As far back as I can remember, the eternal question of life has always been “Why are we here?” or put another way, “What is the meaning of life?”. I’ve found myself considering this question almost incessantly over the past several months. I’ve tried to think about it from as many different perspectives as possible.
Generally speaking, those religious individuals in our society will answer this question with a religious answer: “To serve God”, or “To do God’s work”. The non-religious members of our society will generally answer with a non-religious one; “Because we’ve evolved after millions of years.” or “Who cares?”. Those in between, like the Buddhists, might say “To try to elevate ourselves. To try to be the best person possible, not because of a religious reward, but for a personal, individual one.”
What I’ve managed to conclude is that they all are right. The reason we are here, stuck on this miserable rock of a planet, depends on the person asking the question. I think I’ve found the answer that I was looking for. My answer to “Why am I here?”, is to learn to let go. Just that, nothing more. To appreciate the perfect impermanence of life on earth. After a while of serious searching for a purpose, I’ve actually managed to appreciate the full scope of transient existence. If you think about it, nothing in the history of our world has had any real permanence to it. Mountains erode, and wash into the sea. The sea itself changes entirely from decade to decade, and century to century. Things cast in iron eventually rust, and breakdown, and return to the earth. All things eventually fade away, and leave no more of a mark on the earth than a shadow cast by yesterday’s sun. It occurred to me that if given long enough, everything will return to it’s pre-existent state.The greatest leaders of men of today, will mean nothing to anyone a million years from now. When your scope is no longer 60 or 80 or even a hundred years, all that we do here seems pretty trivial. By reaching this conclusion, something inside of me changed. I can’t put my finger on anything specific, but it did.
Life really started to seem like a facade of itself; as though humans somehow have made our own existence seem like more than it really is. The urgency of our day-to-day lives, the stress of work, the hardships in our relationships all seem like a beautiful veneer glued to an otherwise un-notable table. I’ve began looking at life from the perspective of “Will this matter in 20,000 years?” If the answer is no, it takes the stress out of things. This kind of thinking has changed my outlook on life and death drastically. By appreciating the scope of time that we are all on (millions of years), instead of focusing on the small sample of time that is our own lifetimes (60-100 years), you can’t help but face the fact that everyone and everything that we’ve known up until this very second is going to eventually fade away.
You might think that I would find everything terribly depressing thinking this way; like the fact that nothing I do will matter, the fact that my friends and family are all going to be extinct. Oddly though, I find a tremendous comfort in it. There is nothing that I, or anyone else on earth right now can do to permanently damage the earth. Even nuclear radiation becomes perfectly harmless, given enough time. The earth is resilient. It’s been around for a very long time. It will go on, regardless of whether humans do or not.
My advice to you; tell someone that you love how much they mean to you. Appreciate the relative shortness of time we have together. Forgive somebody for something, after all it’s not going to matter in 20,000 years anyway. Find your own truth – it’s there, you just have to look for it.