“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
I was lying in the back of my van trying to get through the novel American Pastoral when I saw what appeared to be a grandfather walking with his grandson into the gym. The sound of a basketball bouncing caused me to look up. I was like, check out the old dude about to go play some hoops. But at the rate he was moving I knew there was no way he was the one dribbling the ball. When I saw the top of some kid’s bowl hair cut, that’s when I realized it was his grandson doing the dribbling. Seeing this old white man – I literally mean old and white as both his hair and his complexion lacked any pigment — made me realize that the whole world is filled with old people. I realized that we are all, most of us — are going to get old, more specifically, die. We are all going to die.
I say this a lot. It’s the wannabe motivational speaker in me. I want to encourage people to get off their butts and do something with their life — something they want to do, something the love. I think that telling them they are going to die, will work. I asked them what they would do if they had six months to live. I don’t know if it works or not.
Something hit me today, though. Yeah, I’m going to die. I knew this, but for some reason, it didn’t quite hit me until I saw that decrepit old man walking with his grandson into the gym. We are all going to die. Some sooner than others, but every single one of us is guaranteed to die. There is nothing we can do about this. We can’t prevent it. We can take better care of ourselves, but this won’t stop us from dying. Personally, I don’t think there is anything we can do to extend out life. We can enhance the quality of it towards the end, but not extend it. We can shorten it, however. I see this all the time. We have a limited about of time here on this earth, and there is nothing that can be done about it, so we might as well enjoy the time we have. Is this the meaning of life, I thought to myself.
I found the meaning of life a long time ago, I thought.
I read in a Dalai Lama book one time that the purpose or meaning of life was to be happy. Boom, I thought. There it is. The purpose of life. Next? Next big question? I thought I could move on to other dilemmas life had to offer like, how do I score two chicks at the same time or something other deep thinkers like me ponder on. Then one day, I read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. From his prose, I withdrew the meaning of life, and thus I had to call bullshit on the His Holiness. The meaning of life was not to be happy, but something much more simple. We are here on earth to do what every other living creature is here on earth to do, create a surviving offspring.
Now, any dipshit can have a kid. This is not what I am referring to. When I say surviving offspring, I mean one that will flourish in the world without your help. That means not only do you have to teach your kid how to make it out there on their own, but you also have to not fuck it up. For most people, this is the hard part because they themselves are fucked up.
“More is caught than taught” means a mother doesn’t take her son aside and say, “Now, this his how you break things when you are angry.” She just does it and, as a result, so does the son.
Parenting is the most important leadership role you will ever have, and the way to lead is by example. So to produce a good human, you have to be one yourself. This is what I thought was the meaning of life. But what about all those people who don’t have kids — who don’t want to have kids? Good question. That has been the hole in my theory from the beginning, but I stood by it for a long time. It even went into one of my books. “Every living creature does what it can to protect its offspring, even plants. That’s why eating some of them are harmful to us.” But then, that old man walked by my van.
Maybe the Dalai Lama was right.
I realized that someday I was going to be like that old man, to the point that that Death was sending me text messages saying, “Can’t wait to see you” or “See you soon, lol!” How many years do I have left? Should I waste them hoping to get to a point where I can enjoy my life, do the things I want to do, or should I just do them? Someday I’ll own a house on a lake. Someday I’ll be a photographer. Someday I’ll have a company that builds unconventional housing. Someday… I’ll be dead.
The purpose of your life is to enjoy it. I still think it may have something to do with survival and offspring, but maybe there is more — happiness. We are humans after all. We have more ability than an alpaca or a wolf, or a jellyfish. We have these oversized, overdeveloped brains. We have imagination. We have desires. We have ambition. Most of all, we want to be happy. We want to have fun and enjoy ourselves.
I alway like to use babies and kids as examples for things because they are born nearly perfect. They get screwed up under our tutelage. We force them to conform to our rules, but before this, they are almost perfect humans. Their flexibility and range of motion are unlimited, but we make them sit in chairs. They only eat when they are hungry and only until they are satiated but then make them eat according to a clock and to clean their plate. They do what they want, but we teach them to do what we want. Until we break them like a drill sergeant breaks a recruit, they don’t care about our rules. They have fun. They enjoy themselves. And they will throw a fit if you stop them from doing so. We could learn a lot from them. They know the meaning of life; survive and have fun.
Hookers and Cocaine
If the purpose of life is to enjoy it then why don’t we just give in to our temptations? If what I am declaring is true, then people would just be out there in the world eating whatever they want, doing drugs, getting drunk, and screwing their brains out. People are doing that, you know. We tend to look down on them for having so much fun while we are stuck trying to follow the rules, and not having fun at all. What they are doing is not right. They need to contribute to society. They need to be functioning human beings. They need to be like me! Right? No, they don’t. Everyone in the entire world has the right to do whatever the hell they want. This includes you. Nobody needs anyone’s permission to do anything, especially not yours.
But regardless, I have a rule that will make you feel better about this utopian existence I am talking about. “Primum non nocere,” which is attributed to the Hippocratic Oath, means First, do no harm. That’s it. Do no harm. Enjoy your life, do what you want, but do no harm to others, and more importantly, do not harm to yourself. Just when you thought I was giving you permission to eat am many Krispy Kremes as you want, I hit you with this. I’ve completely made this whole thing up, of course. You can do whatever you want. This is just what make sense to me.
Enjoy your life but take care of yourself. Why? (This totally just hit me!) Because you are setting an example, remember? You are setting an example of what a good human does. The most important example to set is to enjoy your life. If you are a parent, imagine the example you are setting to your offspring by getting drunk all the time, or by eating so much you are morbidly obese, or by allowing people to physically or emotionally abuse you.
Now that I have reached the end of this article I’m not sure I made a point, or have one. I again think that the purpose of life is to reproduce a surviving offspring. That is the purpose of every other living creature on this planet. Why would we be excluded? But, In order to raise a good human, one has to be a good human. Part of being a good human is to enjoy your life; maybe it’s the most important part. But again, does not having kids make you a failure as a human? I don’ think so. Maybe the purpose of life is to be a good human — to enjoy your life and do no harm.