Ants exist because someone has to milk the lice. Worms are there so the plants have a fluffy ground and the rain can drain. Deer walk about for there is some grassland left without forest suffocating all the fragile plants closer the ground and the wolves don’t starve.
Even the stones are there to provide the moss and plaits a base, to challenge the down-coming water in it’s run and to save some precious warmth for the lizard. The grass grows to feed the cattle and to give the ticks a spring board to their victims. Trees grow and fall and rotten and become rich soil again… Ok, admittedly, all of this is a philosophical or a question of belief. But everything at least seems to have a working order! What in hell is the meaning of the mankind? What is our reason, our excuse for being? What are we supposed to contribute?
I would love to send a questionnaire around the world to thousands of different people with different lives and read all the diverse opinions of this maybe most interesting and yet most difficult question of our existence. What answers would you get? I bet a list from A to Z! Maybe starting with “we exist to amuse ourselves”, “to become rich” and “we are made to form the world” or “to save the world”.. I have lost myself in that question long ago and keep struggling with the sense of human and my personal existence.
But there is a growing number of other people nowadays asking the same question. Since we don’t have to worry about surviving anymore but about the size of our TV and the best restaurant to eat at, we do have too many choices of everything – what to do, buy, think, become… Since we are let to decide for ourselves and not been decided about (yes, suddenly we are actively responsible!) by the nature, fate, the church, the parents or community which we were not long ago so dependent on, the meaning of our individual lives became blurry.
I think today two kind of people might be happy: those who don’t ask themselves that question and those who have asked it themselves long and insistent enough to eventually find wisdom in it. All others, I believe, must sometimes feel the same slight melancholy pain I do of that hidden and unanswered question. When they gasp for breath and realize people are just running about, chasing vague aims they don’t even know, feeling the need to achieve something the norms prescribe while they are distracted by things that promise a happier, more fulfilled life though those just pursue to push the nonsense they don’t need still in the hope to gain something they think they want.
When you turn your head towards nature it’s obvious that between birth and dead every living creature was given the duty to do certain useful things to justify it’s existence. What do we actually contribute to the world? What are we supposed to do? Some people would say they do useful things like they are involved with charity, help other people or they pay for reafforestation or things like that. Those things are good, no doubt, but they are admittedly only a compensation for what others or we ourselves have done bad before ergo should be naturally and not an achievement to pride oneself with. Those things are a syndrome of our modern society but no answer to the question for the reason of our existence. And unfortunately I can’t please you with the answer.
But back to the survival. What about living to survive? Since that is basically the main aim of every living creature there must lay some answer in that. I have had a light bulb moment recently while camping in Scotland how at least to kill the worry about the meaning of life. I already saw how it works many times in Asia and now really felt it for myself.
It’s really simple: When you are busy with surviving, the gnawing but obviously luxury question for meaning doesn’t exist. For us – the standard westernized person – it is quite a while ago that we seriously had to concern ourselves with surviving. To concern ourselves with an outcome at the end of the day that would strictly and mercilessly decide about we living or dying. Hunger, cold, danger or illness. For many, many other people on this planet it is still a daily reality. When you have to basically work all day just to survive on a human level you don’t ask for another sense because that is the sense. Providing a dry, warm and safe sleeping place for yourself or even children, managing to have enough and warm food and warm, fresh clothes the next day keeps so many (predominantly) woman around the world busy permanently as a full-time job. They don’t have all the luxury we do, they can’t go to ALDI buy ready meals, stuff the washing machine with dirty clothes and put the children into day-care so they have some leisure time. They have to work really hard for all that and when they’re finished at the end of the day they can be seriously proud of themselves because it’s a bloody hard days work. Do you think they ask for another meaning in life?
So all that came back to me when I was camping some days in the wilderness of the Scottish Highlands – often twelve miles each direction to the next house, human, civilization. The weather is tough there in early May and I was fighting permanent rain, wind and cold. It took me some hours per day to pack or set up my tent and stuff properly, to prepare it against the heavy wind and wet from above and underneath. When that was done, depending on the distance I had walked that day and the spot I’d found, the preparation of food was difficult sometimes. Drinking water was to fetch from far, gnawing hunger and difficult weather conditions made it often a laborious act to eventually get some by then desperately needed food. I was wrapping up in my sleeping bag long before nightfall, exhausted, because when you don’t live in the comfort of a house warmth and light are rare goods and you don’t expect anything exciting to happen anyway (like I often do at home at 4 a.m. lurking around unsatisfied for something on facebook). But I felt truly happy because everything I had done that day had been absolutely necessary and therefore had been meaningful. I didn’t had to worry whether I did the right things or not, because I only did what I had to do and if it worked, I did it right. No questioned decisions, no struggles, no regrets.
I have thought about what is really meaningful in my life often in those early nights between those snow-capped mountains hiding myself very basically from the reckless whether with nothing to do. It came to me that feeling and enjoying those very moments were the answer. Being able to lay there in all needed comfort and satisfied with no further wishes. When I get close to nature and far from all the unimportant stuff of civilization I get very close to my basic needs. And I feel very clearly what it does not take to be happy. Not the nice flat, not the good beer, not the pretty skirt and not even the beach-holiday. In some conditions being able to “survive” the day is a proper reason to feel sense. I wished it could always be like this! Freed of options, freed of expectations, freed of temptations! I’d be happy and satisfied without even knowing the cause of the human being.