Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash
I woke this morning saturated in the question, “Why?” Why do we exist? What is the point of life?
It sounded like a hopeless question when I first pondered it, one asked and answered throughout history with sometimes devastating results. I won’t lie. I might have considered it suicidal ideation upon first glance. I mean, what is the point, not of my life, but all life? Why does it matter that we exist?
I moved throughout my morning in the empty haze of my routine with the question pressed hard against my previously purposeful actions. I dressed and brushed my teeth, asking, “Why do I do it?” There was a point in my life when I woke thinking everything was so damn important, my brain screaming its responsibilities at me. My shoulders heavy with the things that mattered, the things I failed to do, and the dreams I hoped to one day accomplish, both weighing equal heavy on the twenty-four hours in front of me.
I won’t burden you with the hour I spent grooming, taking the dogs out, making coffee, and doing my dishes; all of these things weighing heavy on the fact that I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I do them. It all seemed so inane.
What was the point? What was the justification for working so hard or even for a night spent laughing with friends? Why does life—any life—exist in the first place? What is the point of plants and animals? Where are we all going, and why do we work so damn hard to get there?
And there it was, only moments before I sat down to write for the day, the real question. Why does life need any reason at all? As humans, we’ve made it critical that we put a value on everything. Historically, that value was what it is to all life, procreation, but we’ve already done that to an overwhelming extent. Is it truly that important on a universal level that humans exist? I can’t see at the moment that it is, not because humans don’t deserve it, but because I can’t see the importance of life itself existing.
The fact that molecules collided and cells split to become new cells is a miraculous thing. It’s incredible what our bodies do at a molecular level, and it’s even more brilliant to consider they do it every day, all day, but in the larger scheme of things, I don’t think any of it is critical. As a point of reason, I don’t believe it has one. Suffering comes in the idea it must.
I’ve spent my entire life justifying my existence, giving purpose and meaning to every step I take. I was disappointed by the way I saw people waste their days. I am disappointed now by the way I’ve wasted mine. I thought the accumulation of money, possessions, healthy relationships or a job with meaning would finally make me happy. None of it did. When I woke this morning asking myself, “What is the meaning of life?” The rote answer of my routine ruined me. I didn’t have an adequate response because there is none.
Forcing life to have meaning is what ruins life. The weight it put upon my shoulders every day was more than I could bear. I slept at night, burdened with the unfair strain of living up to my expectations. I woke in the morning with a day already set in making something right that was never wrong in the first place.
I think I finally understand the cry of our youth, of those ripe minds now coming into adulthood. The world is a ridiculous place, and we’re wasting the otherwise pleasant experience of living with trying to make our lives worth something. What if, I thought, I could rid myself of all I have collected, work just enough to make sure I am fed, clothed, and have shelter over my head; what if I could do that and then savor the sweet mystery of being alive, with no reason for it at all?
The thought of not needing to justify my existence is a powerful one for me. I spent my life explaining myself to others. Worse yet, even after abandoning the thought that other’s opinions even mattered, I continued living as though I must justify it to myself. I continued to believe that if what I was doing didn’t have real merit, I was frivolous to do it.
I don’t want to waste my life. It is a beautiful gift that my cells do what they do and that I get to be consciously aware they are doing it. I don’t take life for granted, but to believe I owe it something, that I have failed if I don’t live up to some greater expectation of being alive is beyond me. Life—molecule colliding, cells dividing—is a random, fleeting, luck of the draw. We exist because the conditions were right to cause existence. The right combinations of elements, temperature, and a million other little things made us so. To put a bunch of weight on that diminishes it.
The fact that we do exist is a random miracle. We got lucky, folks. Being human is a fantastic, thoughtful, sensory adventure. We’re fortunate to have it. To ruin it thinking we are responsible for producing something of it is a shame. It damages the childlike joy and wonder of it.
Do what makes you happy, but not at the expense of others’ happiness. We are bound to one another, I think. We are in this together, and there is no good reason for our joy to infringe upon the well-being of others. We can shed the responsibility of making others happy without taking happiness from them. Just ask yourself, is the rest of it truly that important? Is the job or the boat or the need for a partner as critical as you’ve made it out to be? Are you putting an unnecessary burden on yourself or the people around you?
What brings you happiness and peace of mind? I can’t imagine a more important reason for being than that. Why do we exist? Maybe it’s to pull every possible amazing thing from this moment that we can. Perhaps it is nothing more than this that makes the random occurrence of existing at all worthwhile.