by Marcus Koe
Marcus is currently interning at Skillseed and helping to set up its inbound arm. Soon he will be starting his fourth and final year at Yale-NUS College where he majors in Anthropology. He likes to wander and wonder.
PEOPLE OFTEN ASK the same question in many different ways. "What is my purpose in life?" "Why do we live?" "What is the meaning / point of life?" Sometime or another in our lives I've found that each of us is caught up in this age old question.
Aristotle might have suggested towards Eudaemonia, or “human flourishing”, but Greek philosophers are but dead old men. Life can be much more complicated now - we have 21st century problems, third-world problems and first-world problems that might not have afflicted the minds and souls of people past. Today we find our own purpose.
Where does this purpose thus lie? In our search purpose seems to lie hidden in the primordial nature of our universe; as if immortal, as if pristine, as if everlasting, unchanging and forever waiting to be found. Intelligent beings we are, we have crafted constructs and institutions to approach this treasure. Religion, some might say, in its countless configurations throughout the ages, prescribes to us purpose that guides the lives and deaths of humankind before and after us. Whether this purpose is to serve God, or to achieve nirvana, to many of us these seem a little too distant from our everyday lives.
Some of us might be more convinced by the discipline of science. But here purpose seems hard to come by. As we uncover little by little the secrets of the universe, purpose seems relegated to an afterthought. Against the evidence that proclaim our existence as merely a product of coincidence - a lucky combination of universal laws and numbers that resulted in life and conscience - we may console ourselves that perhaps our sole purpose in life is to turn into nutrients for the earth and future life forms and later return to stardust when our sun explodes to become ingredients for future worlds.
But maybe purpose doesn't have to be grand and majestic. We go about our everyday lives thinking that our purpose is much bigger than all that. Till we are old and retired we realise that we haven't found out what that purpose was. Perhaps we can find purpose within our everyday lives that don't require philosophical acrobatics. This may be insignificant in the larger scheme of things, but we don't all have to change the world. Purpose doesn't have to be the universal and the eternal, but may take form in the personal, transient things that matter only to us and keep us up at night. Purpose can be a modifier, a splash of colour over our dull lives that transforms them into purposeful ones.
Some people live because they've been living, whereas some people live to leave the world a better place then when they encountered it.
Some people work because that's the way to earn a living, whereas some people work such that those who need to work too much can work less.
Some people serve because it looks good on a piece of paper, whereas some people serve in the hope that one day there will no longer be a need to serve.
Some people travel to say that they've been to places, whereas some people travel so that they become connected intimately to the places they go to through mutually positive experiences.
These are nice and all, but just like we do with the grand and majestic kind of purpose, we can always expect to question ourselves. Can we devote ourselves to a purpose? How true might this purpose be? Every man has his enemies and every cause has its devils. Purpose is something we create for ourselves. It is humanity's illusion to fool ourselves to keep living as healthy beings. But illusions only remain as illusions till we live them enough. The task for us to find our purpose is to persist, to fool ourselves long enough and hard enough such that illusions transform into reality.