THURSDAY, 31 MARCH 2005
A fundamental shift has occurred in my thinking. Four years ago, I tried to formulate the purpose of my own existence as “creativity”. I believed that to be creative was the ultimate goal not only of my own existence but of any person’s existence, should he or she ever develop far enough from a state of primary needs fulfilment.
Human existence is lived out within a specific environment with unique (or semi-unique) social, cultural, economic, political and historical elements, and with the assistance of, and sometimes hampered by, a unique mixture of genetic characteristics GIVEN to each human being by the proverbial fate. As things are, some people find it hard to construct a life with a certain meaning within the environment that was given to them. Important CHOICES then have to be made. These individuals might need to make adjustments to their identity that may utilise elements from other sources as those which were originally given to them. They will probably change where they live and work – considering the vital importance of environment on who we are and how we apply our existence. Finally, performing the roles they will eventually define for themselves will constitute not only an existence with a certain meaning, but also the pursuit of a specific purpose of their existence.
Should anyone challenge me at this moment with the question of how creativity fits into this whole matter, I would have to admit that I do not have an answer ready to recite. To be creative, to live out your earthly existence as a creator is no longer enough for me as an answer to the question of the purpose of my existence.
The search for the True Purpose of Human Existence cuts like a ritualistic blade through the soft flesh of what we call “life”. Where do humans come from? Is there a reason for our presence on this planet? What type of questions did our earliest ancestors ask? Is this thing of asking questions a by-product of our development, or part of what drives us forward? Was it always in the proverbial cards of what humans would become? Is there an invisible force behind human existence? Was and is the assumption of this “force” that we have to serve some purpose? If so, why is it not clearly laid out to us? Has it all been laid out for us more than once, with many of us simply continuing to ignore it as many of our ancestors also did? Why, if we accept for the moment that it is indeed important to serve a purpose, is the true purpose of our existence not again and again and again spelled out as a matter of daily cosmic ritual?
A person is to an extent that can never be exaggerated a product of their environment. The set of sounds with which you communicate and the vocabulary in which your thoughts take shape, the beliefs that you adhere to, the ambitions you define as your own, where you live, where you work, how much income you earn every day, month or year, where you sleep, on what kind of furniture, under what kind of bedding, with whom, what you do between the moment of waking up and the moment you drift off again at the end of the day, how often you leave your home, for how long, where you transport yourself and with what kind of transport medium, and how all these things interact with your consciousness can all be directly or indirectly traced back to the environment you were “given” at birth. (Even if the environment where you live out your adult existence is radically different from the environment that was given to you, your chosen environment remains inextricably linked to your given environment because your ultimate choice was most likely influenced by your given environment and was probably to some extent a reaction to it.)
It is furthermore true that the environment where your existence started and from where you received your earliest “programming” is also the primary source of information about the purpose and meaning of human existence. Now, 500 or 1500 years ago this was also the case, but the world that many of us are aware of in the 21st century extends considerably beyond the boundaries of the town, city or village in which our existence is lived out. Mass media and the Internet also expose us to alternative ideas about the possible purpose and meaning of our lives that two or three generations earlier could not have contemplated on even the most tranquil of mornings.
The sources we can consult, should we desire to pinch off a minute somewhere to contemplate the issue, is much richer than a generation or ten ago. Despite this many still choose to seek answers from local guides, whether parents, grandparents, friends, pastors, priests, rabbis, imams, self-help gurus or popular entertainers. Answers can certainly be gotten from these people. My question remains: what are these answers? What possibilities are offered by the usual line-up of self-appointed or community conscripted Providers of Truth and Guidance?
Maybe a question closer to the heart of one hiding behind a computer screen filled with words he is typing while no one disturbs him in the privacy of his own apartment: WHAT ANSWERS WOULD I GIVE SOMEONE ON THE QUESTION OF THE TRUE PURPOSE AND MEANING OF PEOPLE’S EARTHLY EXISTENCE?
[One-hundred-and-seventy-two words neatly woven into four paragraphs followed, to make up for the fact that I could not think of any clear answers. One-hundred-and-seventy-two words have therefore bitten the dust.]