and why do we struggle for positions at work or society, or why do we spend time and resources to remain healthy if all we are meant to do is create babies? The answer is simple. We do all these things, and we have to do all these things to ensure the continuity of life. Think about it. A child is born, it’s mother nurses it till a certain ‘stage’ … in wild life, the baby is on it’s own from then on, but with us, we still provide care and nurture. From birth till that ‘stage’, the child needs to be fed and attended to for it to grow and this is evident in the fact that even during gestation, the mother feeds the baby. In other words, resources are required to sustain life.
So, going back to the purpose of life which is to create and sustain life, we are not just meant to have babies but to have resources to ensure that life continues and for life to continue we must have food, shelter from the elements, protection from anything that may impact health or well-being etc.
I’ll digress a bit here. Why are we different from other animals? Are we really different from other animals? Yes we are, actually. We are more intelligent and can think, and are therefore more easily able to adapt to our environment; but something that is common to all life is a set of instincts. We all have these same instincts, basic instincts common to all living things. Even an amoeba is like us in that it has these instincts. What are these instincts? I’ll tell you what they are. One thing that is common to all living things is that we eat. Plants naturally move towards light for photosynthesis. We get hungry and need to eat. So the need to feed is an instinct, a response to stimuli. Sometimes we eat without actually being hungry. Another urge we cannot deny is sex; there’s that natural inclination to mate with the other sex. Sleep is not an instinct. An instinct is a behaviour we express in response to external stimuli. Sleeping is like breathing. We don’t ‘choose’ to breathe; we don’t ‘decide’ to breathe in response to external stimuli. Some people choose to sleep though, even when their body isn’t calling for it; but I think those are lazy people.
So, food and sex. All living things have both in common. Another instinct that is common to all living things is avoidance of pain. If you strike a dog, it yelps and runs off, naturally, instinctively. Same thing with any other animal, including man. We do what it takes to avoid pain, to avoid getting hurt. It’s natural. One more instinct that is part of our internal wiring is a proclivity to expend minimal effort in carrying out tasks. We are naturally lazy in that our brain does everything in it’s power to make us conserve our energy so that we don’t expend all and suffocate it of oxygen. The brain needs ‘energy’ to control nerves and other parts of the body. You can’t suffocate yourself by holding your breath; your brain will cause you to stop the silliness and breathe again. So, we naturally try to find ways to make our lives easy (and that’s why we have all these professions), to make work simple and easy. Think about it. Are there any more instincts common to all living things I have missed out? Let me know.
Now, let me go over the list again
- Food and Sex
- Avoidance of pain
- Conserving Energy
I’ll tie these back to the purpose of life to help you see why it is that we have these basic instincts, what these instincts are for, and how they support the purpose of life. The satisfaction of these instincts, which is our natural disposition, is what helps to support life. We are wired to satisfy these instincts. Everything we do is connected to satisfying these instincts. Matter of fact, that is all we do in life … we do what it takes to satisfy these basic primordial instincts. Think about it. So, if that is all we are wired to do, and if that is all we do, then the purpose of life has to be to continue life by creating and sustaining it. If my argument is right, and I doubt that you can prove me wrong, then how does satisfaction of these natural instincts manifest in day to day living and how do they drive everything we do as humans (even animals)?
Seeking money, having it, and keeping it are behaviours natural to everyone. Those who choose not to make a conscious effort not to, but still rely on others for a means of sustenance. The desire to have money (resource) did not start with the invention of money. Having money is same as having resources (to feed and do what not) and this need has been in existence since forever. Without money, you are 97% most likely not going to be able to continue life. Solomon said that Vanity upon Vanity, all is Vanity, a chasing after the wind – Ecclesiastes 1:14; He was not wrong, but maybe he was not entirely right either. Let’s examine the drive to acquire wealth, to be rich, or even just to have money. To be able to live, you must eat, and today, if you don’t have money you can’t eat. Of course, you may have a farm and feed off it but in both cases, you must work to have food. You must have something, money or food. You may choose to make food that’ll only take you through the day but because of nature (seasons, drought etc.) it’s prudent to have something kept for the rainy day. So we must acquire something, money or food. We must therefore seek wealth but not for wealth’s sake, but for the purpose of continuing life, to live, to feed. We must use what we have to continue life (for ‘ourself’, and for others).
