Why Are We Here?
We're born. We live. We die. But why?
Why Are We Here?
A) We are here to get make money and spend it on a bunch of stuff.
B) We are here to become as well-liked, respected, famous, powerful, or as high on the ladder of social status as possible.
C) We are here to kind of float through and enjoy the trip, and have as much "fun" as possible (a.k.a. "The Universe As Our Personal Disneyland" perspective, or "the meaning of life is happiness.")
D) "The very purpose of existence is to reconcile the glowing opinion we hold of ourselves with the appalling things that other people think about us." - Quentin Crisp
E) We are here to find the perfect guy or girl, make them fall madly in love with us, and live happily ever after. ( - or, "happily ever after" at least until it's time to clock out.)
F) We are here to have sex. Maybe as much as possible. (Go to Option C).
G) We are here to be a success at...something.
H) We are here to work like dogs, pay taxes, get old, get sick, and die, without ever knowing why.
I) We are here to save the planet (...and why is the planet here?)
J) "Don't ask." (Translation: We are here for some purpose or reason, and we don't know what that is, and will never know - except for the fact that somehow we think we know that this "purpose" or "reason" involves it being very important to not ask ourselves why we are here).
K) We are here to have children (...and, why are they here?)
L) We are here to pass on our genes (...and why are they (our genes) here?)
M) We are here for reasons we don't understand and never will, so we're supposed to just blindly stumble through life trying to do the best we can. (Aka, we're essentially mole-people.)
N) We are here to set goals and achieve them...and then set more and achieve them, and so on, ad infinitum, or until we die.
O) We're here to evolve. (Evolve into what, exactly? And why?)
P) Behaviorism: we are here to seek pleasure and avoid pain (and why is pain and pleasure here?)
Q) Freud: to be torn between our instincts and societal expectations - hopefully reaching some sort of compromise - until we die.
P) We are here to love others. (...and why are others here?)
R) We are here to face and overcome whatever challenges life throws at us.
S) We are here to try to live a secure and comfortable life, typically in spite of not knowing why we're tasked with this burden of always trying to find comfort and security, and rarely actually finding it.
T) The "Economy of Happiness": We are here to squeeze the maximum amount of fun and happiness possible into our lives before we die (a.k.a. maximum hedonism)
U) We are here to distract ourselves from asking why we are here.
V) We are here to prepare ourselves for the moment of death.
W) We don't know why we're here, we'll never know why we're here - and we absolutely know that for sure.
X) We are here to breed.
Y) We are here because of "the Plan" (and what is "the Plan"?)
Z) We are here to survive - meaning, keep our physical bodies alive - for as long as possible, even though we're going to die anyway.
AA) We are here for no reason or purpose at all. It's all meaningless (nihilism).
BB) We are here for "a reason" (and either ask "what exactly is that reason?" or just leave it at that)
CC) We are here to screw around and try to have a few good times before we hit the grave.
DD) Psychological: We are here to work on ourselves, overcome our neurosis, understand our childhood, become a self-individualized human, release our "inner children," unleash our repressed emotions, and free up our impulses.
EE) We are here to find a game worth playing, and playing it to the absolute best of our ability.
FF) We are here because we have a duty and mission to carry out.
GG) We are here for reasons we do not understand, but we can understand if we decide to figure them out and do the work necessary to do so.
HH) We are here to overcome the world.
II) We are here to overcome ourselves.
JJ) We are here to promote health instead of disease, wealth instead of poverty, wisdom instead of ignorance, love instead of indifference, justice instead of injustice, peace instead of conflict, etc.
KK) All we need to worry about is not doing what we're not here for; then what we are here for will take care of itself.
LL) We are here to find certain people who really did know why they were here (such as perhaps Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Lao-Tzu, and others) - and follow their lead.
MM) We are here for something nobody else can tell us, but we can find for ourselves, like a secret code inside ourselves that only we can crack.
NN) We are here to change the world, or bring about "heaven on earth."
OO) Erich Fromm: "Man's main task in life is to give birth to himself."
