Purpose of Life
Haven’t we all wondered what our purpose in life is? We all want to have a sense of meaning in our lives, something that defines our purpose to be born. Is it to get that million-dollar house you have been eyeing on? To become the CEO of some corporate house? Or for some is it more abstract? To find love? To connect with God? What is it? Every human craves or needs a meaningful life.
Just like others, I have pondered upon this thought a lot, maybe more than others. I used to believe that every human being was born with a purpose, something given to us by God. A purpose to fulfill throughout our life, something exclusively for each one of us. However, with growing up I realized it’s not so simple. With all the discrepancies in the world. I wasn’t so sure anymore that every human did in fact have a purpose. I couldn’t understand what purpose God had in his mind for the two-year-old little girl getting raped, facing trauma even before she could properly stand on her feet or the purpose of the man who isn’t able to afford a single meal in a day.
But does this mean we have no purpose? I doubt that. I have started to believe that our purpose is self-made i.e. we define our own purpose in life. This could be that million-dollar house, the job you want, to find your soul mate, to become an artist, to land the job you wanted, etc. It could be anything you want it to be. However, Aristotle and Plato believed that every human has an essence which is pre-determined before we are even born. Which meant that we all had pre-determined purpose given to us by God. This belief is known as essentialism and was very popular till the late 19th century until existentialism was introduced.
“Existence precedes Essence”
Such a philosophy was given by Jean Paul Sartre. Sartre said that our “existence precedes essence”, that is only by existing and acting a certain way do we give meaning to our lives. The word essence can be understood as some core properties or something essential for a thing to what it is. For example, shoes could be made of leather, rubber, cloth, etc it doesn’t matter. What matters is it should have a sole so that we can walk with the help of it. Sole is the essence of shoes. But for humans, we weren’t born with any essence. As a result, we are born into a world where we and our actions lack any real inherent importance. We define our purpose on our own after we are born.
Now the problem that arises is if there is no pre-determined purpose of our existence, the world wasn’t created for a reason, there was no particular reason for us to exist or for us to be made and if there is no reason for all of this to exist, there are no absolutes to abide by: No order, No rules, No cosmic justice, No fairness, No moral rights and wrongs. In fact, the French philosopher Albert Camus went so far as to say “The literal meaning of life is whatever you’re doing that prevents you from killing yourself.”
What Sartre believed was that we all have ‘Freedom’. For many of freedom means a good thing but according to him, we all are painfully and shockingly free. If there are no guidelines or paths to follow, we all are free to invent our own moral code to live by. Everything is terrifyingly possible because there is no pre-ordained purpose or reason to anything. In the course of fully realizing our freedom, we will come up against what Sartre calls the ‘anguish’ of existence. Everything is (terrifyingly) possible because nothing has any pre-ordained, God-given sense of purpose. Humans are just making it up as they go along and are free to cast aside the shackles at any moment. There is nothing in the non-human order of the world called ‘marriage’ or ‘job’. These are just labels we have put on things and are – as proper existentialists – free to take them off again. If there are no guidelines or paths to follow, we all are free to invent our own moral code to live by. He thought that we all are condemned to be free, something which is a huge awful burden.
So, if there is no purpose no reason to all this, all authorities are fake, how do we live? Sartre said we all can live by our own Authenticity. Your choice – no matter what it is, is the only true choice, provided that you make it authentically, determined by values you choose to accept, morals you decide to live by.
It is unknown whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but the ones with humans living on it might not have an actual reason. We all have manufactured a lie that life has a purpose to be more comfortable with the meaninglessness and uncertainty of our lives. The shocking part is that our pursuit of happiness and finding meaning and all the good things could be just another reproductive mechanism, intended to prevent suicide as a result of chronic depression caused by being aware of life not having meaning.
But wait ! there is hope yet…….
When you look at it the other way, if the world is inherently devoid of purpose, you can choose to imbue to it whatever purpose you want. I believe that we define our own purpose and choose our own moral code to live by. This works not a personal level, but also on a global scale, If the world is going to have anything that we value like justice or order, we going to have to put it there ourselves. Otherwise, those things won’t exist. There are no genuine authorities, or cosmic justice or consequences to any of our actions. The only justice we receive is from the authorities we follow like our governments, police, etc, which we have created on our own.
Though as said previously, creating meaning is our coping mechanism to survive in this world, but it will at least allow us to enjoy whatever time we have on this planet alive.
Thus, the only way to live is what you define right and wrong, you yourself should be able to choose the right path to follow. Live authentically, live to help others, live to be happy, live to follow your passions, do whatever you wish to do as long as it doesn’t harm any other being. This world is pretty fucked up so let’s not fuck it up further.