There is one thing that is behind our obsession with leaving a meaningful life; it’s fear and the realization of our own death. Humans are driven by fear. Fear of not fulfilling their purpose, of missing out on something, of not doing and achieving what they are meant to achieve. I mean, there must to be more to life than what I’m doing now, right? There must be. Just look at Peter’s pictures on Facebook, trekking in the Andes, or Amy’s pictures of her honeymoon. Have you seen Alex’s baby? What a cute little thing, it has her eyes. Well, everyone seems to be having a great time. Look at John, he has pulled, again, and she is hotter than the previous one. Mark has got a promotion. Seriously, I even got a ‘Congratulate Mark on his new job’ message via LinkedIn. Damn, everyone seems to be moving forward and doing extraordinary things with their lives whilst I seat here, peaking over their success, behind my computer screen, drinking tap water.
Or maybe not.
Peter went travelling after his divorce. He is heartbroken and is battling depression. Amy got married because she realized that she was getting older, that she was losing ground to younger, more attractive girls. She has settled for less than she wanted, but that’s the result of her choices in previous years and now it’s too late to secure a high value man, so the middle-management guy from the office who she doesn’t really feel attracted to, will have to do. Alex is sleep deprived and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. John is tired of pumping and dumping. He fails to feel anything more than lust for women and this is driving him mad. Sex is just another day in the job. As for Mark, his job drains his life bit by bit everyday, but he keeps on working hard because it is “the right thing to do”, because it is expected of him, and ultimately he needs to pay the bills, that seem to go up together with the lifestyle a higher salary package brings.
You see, it’s not that their lives have purpose and yours doesn’t, it’s not that there’s meaning beneath what they’re doing. It’s just how society works – you show your best side to the photographer when it comes to taking a picture and showing it to the world.
One of the biggest problems with world today is that there are too many options. It’s overwhelming. In the caveman days, you only had a few worries: food, shelter and security. Survival. That’s it. People were not concerned about Netflix being down or the friend that posted an embarrassing picture of you on social media. The purpose early humans were looking for, was to survive and procreate. They didn’t go on achievement trips to feed their constant need of finding purpose, instead they went on hunting trips to feed themselves. Yes, the fear of death was there, the same driver that you and me have, but did they really stress over who had the biggest cave? Well, I don’t know, maybe they did, but most likely, they probably didn’t. The point is that, we evolved with this constant karmic weight of being aware of our own death and questioning our existence since the day we’re born. We look for ‘purpose’, we look for meaning, and in the age of instant communication, everyone else seems to be finding it, but us. And being exposed to this doesn’t make us feel any better. We will probably carry this weight until the day we die so we might as well just become strong enough to carry it.
How do we do that?
I am all for going out there and achieve stuff, have goals, work on them. By all means do something with your life. But realize this: only very few exceptional people in the world will cause such an impact on humanity and do something so extraordinary and memorable with their lives that they will become ‘immortal’. The harsh reality is that, you and me are (probably) not one of them.
Sometimes purpose is just not what we think it is, maybe your purpose is to make coffee or sit in an office 8 hours a day, who knows? Someone has to do it. Maybe you will only gain enough perspective on this when you get older. Or maybe there is no purpose. Maybe we should just do what we want, providing we don’t hurt anyone, and work towards improving all aspects of our lives and just, be.
If there is one thing that perhaps we should aim for, is for a legacy of peace. With ourselves and with those around us. Most likely, only your family and friends will remember you when you’re gone, so just aim to be the guy who did what he thought it was right and left no open wounds in the people around him. Never mind your name on Wikipedia.