Life does have a purpose
This is what Christian propaganda material tells us.
Among the many life forms that evolved on the earth, human beings have done rather well for themselves. We have truly acted as the vice-regents of the earth and utilized most of earth’s resources for ourselves. The purpose of every common man is to seek as much happiness as he can find. This couldn’t be said to be the purpose of our lives. A few of us do go beyond personal happiness and lead a relatively more purposeful life, but this is again purely in the interest of the humans only. Mahatma Gandhi, George Washington, Edison and Einstein are all important to us, not to the universe.
If a creator god has created us with a purpose, then our existence should be important to the universe. Leave aside the universe, are we relevant to at least the earth? How much difference would it make to earth if we were not existing here? Are we more important to the earth than the earthworms? The universe is full of wasted material and space. How much more relevant are we to the universe compared to the wasted material? Are we glorifying ourselves by saying that our life has a purpose?
I left college one semester from graduating with a degree in literature and a minor in philosophy. I'm 62 this year. I've worked in restaurants, warehouses, factories all my life. I'm about as "nuts and bolts", quite literarily, as a person can get. I can run a 25 ton press...one of six in an automobile factory assembly line that takes a roll of steel and molds it and punches it into a five by ten foot roof for a van. I can take powdered marble, mix it with chemicals and dyes, pour it into a mold with the finish sprayed sprayed to the old, then buff it out to a keep a shine for years. I've been robbed at gunpoint for somebody else's money. And I've stood in the streets unarmed against the National Guard the day after they murdered four innocents at Kent State in May of 1970. My family is from the mining country in Boone County, West Virginia. My Grandfather fought at the Battle of Blair Mountain with Mother Jones and Matewan with Sid Hatfield in the violent years. Before that we were Molly's...no reason you should know what I'm talking about. Doesn't mean a damn thing since the UMW has become a bunch of scabs for the Coal Mining Industry. What I know I know from studying, both in university and ever day since on my own with a library card, andfrom living down on the bottom of society. Working class poor. Means I've put forty to seventy hours a week into work all my life.
I'm reminded of a Christian I once had an exchanged with...before I stopped my wasting my time talking to them...who claimed to have no theology....even though I knew his theology better than he did...that he just 'read the Bible and believed what was in it.' He had a theology, of course. A theology that was not based on the theology of 2nd and 3rd Century Christianity as the Orthodoxy gradually coalesced into the canonical scriptures, but rather on 19th Century revivalism and early 20th Century Fundamentalism and Charismaticism.
Theology is a branch of philosophy. And, as any philosophy, it exists inside of you, whether you want to deny it or not. 'I'm not a philosopher, I just believe in the way the world is" or, my personal favorite, "I have street smarts and not book smarts."
Philosophy or it's bastard child theology is the structure that supports everything we think and feel. Not knowing what philosophy you are working from doesn't make it go away just like denying your theology doesn't mean you don't have one.
Even scientists work from a particular philosophy. And I've had a physicist tell me the same thing the Christian did: "I don't have a philosophy, I just observe the way the world is and base my beliefs on facts." Bullshit.
Such nonsense. Philosophy...and theology...is just examining the way your mind thinks. Even you don't do it, if you don't know your philosophy or your theology, then you are as uneducated as the typical redneck drunk spouting off on subjects he has no knowledge of at the local bar.
The classic example of this sort of ignorance is, of course, the mislabeled 'philosophy' of Ayn Rand called 'Obectivism.' I say 'mislabeled philosophy' because it is not a philosophy. The 'Objectivism' turns out to be nothing but Rand's vision of the world. A vision she went to great lengths to tyranically impose on others.
Back to the point of the purpose of life. I have enough pills on the shelf I could take them all, or as many as I could before I passed out, and end my life. It is my right to do this. Suicide is the ultimate expression of freedom. It is an option I face daily and daily must decide whether to continue living or die. Do I create a 'purpose for life' each day? No, what I do is come up with a reason not to kill myself.
The problem of speaking in terms of a 'purpose for life' is the Rick Warren foolishness in his best selling franchise "The Purpose Driven Life." Meaning there is a universal purpose for life that applies to each person no matter who or what their circumstances and that people who can't think of a reason to live are someone mentally ill or defective or just need to read Warren's books.
Nuts and bolts.
