Today, I ask my readers a question. “Why are we here?” As a guy who takes Plato’s advice that ‘an unexamined life is not worth living’ to an extreme that only privileged folk with time on their hands can unspool, I think about this often. Probably too much. Yet, in truth, I have no answer.
I think there is something bigger than us, call it god if you like. But I don’t think it demands our adoration and certainly don’t think it has the human characteristics most religions ascribe to their creators. Gods who resemble us are nothing more than a narcissistic failure of imagination.
Why are we here? inevitably leads to circular reasoning. We are here to procreate. Check. We are here to care for each other. Check. We are here to care for the other creatures of the earth. Check. All great notions to keep us purposefully busy; to weave a net of connection. They help us direct the process of living, but don’t explain the foundational reason for us to exist in the first place.
Was Sally Bowles right: are we just here to have a good time? Did Schweitzer nail it with selfless service? Do monks, men of moderate emotion, have insider knowledge? If so, then why do I feel so much all the time? Good, bad, hot, cold, hungry, full, anxious, content, I get so tired of feeling, always feeling.
Science is exquisite at enumerating ‘what’ and describing ‘how.’ That’s why I believe in science. That’s also why I believe science is insufficient. ‘What’ and ‘how’ can explain but they cannot illuminate. We are creatures driven by ‘why.’ And as far as I can tell, our ‘why’ remains elusive.
If you know why we are here, please fill me in.
I don’t know. All I can do is choose my own “why” and be grateful that I am alive. For whatever reason.
Thank you, for reading, and responding.
Trying to do my dharma in this lifetime. I am taking care of my family, working, and doing service in the community. I am not a noble person, but trying the best I can. There are times when I am very in tune with what I am supposed to do, and other times completely lost. Most of the time I am driven to do what is in front of me and sometimes try to reflect if that is the correct direction and change accordingly.
Thanks. Perhaps it is best to be driven to do what is in front of us rather than wonder about what we cannot know, cannot see.
Viktor Frankl: the meaning of your life is to help others find the meaning of theirs.
you (probably) know that VF survived the concentration camps to become a psychiatrist and wrote an irreplaceable book about his experiences there titled Man’s Search for Meaning.
when a (struggling) grad student (you know where) asked me for the MoL,
I provided him with the above. He was rather taken aback: You’re telling me that my meaning depends on someone else’s.
Joe – I didn’t know any of this. Far and away the best response so far, though still one based on a supporting net rather than a foundation truth. I just order the book from the library. Want to read what else Victor has to share. Thanks!