Dear Grown-Up:

I understand that every species is unique and is important to the ecology of the world. Although insignificant as it may seem it is still important even to the little dust mites that live in your house. What I dont really understand is how can someone be important to the world when you consider the time that that person lives on earth compared the age of the universe? What I mean is, if we live so many years when compared to the time of the universe, what difference does it make whether we did wrong against the earth, when the point of living is to die? We are born to live, but if to live in a world that is messed up as it is now, what is the point of living and trying to fix it when you're eventually going to die and the earth will eventually die? I mean, if you're going to die what is the point of being important? You're going to be nothing but "worm food," as they say. If you're not important, then why is the existence of everything else including the earth important? Why cant we say, "Screw it," if everyone and everything is going to be nothing but a memory?


School Girl


Dear School Girl,

What you seem to be touching on is the question: What is the purpose of life? Well, this is a question that’s been asked for ages, but so far it’s been unanswerable. Personally, I think it’s been unanswerable because of the way it’s phrased.

You see, the question assumes there IS a purpose to life, and then it assumes that whatever it may be, we can determine what it is. My own view is that we can’t verify either of those things. Given our current understanding of things, there may be a purpose or there may not. We’re not going to be able to figure it out any time soon.

BUT...even if we don’t know what the purpose of life is, we know that life can SERVE a purpose, and it’s up to us to decide what purpose we want to fulfill. That’s a different story altogether, and that’s where you become important.

Now, you said that since everything dies, the purpose of life perhaps is to die, and since we’re all going to die anyway, why bother doing anything at all? Well, quite a bit of the time, if you have a question like this and you can’t find the answer, you can find it in nature. Perhaps you have a dog or cat, or maybe you’ve seen animals in the wild or on TV. If the ultimate purpose of their life is to die, do you see them laying down and dying? I think what you see is every animal doing what it can to ensure that it keeps living, no matter what’s happening. Every animal struggles with everything it has to keep living. If nature is to teach us anything at all about the purpose of life, it’s that the purpose of life is apparently to live. How we go about doing that is up to us.

I strongly suspect that you haven’t totally bought into the fatalism you’re proposing. After all, if it’s all meaningless and we’re going to die anyway, why even bother writing your letter? Why bother even thinking about it at all? The energy you spend thinking about how it’s all meaningless is wasted, because...why? It’s meaningless. You’re going to die anyway.

But no, I think you’re thinking about it and writing your letter because you DON’T believe it’s all a waste, you’re hoping it’s not all a waste, and you’re looking for someone to tell you it’s not. Well, I’ll jump in and say it: It’s not all a waste. When I look at the moon and revel in its beauty or when I listen to Chopin and lose myself in the hypnotic melodies or when I read a fascinating novel and BECOME the characters…it’s not all a waste. It’s very worthwhile.

Is each member of the community of life important? Are you important? Maybe that’s not the right way to phrase it. Important to who or to what? Life, with all its abundance, is also very disposable in nature, that’s for sure. If we can’t agree to say you or any other creature is important, perhaps we can agree on another term…the entire process of the world is a very sacred one, and as part of it, so are you.

When you begin to feel it and really understand what it are sacred...then all of a sudden there won’t be any question about whether “it’s all worth it” or not.