Avoidance of pain. We naturally seek comfort, we seek to be comfortable, because we naturally are inclined to avoid pain. Wanting to own luxurious items is natural (I’d say); because they are more comfortable. That’s the truth. And because we naturally seek to be comfortable, we do what it takes to achieve that. So we acquire resources that keep pain away from us. Nice house, clothes, cars, private travel, even holidays to create pleasant memories. All these are good and natural. In pre-historic times, man used the fur of animals to protect himself from harsh weather, a natural behaviour. Today, we still use the fur of animals but instead of getting the fur yourself, all you need do is go to a store and buy warm clothing, or you turn the AC up or down. Multiple professions have been created as a result of man’s need to avoid pain. Maybe you can tell me one job that wasn’t created to fill that need.
Conservation of energy. I’m sure you’d agree with me that we have a natural tendency to find ways to spend minimal effort in getting results we desire. That’s why there have been inventions such as the calculator, washing machine, cars, computers, microwaves, cooking stoves and so on. We want to eat, have sex, and avoid pain (not all at the same time) and our brain wants us to do these things in the easiest way possible. Animals sometimes have to roam and go long distances to search for food, but if you give an animal its food daily, I doubt that it’ll still want to roam and go a long distance to look for it.
Let’s recall the premise of this submission; that the purpose of life is to create and sustain life, to continue life. I’m sure by now, you’d agree with me that the basic instincts mentioned above are natural to all living things and they guide and direct our behaviours and everything we. So, why do we have them? I’ve been doing most of the thinking so I’ll make you do some thinking now, so think about it. I already told you the answer but I want you to come to your own answer. If we naturally have a tendency to do these things, it has to be because they are needed to achieve something, and that something is the creation and continuation of life. These natural instincts are there so that life can be preserved; nothing else. And that’s why we naturally seek money (resources) and comfort. So that we can preserve life. And the reason why we are naturally wired to preserve life is because that is why we are are here, to preserve life such that we feed, mate, avoid pain, and conserve energy so that we are able to create and sustain life, at least up until the point we naturally expire.
How we go about acquiring resources (could be food and refreshment from a farm or acquisition of money) is where different professions come in, but you are not primarily in this world to be anything, or to be the best at any profession, you are primarily in this world to continue life. That’s why you have athletes who leave their sport behind and excel in other areas of life, academics who drop the wig and gown and go to town and start up a successful practice, brilliant students who leave school and create stuff, and later decide not to create anything and become philanthropists. That’s why nobody ever really knows what they should do when they leave school, or if they should even go to school in the first place. Truth is, you can attempt to be whatever it is you feel like becoming, but at the end of it all, make sure your ‘becoming’ results in ‘getting’ so that you are able to feed, mate, protect yourself from pain, and conserve your energy. You don’t have to worry about if you are ‘living your life’s purpose’ because as long as you are ‘getting’ and you satisfying those basic instincts, you are. If you are an artist, you shouldn’t be worried if that is what you are meant to do with your life, because at the end of everything, will it really matter? John is an Engineer and he strives to express himself in that profession in the best way he can; once he stops being an Engineer, no one will address him as former Engineer John. It won’t matter. The only that’ll matter is what he has acquired and how he is able to ‘preserve life’, not just his life, but life, the world. Speaking of preserving life, or continuing life, what’s natural is to have and nurse children and so all men and women must seek to do this (at least nurse children if one can’t have). How many children should one have? as numerous as the stars if you can, or one, or none, sometimes it isn’t even up to you but that shouldn’t be your worry. What’s key is to understand why you are here and apply yourself towards that purpose as best as you can. Remember, at the end, nothing will matter. But it doesn’t mean we should constitute nuisances since nothing will matter when we are gone. Constituting a nuisance now will affect the ability of others to continue life, and so what you do matters. If you must create life, also create resources required to sustain life.
Just like Socrates said, the only thing I know is that I know nothing, and that, most likely, is the case with all that I have written, but this is not me trying to give you an answer to your questions about life, but me taking you along another direction in your thoughts, and if you feel it doesn’t make sense, then you must turn back and continue wondering/wandering. At the end, nothing will matter. Companies will start and collapse, nations will rise and fall, life as we know it will expire, whatever it is we do will come to an end, but the only thing that seemingly won’t come to an end is life, in whatever form. That’s why you are here; to continue life. Because after you are gone, that is all that will remain; the life you created.