“The literal meaning of life is whatever you’re doing that prevents you from killing yourself.”
― Albert Camus
Humans, cursed as we are to be so aware, can’t help looking back, far into the past in search of the beginning, and to looking forward, far into the future, in search of a pattern, a purpose, and a meaning.
Why is there a universe? Why is there an Earth, so warm and blue? What is life? Why does life of this kind exist instead of another kind? Why are there human beings? Why am I? What is the purpose of it all?
We’ve been asking these questions for centuries. People from every culture, all genders, the powerful, the meek, the wise and the uneducated have asked. The rich, the poor, black, white, and all shades in between, some we’ve heard of, some silenced, and some forgotten have asked. People wondering publicly and the rest of us have contemplated privately the same question, and no one has been able to provide evidence for one answer over any other.
Even our religious institutions, with all their grand myths, and rules, and ways to live offer no concrete answers from the Gods. Their ends are too lofty for the human mind, so those supposedly close to them say. Their means cannot be deciphered.
There used to be easier answers. There was a time when our ancestors, who we’d never recognize as our kin now but held the seeds of our consciousness then, had only to live to make more life. Their purpose was to procreate, to pass down genetic material.
Later people began to reason and found grander reasons to live. They cried live, for your family, for your tribe, for your nation! Live for a cause, and die for it too, and you will find glory. Live with a sense of duty and justice, worship your God and serve your Kings and honor will be bestowed upon you. Your name will be preserved in history. You will live among the stars, among the heroes, among the greats. You will matter.
But, those ideals no longer suffice. In a world where there are no longer Kings to serve, and Gods can no longer be found or forced to answer for our existence, we’re left with no direction and find ourselves drawn toward the latest drama, the shiniest screens, and get rich quick schemes. How long will those ideals do?
“The purpose of life is to stay alive. Watch any animal in nature–all it tries to do is stay alive. It doesn’t care about beliefs or philosophy. Whenever any animal’s behavior puts it out of touch with the realities of its existence, it becomes exinct.”
― Michael Crichton, Congo
The question now is whether or not we should go on fretting over any purpose or meaning at all? Or should we let go of questions that have no answers? Maybe we should we return to our roots with the animals and live only to survive and to pass on our DNA? Maybe what matters is only what pleasure this moment can bring until the moment that brings death.
Science has given us far bleaker prospects. Science, technology, reason, they have exposed the inner workers of the Gods and shown their hands empty and when the Gods serve no purpose humans are left without meaning. The curtain has been drawn back to reveal, a mirror. When we look for meaning, we are simply looking for ourselves.
In the absence of any other minds, we alone have the power to decree life’s meaning. We are the new Gods!
But, of course, that isn’t good enough. What do we do with all this choice and fear? What do we do with all this longing? They’ve left us no comfort for that.
We are looking for large answers here. We’re starved for profundities where we’ve been served shallow and trivialities up until now. We want to make a difference simply by virtue of our existence. If to be or not to be amount to the same, why choose to be at all?
“Life has a meaning but do not set out to find out. Just live it out.”
― Bangambiki Habyarimana, Pearls Of Eternity
A better question, one that offers more insight, more control, more satisfaction might be “What is the meaning of my life?” for that is the only question we have any hope of finding answers for. The universe is silent, and the Gods have gone, there is only us. There is only you.
The truth is that the truth is whatever we say it is. We are the only ones for whom the truth matters anyway right? The grand design, by default due to lack of competition, will be our design. The ends are ours, and the means entirely up to us.
The truth is, we’ve been deciding it all along anyway. We’ve compartmentalized the responsibility of decision and design to the Gods and other humans we’ve worshiped as such, but we knew, we knew, that they were doing what we couldn’t, taking control of the illusion and deciding our course and reason. The truth is that power can be taken back by each of us whenever we choose and as soon as we are ready.
That is the beauty of the illusion; we get to design the game and play along too. We can write the story and still be a part of the plot twists and surprise endings. We can create a meaning that aligns with our own innate natures, interests, and desires rather than fight against them.
The responsibility is overwhelming, sure, but if you keep a small part of yourself outside of it but still aware of the ultimate truth, that it doesn’t really matter anyway, then you can survive that bleak reality. Better still, you can thrive in it.
So, don’t shy away from the immensity of the task. Do not cower within your smallness. Don’t let the silence of the universe or the longing inside of you where God used to be deter or depress you. The meaning of your life and the answers you find when you confront such questions are where your real life begins.
Begin at the beginning. The simplest answer can be the most profound. The purpose of your existence is to exist. The meaning of your life is to live your life. This is why to be is better than not to be. There is no purpose to be found where nothing can be experienced.
So, just live. Move your life where you would like it to be and spread it out as widely as you’d like. Your purpose is just to be, everything else comes after and, oh, there can be so much more after.
The absence of meaning is not to be dwelled on. It is nothing to carry on about or fight against. The absence of meaning is an invitation to freedom. Seize it!
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
― Albert Camus
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Written for the A to Z Blogging Challenge: Letter M under the theme “Bleak Realities of Human Existence.” I am aware that the challenge is over and that I have failed to finish on time, but I am determined not to fail to finish at all.