Last spring my wife attempted suicide. In the succeeding months she has made several attempts and is constantly plagued by 'suicidal and homicidal ideation' as they put it in her charts. I've been married to her for 23 years and, of all those years, to one level or another, I have been on suicide watch.
This is real, this isn't some 'inspirational book' with a happy ending or movie. This is what she lives with daily and, since I love her, it is what I live with daily as well. And in all this time the one thing I have learned is "There is no purpose to life."
Much as I love my wife, I have had to tell her...and still tell her...that I can't give her a purpose to live. That she has to come up with one for herself. And I have to live with the fact that one day she may not find a reason not to kill herself and she will be gone.
There's only a reason for not killing yourself today. Everything else is just crap invented by people who want to sell you books and DVDs and weekend seminaries at expensive resorts.
When don't I kill myself...or should I say, why did I decided to not kill myself today?
It may sound stupid for people who are looking for big and important 'purposes' to go on living, purposes that will take the daily decision of suicide and make it go away once and for all...
...but the reason I don't kill myself is simply because I want to see what happens next.
Phil, I was just finishing my resonse to your latest comments when the page suddenly flipped to a questionnaire. The piece is gone. I'll write later.
Yeah, that's the problem with web-forms. Any time I'm writing something longer than a quick paragraph, I usually compose it in an external program, then copy it over, after I'm finished. Or, at the very least, you should highlight your entire post and hit CTRL-C, every couple of sentences. It saves all kinds of heart-break.
Thanks, Joseph, I'll remember that.
Phil,well I guess proved to my myself that your original thesis is correct. I looked at my marriage and realized that I disliked obligations intensely - because it took time away from me and forced me to engage in things in which I had no interest. My marriage didn't last long.
I think that the majority of people don't think much about the purpose life. If they're christians, everything has been decided for them, so there's nothing left to think about. I stopped searching for a purpose five years ago when I entered an independent-living facility. I have severe RA which has deformed my hands and feet along with chronic pain and fatigue.
I thought it would be a prison, but I can come and go as I please. And here is where I found my purpose. Since all my time is my own, I do what I couldn't do before: paint, learn, grow bonsai, and maybe sculpt. Nothing lofty at all.
Back pain, gotta go.
I disliked obligations intensely
I dislike them too and with an intensity, but for me there is no way out, my marriage is going to last for ever(you are lucky). It kills life when you can't do what you want to do.I am Ankolosing Spondylitus, still a money earning machine.
In any time I can spare for me I grow Cactus madly, listen indian classical music, and study litrature. Seach for a purpose in my life if you can and its place value in this huge universe.
for me there is no way out, my marriage is going to last for ever(you are lucky). It kills life when you can't do what you want to do.
If this is how you feel about it, why do you stay married?
People so often have conflicts between their need for attachment and the wish to develop themselves. Sometimes those things work together; maybe a genuinely good relationship is when they do. Maybe the rarity of such a good relationship, and people's urgent need for attachment, is why so many are in chains.
Bonsai? It's an art I have always wanted to learn. Perhaps I will someday, but most likely it will be on my list of things to do long after I'm no longer there to be worried by such trivialities.
Humans give themselves a purpose, whatever that might be, and that does not exclude the religious.
The Christian who posits his purpose is to "glorify God" fails to note it is he who decided to have that purpose, not God (according to his own free-will argument).
As for us, we just cut out the middleman (God) and credit the definition of purpose where it belongs: amongst ourselves.
Do we have a purpose in the Universe and its scheme of things? No, unless one can be discovered through scientific enquiry. Can we create our own purpose for our lives? Most certainly.
It's not self-glorification to declare that we human beings decide what's important. What counts as important always implicitly means what matters most to our purposes, our needs.
Remember "important" and "universe" are concepts which function in a community of language users. We are the language creators and users. If we all go away so does the universe, in the sense that the universe is always "the universe as we know it", we're the knowers with language. We ultimately decide what's right or wrong, important or trivial, not some large scale matter and energy structure which we've posited from our observations.
Human beings are the meaning makers.
It's an incredible thing that in us, the universe has become conscious! I think this gives us significance in some absolute way no matter what vast swaths of matter and even alien microbial life there may be.
As a nihilist, I deny that there is a distinction between having a purpose, and not having one.