This article contains topics and information that may be distressing to some individuals
The driving factor that propels us to further our existence depends on one thing: purpose. Purpose is likely the only motivation we have, to not hang ourselves in the bathroom. It is the driving factor, the very reason we force ourselves to wake up in the morning. In its absence, accomplishment, achievement, are arbitrary to do us. Unescorted by purpose, life would have no explanation for why it should be lived. Enough to say, purpose provides an integral foundation in our lives. Without it, life is meaningless. In our society today, this notion of purpose is ambiguous to many. Young Americans often feel like they lack one, therefore likely correlating to the increase in depression and suicide in America. However, while an interesting question, we will not be exploring the explanation for why such a development is evolving. Rather, our attention will be allocated to the question: why should we have purpose?
The concept of purpose fits into a broader category of intangible properties that humans learn and develop throughout their adolescence. Among this wider classification are internal ideas like love, meaning, and happiness. We are prescribed knowledge over these subjects through a plethora of exposures; we learn them through interactions in school, through our peers, and by our family. Purpose is often taught pragmatically in our educational system, centered on future occupational focuses. In fact, the very idea of teaching students to acquire information is derived from the desire to create a generation of individuals well equipped with mental capacities to succeed in life after school. However, it would be illogical to presume that we could motivate any child to learn for 8 hours of a waking day without first providing them a reason for why they should learn. The question to ask, is does this reason suffice strongly enough to keep us motivated?
It is a given that we should try in school, and more broadly that we should try in life, because we have the ability to impact the universe on a real level. There are two components that factor into this equation regarding the idea of why we should try: personal impact and worldly impact. The former, centers around the gain of an individual. The latter however, is deemed the more important, the more motivating of the two. Take the case of a senator for example. In this position, the subject receives gain at a personal level, achieving respect from his peers and popularity and recognition by his title. He is viewed highly by his surrounding citizenry, as his job is of extreme importance as well as of high competition. Therefore, he is motivated to hold such a position, as the personal gain from acquiring it is of great sums. Yet, unless the individual is deeply selfish and narcissistic, this is not the only factor propelling him to serve as a senator.
There is something beyond himself, that plays a role in his purpose. In the case of a senator, this something pertains to the individuals he represents. His role is to help the lives of his constituents, to ensure that they are able to live the lives that they desire and enjoy. Therefore, the senator serves others, in order to help the world around him. It is this aspect that provides us a reason for why we have purpose. The scientist serves by helping find solutions to unknowns in the world, the doctor serves to help restore the health of his patients, the general serves to ensure that the nation he represents is free from danger. In every profession, the altruistic aspect of every career, is to help those around them have their needs met, and to ensure that those coming after them have the ability for their needs to be met. In other words, our objective in life seems to help others in the current, and provide those coming after us the opportunity for a life that is better. Mechanically, it seems that this formula checks out; every individual playing a role in helping the world work in the current, as well doing our best to make sure it works in the future. Yet, when we think beyond the surface, we begin to ask if this justification, this reason for why we should have purpose, is really enough.
Over the last 100 years, scientists have dedicated themselves to answering the question: when will the world end? While dispute exists among these theories, there is consensus that the earth will at some point, end. Let that sink in for a moment. There will be a point, when the universe ceases to be. There will be no life, no being, no voice to be heard. The reality of this world, or rather the absence of this world, is inevitable. However, what is most staggering in the case of man, is that we don’t deny this reality, we just don’t allow it to impact us. But how absurd is that? Our purpose in life is generally framed as the ability to help better the world and preserve it. Yet, the reality of the matter, is that this feat is impossible to achieve. The environmental scientist dedicates his life to finding solutions for how we can save our planet. The doctor dedicates his life to help save the lives on it. Yet, no matter how hard we try to, this dedication, will never change the course of reality.
We will not prevent the world from ending, we can only attempt to slow down the reality of it occurring. But why dedicate ourselves to such a thing? Why are we trying to better and preserve a world that is destined to pass away no matter what. An individual would not spend the entirety of his life lifting weights to get stronger, if his only motivation was to move a skyscraper. Because no matter how hard he tried, he’d never achieve such a task. If Abraham Lincoln was informed by a transcendent being that slavery would be reintroduced and would remain forever, never would he attempt to fight it, no matter how noble, because it would be impossible to prevent. It seems that our predicament here, is no different. Our attempts to save humanity might be successful in slowing down the process, but never will it prevent it. While we might better ourselves and others for the next 500 years, what point would it be for if our population vanishes from existence shortly afterwards? Putting our worth to better and preserve a world that will cease to exist is not only insufficient, it is merely illogical. Despite our efforts, we will never amend the laws of physics that force us into the spheres of eradication. No matter how much we progress and no matter how much we learn as a human race, it will all be lost to us when the Earth comes to an end.
It seems that the only place we can find solace in after the acceptance of a terminal earth, is by turning to the possibilities of an eternal one. Life on Earth will surely pass away, and any progress we have made on it will be lost to us after our absence. But if we are to focus on a life of eternity, then can we find a reason for existence, a reason to impact others. Whether it be Islam, Judaism, Chrisitianity, Buddhism, etc., I challenge you to seek out the reason for why you believe in the religion that you do. Evaluate the doctrines and dive deeply into the reasons for why you trust the faith that you follow. For only by the truth of one of these religions, will our lives have any purpose or value. If a transcendent and eternal reality does not exist, our lives will be of no meaning, as there will be no earth to offer it a meaning.