“What the fuck have you done lately?” - Wesley Gibson in “Wanted”
“You have to realize that someday you will die. Until you know that, you are useless.” - Tyler Durden in “Fight Club”
It is, I believe, one of the strangest parts of the human condition that we seek purpose with our lives. All other creatures in nature survive with their goal being “Let me pass on my genetic material.” Achievements are defined by survival, specifically surviving long enough to produce offspring. Humans muck it up, though. We bring in abstract concepts that cannot be resolved by simply breeding. If I were to go out tonight, impregnate a woman at random, and nine months from now take the child as my own, this would not resolve any of my life issues. I would not feel as though I have accomplished everything needed with my life. I would not be satisfied. This is because human beings have become unnecessarily complicated.
Somewhere along the line, people decided that “Eat, Sleep, Breed” is not really enough to base civilization on. Somebody got the bright idea to invent the concept of “Purpose”. An abstract, a vague generality that gives us all something to worry about while we lie awake at night. The human creature decided to aspire to more than a life of surviving and mating, resulting in millennia of hand-wringing that we aren't doing it right. That we are all failing, because some jackass decided to get people to establish unrealistic expectations for their life.
Once upon a time, over a decade ago, I made a vow, to serve God and do his Good Work. Since then, I have not only systematically deconstructed all of my definitions of “God”, but also any preconceived notion of “Good Work”. I am a man of my word, however, and I do strive to fulfill the spirit of the oath I took. That means I too have dedicated my life to levels of complexity and frustrations that your average wild hare couldn't begin to imagine. I am consciously and intentionally pursuing a path that I don't actually believe, as such. Or maybe I gave up on it years ago, and the thing that I'm doing now is just kinda masquerading as my divine calling in the meantime.
So is there such a thing as a higher calling? Is there such a thing as a Big Picture? Purpose? While it would be disingenuous of me to say I believe in the idea of God's Will, I think that humans have come far enough that maybe there is something bigger to it all. I saw an article the other day that discussed exactly how little of the earth's surface is actually habitable without special conditions or preparations, and how tiny a little sliver Humanity actually occupies in the history of Planet Earth. Something along the lines of 1% of the history and surface area of Earth is actually survivable by humans. But in that tiny little fragment of time, look how far we've come, and how many things have become achievable. We have proven that most anything we can imagine can be created or achieved, which makes absolutely no sense. It's ridiculous, and yet we regularly pull it off. And even those things that are patently impossible, that are outside of every law and physical restriction we've figured out, even those things are imaginable. Ask a physicist, and every single one will tell you that it is impossible to travel faster than light. Ask your average TV viewer or geek, and they'll give you a half dozen possible ways to do it. Some could probably even provide a diagram.
This level of ambition, of accomplishment, this is unprecidented in Nature. Sharks have been around for millions of years, and they have yet to invent water wings, let alone create mass publications or travel faster than their physical body would normally allow. Cockroaches are considered by some to be the pinnacle of evolution, able to survive things that would kill a person just thinking about it. However, these little bugs have not developed culture. They have not conquered the globe and enslaved nature to their whim. Cockroaches can not be held responsible for the extinction of one single other species. Very disappointing, and I believe evidence that there is something up with the human race.
We have veered away from individual survival, and begun to work on a more collective level. Yes, there are deviants who will always live only to serve their own skin, but everyone knows that there should be something more going on. We seek to know all the secrets of the universe, but to what end? I believe it is a matter of us trying to discover collective immortality. We are all working to be or do great things, just so that we can sustain the status quo and keep not only our lives, but our way of life going on ad infinitum. We want to live forever, and get as many other people to live forever with us so we don't get lonely.
So, if that is the case, and this massive collective delusion that we all must serve some higher calling and greater good is actually just us all trying to become immortal, then maybe this is all just a survival trip after all. But that really doesn't seem sufficient...