The point of it all

Don't ask
5 min readMay 30, 2021
Photo by NO NAME from Pexels

Like many humans, the question of life has enveloped parts of my imagination. Questions like who am I, why am I here, what am I actually doing, how do I do it, and should I do it are among many thoughts that litter the mind of the thinking mammal. I recently passed the age when both my parents contrived to breathe life into me, condemning me to a life of unanswered questions and conflicting emotions about existence.

The question is not so much “why am I here?”; to fixate on this is to lose yourself in Pan’s labyrinth. Been there. I think it is more effective to ask what to do while I am here because I am here already. Sure, I could rejoin the cosmos (matter is never truly destroyed after all), but that is simply one of the many options I could take. What are the others? I suspect that answering these questions will take my entire life, and the I wonder, “Is it worth it?” Perhaps, the deliberate efforts we make to navigate life will illuminate the answers for us.

Many responses to the question of purpose seem to focus almost exclusively on work. Somehow, our purpose seems tied to how much we can get done in our relatively short lifespans. The pursuit of purpose appears to be a reason to validate our existence in some way, attempts to grant ourselves meaning in a clearly meaningless world. I love that about us. I love that we look at the stars and say, “I want to go there”, and we do it.

I cannot help but think about the end of my journey. I do not expect to live very long, nor do I desire long life. I have never understood the fixation for long life nor the vicious distaste we have for death. Of course, I know that death separates us from those we love, and their death fills us with dread, but I think it is often our death that frightens us most. Memento Mori. I think death validates life, and in thinking about the last mile of mine, I wondered how my final moments would be. When I looked back on my life, in my beautiful home, what are the moments that would validate my conscious experience? Who would I hope to share those final moments with? What memories would I hold most dear? Of course, I can only speculate about this for only life itself can reveal such answers, but somehow the accomplishments and successes, though undoubtedly important to me (I cannot deny this), do not seem to feature high on my list. I know that our brains seek to validate our present beliefs, but many older people seem to think the same. Still, I wonder.

What would it mean to have lived a good life? A subjective question, no doubt, but are there experiences I would love to have had? The love I would want to have experienced? In what ways could I have given myself to the reality, the people, the community that breathed life into me?

In the middle of this personal inquiry, I watched a movie called Ikiru. Ikiru is a Japanese movie made in 1952. It is about a world-class civil servant, Mr Watanabe, who learns that he has developed a familiar fatal disease: stomach cancer. As any human would, he struggled to come to terms with his fate, and this information turns his reality upside down. He sank slowly into a sea of despair, losing pieces of himself each day. Until he connects with a young woman whom he admired for her endless vitality. She represented something he so desperately wanted, and in spending so much time with her, he hoped to live vicariously through her. Unfortunately, it was not enough. His despair sprung from the realization that he felt he had wasted his life. In the end, he discovered what it meant to truly live, and despite the slight morbidity of the movie till that point, there was something beautiful and seeing the light spark into life in his eyes.

Like Mr Watanabe, it is easy to navigate life doing what we think we should do without considering what we ought to do. Trust me, I know it is easier to embrace already established paths rather than question and integrate them into our own. Planning, organization, setting goals, fleeing perdition are all built on a flexibly concrete understanding of what it means to exist. Figuring out what that means is a journey that each of us will take, whether we are aware of it or not.

It is funny that despite my talk of purpose being tied to work, I find myself contemplating that too. I think one of the ways that I can find meaning that matters to me is the work I do in service of my community, whatever that community may be (friends, fellow ‘believers’, work partners, lovers, siblings, and so on). Nothing else matters. Nothing else *can* matter. My life on this planet, in this universe, is so fleeting that simply focusing on the satisfaction of my pleasures somehow makes them that less pleasurable.

It does not mean that I do not desire luxury or finer things. Nor does it mean that I will not pursue interesting things. There are many ways that the human race has invented pleasures for our enjoyment, and enjoyment is there to be…enjoyed. However, in all things, I think I must respect the balance that exists throughout reality. Our evolution into human beings, that most blessed of primates, gives us a particular set of skills that allows us to wonder why a utopia does not exist and what we can do to make utopia something of a reality. The question is, “what is it? What *is* utopia?”. At the moment, I do not know. I am only beginning to find internal harmony in a reality that seems to only know chaos, but I do know that the world we want is possible. It will take an unbelievable amount of effort, a little faith, and a healthy disregard of current reality in pursuit of future possibilities. Regardless, I know that I have far too much privilege to focus only on myself, and as far as I am concerned, working for community is the point of it all.