PP) The Matrix: We are for food, or so that our vitality or life-force can be drained to feed parasites we can't see and know nothing about.
QQ) We are here to perfect ourselves.
RR) We are here to attain total spiritual enlightenment.
SS) We are here to survive/find immortality (Editor's Note: Isn't this a circular argument? Say we do find a way to scientifically make us capable of surviving forever, or even much longer than we do now... so what? As the quote goes..."Many folks long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a Sunday afternoon...") - and if the purpose of this life is to find a way to live another one... what's the purpose of that one?)
TT) We are here to try to find the key to immortal life before our time here runs out.
UU) Shakespeare: "All that lives must die, passing through nature to eternity." - Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2 (So, we are here to pass through nature to eternity)
VV) We are here to find the "Holy Grail", the "Philosopher's Stone", or to find ultimate knowledge.
WW) We are here to do battle, either to fight evil on the side of good, or to fight good on the side of evil.
XX) We are here to to learn how to love each another. (and what is "love"?); "We are all born for love; it is the principle of existence and its only end." - Benjamin Disraeli
YY) "What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and to enjoy him forever." - Westminster Catechism. (And Who, or What, is "God"?)
ZZ) We are here to be heroes, to fight the dragon and save the beautiful princess. (and the "dragon" is our own "ego," the princess is our own "soul").
AAA) We are here to find real happiness. (Even, possibly, "antifragile happiness.")
BBB) We're all here to learn how to love each other properly.
CCC) There is no "why." It just is. This just happens; it's all we know and all we ever can know. So, might as well enjoy the ride the best we can.
DDD) In some huge way, we are asleep; we are here to wake up.
EEE) We are here because God is playing hide-and-seek with himself.
FFF) The world is a prison where we have been given a life sentence; we are here either to 1) try to make ourselves more comfortable or enjoy our stay in the prison, or 2) try to escape.
GGG) We are here to put up cool websites about finding "IT".
HHH) We are here to spend our lives for some form of noble cause, pursuit, or mission. (and what is "noble"?)
III) We are here to develop our character.
JJJ) We are here to overcome suffering
KKK) Martin Luther King: "If a man hasn't discovered something he's willing to die for, he isn't fit to live."
LLL) Groundhog Day: We are here to basically live the same day, over and over again, until we get it right. (See also Buddhism/Hinduism: We are here to be reincarnated, over and over and over again, until we become "enlightened.")
MMM) Christianity: We are here to find and experience some form of "salvation," or to get to heaven, which is somewhere close to or with God; we are here to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might," and "love your neighbor as yourself;" we are here to work to establish "The Kingdom of Heaven" on Earth.
NNN) Yoga: "The sole object of life is the attainment of Self-realization or Absolute Freedom. Devote every minute of your life for this grand attainment." - Swami Sivananda
OOO) Barry Long: "Is it intelligent to ignore the possibility that the sweetest natural physical sensation two human beings can produce together on earth (sex) signifies a reality?"
PPP) We are here to figure out, or remember, who we really are.
QQQ) We are here to find "IT".
RRR) George Bernard Shaw: "This is the true joy in life - being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you consistent."
SSS) Peter Deunov: "We have come to earth to learn to love God who has created and loves us. When we learn how to love Him we shall understand the meaning of our life, and our relationships with others will become clear."
TTT) We are here to find out why we're here.
UUU) Michel de Montaigne: "Our duty is to compose our character, not to compose books, to win not battles and provinces, but order and tranquillity in our conduct. Our great and glorious masterpiece is to live properly."
VVV) Tagore: "The infinite seeks the intimate presence of the finite, the finite to disappear in the infinite. I do not know whose scheme this is . . . that the bound should be on a search after freedom - freedom asking to be housed in the bound."
WWW) Albert Einstein: "A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." (- sounds great . . . but how? More from Big Al here.)
XXX) Léon Bloy: "Every man is on earth to symbolize something he is ignorant of and to realize a particle or a mountain of the invisible materials that will serve to build the City of God."
