The Inescapable Question – What is the Purpose of Life

A very quaint question but one that may have crossed your mind at some time is one that baffles almost everyone. What is the purpose of life? Is it to study, earn a living, pay your bills, buy fancy new things, eat in style, travel the world, reproduce and raise kids, be the best player on the field, earn the largest paycheck, climb the mountains, relax on the beach, help thy neighbors, be kind, remain honest, search for the meaning of life itself? The list goes on.

Some Have Tried to Tell Us

Despite the complexity of this question, people have tried to answer it in their own ways.

Aristotle believed in the Ergon Theory which explained that to live like humans, we need to be more than just plants or animals. Therefore, the purpose in life was said to be more than something that could grow, use energy and reproduce like plants and to do more than just perceive our surroundings and move around like animals.

Humans possess reasoning and language, something that differentiates (and according to Aristotle place man above plants and other animals) us from other living things. Aristotle, therefore, propounded that indulging in philosophy and thinking about the nature of various things was the main purpose of a human being.

Dalai Lama states that the purpose of life is to be happy. Steve Pavlina, another self-development blogger feels that the purpose of life is to search and explore. Others feel that the purpose of life is to love others, to find out what is ‘real’, to discover yourself, to follow your heart, to give away your life in charity, to make a positive difference in the world and again the list goes on.

Hierarchy of Purpose

It’s interesting to see how we perceive these potential purposes of life as being at a higher level than earning a paycheck each month or paying the bills. In fact, there seems to be a hierarchy of sorts that is created in our minds.

Stop a little and think about this. Is this ladder in your mind self-created? Do you actually think that paying the bills is a mundane and less important task than discovering yourself? Is it a natural thought that comes into your head or has this hierarchy been created over decades of subliminal conditioning?

In the last few years that I have been mulling over this aspect, I have come across various kinds of people. Housewives wonder whether there is anything more to their lives than to prepare meals and manage the household each day. Corporate biggies wonder whether their life’s purpose is to go to office each day, attend meetings, oversee mergers, acquire customers and of course make some politically right noises. Young people seem upset about the fact that their life seems to be one long and arduous road towards what they see other adults doing. Even those who are lucky enough to know and follow their passions sometimes wonder whether climbing mountains, travelling or fighting for women’s rights (or whatever their passion is) is all that there is to life.

Exalted Sense of Self

My truth, the truth that I perceive, and experience makes me believe that there is no purpose to our lives at all!

It is our exalted sense of self, the ego, that makes us believe that each one of us has been created for a purpose and that we must explore and find what that purpose is. The cosmos is too expansive a universe for us to even fathom, let alone understand it. Yes, we may some day break many more space barriers and uncover many more truths about nature, but we will still be microscopic in that scheme of things.

The world will continue (though as a species we are proving to be pretty good at destroying the planet to begin with, not to mention space garbage too) even if you die today. Don’t get me wrong, it is not about your particular insignificance. Even if the most powerful man on Earth today dies, the world, the universe, the cosmos will continue to exist along with the trillion other living things that share the space with us.

We also seek the purpose of life in order to set an objective for ourselves. When we strive towards that objective, it gives us a sense of fulfillment and pride. It adds to our ego and we feel that we are worth something and that we can make a difference. These are nothing but psychological crutches that we use.

Minds with Purpose are Crazy Minds

Sometimes we become so dependent on these crutches that we need that we lose sight of reality completely. Those who think they have a higher purpose in life are fanatics who can be driven to do the most heinous of things in the name of that purpose. Think religious zealots, Hitler, and many more like these. Even those who start with peaceful and well-meaning purposes end up taking extremist actions under the protective shadow of a higher purpose that they so staunchly believe in.

Then What’s the Point of Action?

It is easy to fall into an unending abyss if you realize that there is no purpose to your life. It can take you into spiraling depths of depravity, inaction and darkness. In fact, it is obvious that man or society created this exalted sense of self or objective oriented community in order to steer man away from this inaction and darkness. It is a psychological structure that has been created to protect us. If there is no purpose to life, then what is the point in doing anything at all?

The naïve are likely to fall into this self-defeating argument very easily. It is an escape that is easily acceptable, especially to those who are lazy or those who do not have the confidence to take action. If you break this psychological fantasy of a purpose in life, you are likely to go through an extremely bad time, probably fighting depression or a sense of worthlessness.

The wise, on the other hand, realize that man would become a vegetable without action. It is therefore critical to find that balance where you continue to participate in the world as best you can and as best the circumstances allow without getting too hassled about the what the purpose of life is. They understand that the purpose of life is to live and to live as best as can be!

So, are you living life to the fullest? Are you experiencing every moment of it to the maximum? Are you aware of the beauty that life itself is? It’s not too late to start!

5 comments

  1. Is it ego that makes us believe that that we were sent to the world with a purpose in life?? Don’t think so. It is that we grow up hearing from our elders, gurus, philosophers etc etc that there is a purpose to life. It is one of those things – unanswerable questions like karma of previous birth being responsible for today’s misfortune or good fortune. This is stuff that originated to give solace to people as answers to questions that elders had no answer for. For example, someone who never harmed anyone but still had to face a very bad situation. The guru had no answer to that: so he told his disciple that it was his previous birth’s karma. Similarly, elders and gurus put a purpose to life so that youngsters/disciples would do things that they want them to do.

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    • It may be triggered by elders and gurus to begin with but then we grow up and think on our own. Why do we then not realize that there is ‘actually’ no purpose? Because our psychological structure (ego) needs us to have a purpose or else there would be no reason to exist or act…something that may be too dark for some to accept.

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  2. Beautifully written,,Shiwani.
    Every word made sense to me.
    Purpose or no purpose, life is beautiful.
    My belief, take each day as new, decide accordingly.

    Liked by 1 person

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