- Education and Science
Quest for the Purpose
We need a purpose in life to justify our existence and to be motivated to face and solve uncommon problems. We also like to rationalize that everything that happens around us has purposes which may not be immediately comprehensible. Because the opposite means that we are all alone to make up the rules in the game of life as it is unfolding. Everything that happens is the result of our own actions and there is no purpose in life except to survive the best ways we know how. But, we know that we are capable of more than survival of the fittest. We want to know how we came into existence as a species on Earth so that we will know our fate. We want to know how and why things work so that we can control and understand our own life. We want to know why there are so much joys and wonders as well as miseries and sufferings in life.
In a democratic country, we all know the purpose of the government. We set it up with the elected officials to enforce the laws that will ensure the peaceful co-existence among ourselves, to provide a healthy and orderly growth of its population, and to protect the territory from foreign invasions while negotiating fair foreign trade and commerce. The purpose of the family is to satisfy our urge to reproduce and to provide a safe and stable sanctuary to raise our young. But, some of the families are filled with love and care while the others are broken and dysfunctional. The family exerts an important impact as we carry out our functions and purposes in the society and life.
In a free society, we all have a chance to develop our unique mental and physical potentials to perform our special functions. From farmer, truck driver, and construction worker to teacher, administrator, and entertainer to scientist, doctor, and president, etc., they are all valuable members of a complex society that hold our population together and give us a purpose to get up in the morning to perform our functions. To have a family, to go to work in the society, and to be a law abiding citizen are obvious not the only purpose in life. There are the cases of:
1) Einstein’s parents who spent all their lives as ordinary members of the society, gave birth to a physicist whose purpose in life was to advance the human civilization to the next stage.
2) Mother Teresa whose purpose on Earth was to feed the poor and care for the sick.
3) Anne Frank whose life was cut short in the Nazi concentration camp during WW2, kept a diary about her harrowing experience whose purpose was to expose ordinary men’s capacity for evil and inhumanity against their fellow men in times of war.
4) Charles Manson, who was a law offender since childhood, went on a killing spree of innocent people with his followers one summer in a peaceful and quiet community. The purpose of that senseless and cold-blooded crime shows the hideous side of men waiting to be unleashed when the right conditions set in.
5) People, who are born with physical and/or mental disabilities, have few choices in life but to rely on the care of other people and/or institutions. They let us realize that a healthy and normal life is not a given and shall not be taken for granted. On the other end of the spectrum, people possessed with special physical and/or mental prowess that change our life, are for the rest of us to behold with admiration and envy.
When we are free to choose and free to do what we are capable of, we know that the destiny is in our own hands. The purposes in life are whatever we make them out to be. But, we also learn that our 7000 plus years of civilization have been the collective inspirations and perspirations of countless humans from the past and present. It is a civilization built upon the resources supplied by Nature and developed according to the rules set by Nature. We are like players in a Baseball game without knowing it. The game has enough scope, complexity, and variables that make the participants experience the joy of victory, the agony of defeat, the pain of injury, the reward of a good job done, the anxiety of the unknown, the pressure in a tight situation, etc. Aside from performing the pre-assigned functions in the game, the ultimate purpose of the players is to entertain the spectators.
In our life, there are many such games with different rules, functions, and purposes designed for people with different physical and mental capabilities. It is not important for us to know what the real purposes are. We are here just to play the game of life. Our destiny has been written in the DNA. For example:
1) Some of the people enjoy a life of peace and quiet with few obstacles and problems.
2) Some of the people have to settle with a harsh and agonizing life with obstacles and problems at every corner.
3) Some of the people venture a life of crimes and punishments victimized by the violent instincts and the unfortunate circumstances.
4) Some of the people spend all their life studying and writing about the mysteries and wonders of Nature.
Those people’s lives may not all be meaningful and purposeful but they all contribute in their small ways directly or indirectly, in the present or future to the well being of our 7000-years-old and growing civilization, more than 3.5 billion years after the Earth was formed out of the dust clouds in our solar system.