Like almost every human being, I have on several occasions thought about the age old question: Why do we exist?. And as one would quite correctly guess, I get nowhere every time. Oh sure I end up getting some new ideas and some new insights into myself, but I don't really ever have a satisfactory answer. I don't think anyone ever does. This writeup is just to present my humble opinion on the matter.
There is always the "we have no purpose" answer. The idea that life was just a coincidence; a product of an incredily improbable and/or lucky event or set of events. This is perfectly logical reasoning. In reality, we do live on a rock hurdling through space orbitting a star, which in turn orbits the center of the Milky Way galaxy, which in turn is eating up (or being eaten by) the Andromeda galaxy, and the whole is just drifting away from other galaxies into the vastness of space. We are but a blink of an eye in the entire history of time, and hardly worthy to even be called an insignificant speckle on the canvas that is the universe. In all honesty, what purpose could we possibly serve in the grand scheme of things?
Well, when you really think about it, purpose is a human concept. Why does the universe even exist? Is it to give us (and other possible life forms) an existence? Well if we (and by extension all other life) ourselves don't have a purpose, then what purpose does the universe serve? Why does it exist if not to impose some kind of effect on something that would be affected by said effect in a way that was profound or significant to that something? If that was the case, then would we not perhaps define that something as some form of life? If the universe did not have the aforementioned effect, then would we not say that the whole deal was pointless? So to wrap it all up, do we not think of purpose in terms of, or connected to, life in some way, shape, or form, or more specifically, to human life?
So maybe the "we have no purpose" idea isn't such a great one. It just leaves us thinking "tell me something I don't know". Maybe applying a concept to something that extends beyond what it means to be a human results in getting an answer that, no pun intended, has no purpose.
Then, there is the other popular answer; one that has a much more powerful impact and influence on humanity. The religious answer: "The afterlife". The idea that if you live your life in a good manner, the definition of good being dependant on the religion and/or belief system, then you will be well rewarded in paradise, the defintion of which again is dependant on the religion/belief system. If not, then you are punished for all eternity, or you are reincarnated as a lower being in the heirarchy of life, or other forms of punishment. The key idea being: do good <==> you are rewarded; do bad <==> you are punished. Now doesn't this seems like a viable answer to the great question? You live life as a good person in order to have a spiritual reward. You not only have an incentive to live, but to live in a manner that is moral and ethical, in a manner that makes you and everyone else a better people. What more could you ask for?
Well, when you give this concept some thought, you end up as unsatisfied as the "we have no purpose" idea. The key thing to notice in the religious answer is that you are rewarded if you live life as a good person. This by itself does not explain why we exist. It merely states the consequence(s) of our actions. So how did this become a "purpose"? If you live your life as a good person to attain the reward, then you have now given your life a purpose. One may ask "Is that not the same thing?". No, it is not. Living life as a good person in order to attain the reward is not the same as being rewarded for living life as a good person. What does this mean? Well it means that there are certain implications:
1. It implies that we are only good because we have something to gain from doing so, and not for the sake of others.
2. It implies that we refrain from doing bad because we fear the punishment and so, like a tamed beast, are trained to control our animal instincts.
3. It implies that we, humanity, created this purpose for ourselves.
Obviously points 1 and 2 are not true in reality. As an example to disprove of each, people all over the world will do whatever it takes for their loved ones, and similarly people will refrain from doing something, not necessarily because they fear the consequenes of their eternal soul, but because they do not believe they could live with themselves after the act. So maybe the religious answer isn't such a great idea either. Whether or not the afterlife exists is irrelevant. It is meant to be the reward; we have made it the incentive.
So after all that, we have effectively gone nowhere. Recently I thought of something that, as usual, left me fairly
unsatisfied, but at the same time, intrigued by the idea. I would
not be surprised if the idea has already been thought up by several people before me: it's not a revolutionary idea; quite the opposite in fact. Maybe it leaves me so unsatisfied because it has always been there. Maybe it's because as a human, I am not programmed to be satisfied with such an idea. None of us are. But is it really so far out of our capability to consider the possibility that maybe the answer to the question "Why do we exist?" is something along the lines of: To Live?
This sounds just as blatantly obvious as the "we have no purpose" answer, and just as contrived as the "afterlife incentive". What makes this any different? Well to answer that, all one has to do is to look around them. Every single person on Earth lives, and continues to do so. I don't mean "to live" in a purely literal sense; no one lives forever. What I do mean is that we continue to maintain our existence as long as we possibly can. With every breath, every heartbeat, every bit of nourishment, we continue to maintain our existence. Sure, we may try to prevent, or slow this maintainance, or in some cases succeed in ending it, but regardless how bad things get, underlying everything is the want and need to exist, the desire for things to be different so we could continue to exist, the unbearable pain of knowing that our existence could have been ensured if our situation was not what it is.
However, this answer, and every answer for that matter, will be unsatisfactory. We are humans and are thus constantly in the pursuit of knowledge. Years from now I may look back on this and completely disagree with myself. I myself at the moment find this "answer" incredibly unsatisfactory. However, if there is one thing that is true, it is that humans are adamant in our quest to answer the great question; so much so that I doubt any answer will ever be satisfactory. Perhaps this adamancy is what makes us so unique. Or perhaps it is the most tragic part of being a human.