ife is pretty good right now. Things are changing for the better. It’s all starting to make sense and yet it’s even more confusing. I’ve become more aware than ever before, how fleeting it call be.
Loved ones were lost, others are struggling, and it all just makes me realize how life can turn to dust in a moment. There are no warnings, no way to know whats coming. One day life can be great and then it’s all crashing down.Imagine that you get that dreaded phone call that says your spouse or child or loved one is in the hospital, in critical condition. In that moment, does any of your success or achievement matter any more? Does that big bonus or nice car or promotion help in anyway to making that feeling OK?
It’s not even close.
I’m not trying to be depressing, but rather trying to put things in perspective. It all boils down to a single question:
What for? Why are we here? What is our purpose?
I tried to find an answer to this question and while I came up with some answers that may sound good on the surface, only one really made sense.
We want success. We want to live through the ages. We want to be famous and loved and remembered until the end of time. We all probably think about this now and then, but do we dig any deeper?
If you did, you’d realize how ridiculous this can be, for a few reasons.
First is simply a math problem. Time is ever moving forward and we’re just a blip on the radar. Civilization as we know it is 6,000 years old and even older if we really want to get into it.Our average life span is about 75 years, give or take a decade. When you view it from this scale, we’re insignificant. We’re a drop in the bucket. We may remember the greats from a century or two ago, but how far back do we really go. Time makes you forget. Your legacy won’t last.
That’s just looking at things from the time perspective. What about the fact that this legacy you build will be no benefit at all to you personally. You will not be around to enjoy it. You will be dead, what that means, no one knows, but you’re not going to be reaping the benefits.
This is not to say you shouldn’t strive to make an impact, to innovate, to provide for your family to change the world, but it shouldn’t be for your name or brand or legacy.
Do you think Da Vinci was working towards building a great name or simply exploring the curiosities that life offered him? Was he just enjoying the process of creating new things or was he scheming to be remembered through time? What’s funny is that while he was alive, he was far from the celebrity he is today.
The purpose isn’t to leave behind a legacy, no matter what our ego may make us think.
Oh happiness. The overused word that pertains to every little thing in life. Happiness is just as hard to define as it is to achieve. The thing is, our understanding of happiness is skewed today.
It is often driven by materialistic gain, by wanting more. We constantly want to do more, be more, want more, achieve more. This constant upward mobility is the reason why we never feel like we have enough.
This is the hedonistic treadmill, where we’re constantly chasing our next high. We can’t enjoy a beautiful sunset unless we also have a great bottle of wine, a Cuban cigar, and some good conversation. We forget the little pleasures.
The idea of happiness is great, but it’s pursuit is often misguided. I don’t think our purpose is to achieve personal happiness either.
This is the only thing I can think of that makes any sort of sense. We are here to positively contribute to the world in some manner. Not for ego or money or fame, but just for humanities sake.
What we must realize is that the scale of this work isn’t important, it can be for millions of people or just your own family and children. What should get you up in the morning, is making the world a better place in a way only you can. Not for glory or legacy or greatness, but because it’s the right thing to do.
It can be through art or service or business or relationships. It’s not about how, but it’s about this underlying theme of progress.
The great stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius wasn’t trying to become a Philosopher King. He was trying to save his people, bring stability to his lands, and understand his world.
Today he is lauded as a pillar of stoic philosophy. Why? Because we found his private journal and shared it with the world. It’s funny in a very intrusive way.
This private journal he kept for himself has been shared with the world. Sure, it’s full of wisdom, but it also shows that his intent was never to be what he has become. He was just trying to do the best he could with the time he was given. To make progress.
Life can turn to dust in a moment.
Time is flying by and it’s not slowing down for anyone. We must realize we are not the center of the universe. Life has been around for billions of years, while we’ll be here for only decades. Worrying about our place in history is not the answer.
At the same time, we must realize that all things die. Not just people, but companies, ideas, religions, legacies, and even planets. And don’t forget, life doesn’t try to keep things fair in this process. Shit happens and we all have to do our best to deal with it.
So what is it all for? What is your purpose?