YYY) Charles K. Bellinger: "Human beings fall into traps on the right side or on the left side when they live in the finite to the exclusion of the infinite, or when they seek freedom to the exclusion of necessity, or when they live in the temporal while ignoring the eternal. The goal of human life, then, is the difficult task of holding together these paradoxical elements in a creative synthesis. The highest and truest pathway in life can be compared to walking along a narrow mountain ridge. It is always possible to fall off the ridge to the right or to the left, but the successful walker continues forward maintaining a balance."
ZZZ) "The meaning of life lies in the quest for something eternally unachievable: divine perfection. For only the impossible is real, and what is furthest from us is in fact closest to us. This would seem to be absurd, but it isn’t, for things are not as we see them. Those who reach for the unachievable, the perfection of God, remembering that they were created in his image, are the ones who live in reality. Since they have placed the Creator at the centre of their life, he takes part in what they do, in everything they bring into being. He is present in their every thought and feeling. They were thinking it was impossible to meet God, to become one with him, but in fact this meeting, this union, happens every day, without their even realizing it! Every day, they grow in faith, hope and love; every day, light and peace increase within them." - Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov
A4) None of the Above
B4) All of the Above
C4) Some of the above _______________________
D4) Other __________________________
Your Answer: ________.
When you finish your quiz, please pass your papers to the front.
Please note: This is a quiz that, whether you know it or not, you're kind of already taking;
And you will probably be graded, but may not be; we're not sure when or even if you'll ever find out what your grade is, and we might know who will or won't be grading your papers, - but then again, we may be wrong.
"Okay, so why ARE we here?
Wrestling with all this can seem a bit overwhelming.
Is there a way to simplify it?
For example, we could boil it down to two basic answers. Either life
A) is meaningless, or
B) is meaningful (if so, then what is the “meaning,” exactly?)
This is a basic existential riddle we all face. We all have to answer something along those lines.
But even this can seem overwhelming, too. After all, how do we know?
Here’s one approach.
The first step involves hunting down answers from across the world and then collecting them in one spot. This move throws the doors wide open. It’s a cattle-call. All answers are welcome. They can all take their best shot.
(Spoiler alert: that’s what we did above.)
The next step involves sorting those answers out.
But sorting can become overwhelming as well.
After all, many answers seem insightful, but they contradict other answers. Which one is right? They can’t all be right. Are any “right”? Is it all just a matter of taste? How do we know?
The room can easily start spinning here.
It can be tempting at this point to just throw our hands up, decide it’s all too much, turn on television, and move through life with some kind of constant, low-grade, unresolved existential crisis.
But luckily, we’ve done some work along those lines as well.
If we hang in there and keep examining the pile of answers, we’ll probably notice a few things.
- like this, for example.
Several of these answers are saying roughly the same basic thing.
If we dig down to the essence or gist of what each is really saying, then we can group them based on that basic underlying point.
Some answers (RR, ZZZ, VVV, SSS, NNN, YY, MMM, and others) respond that the best answer to the question of “why we’re here” is, in a word, “spirituality.”
Other answers (such as A, C, P, CC, X, AA, and others) are “materialistic,” or atheistic, or just non-spiritual.
Other answers (such as MM, D, OO, CCC, PPP, TTT, and others) aren’t necessarily spiritual or atheistic, but could best be described as “existentialist.”
Others (eg M H, J, Z, etc) are “nihilistic.”
And so on.
The point is, we can group or classify each of the above answers into a few basic categories or families with similar traits.
A better word for these categories might be “worldviews.”
We could also describe them as “life philosophies.”
Whatever we call them, there aren’t unlimited numbers of them.
There are about seven of them, depending on how you slice it.
That helps. We’ve narrowed it down.
Now, at least, it’s much more manageable.
OK, so now what?
Well, we’ve narrowed these down to a few major worldviews.
But now, the next step: which worldview is “right”? Are any of them? None of them? All of them?
How can we decide which “worldview” makes sense, or “works,” or hangs together?
Is this just a matter of personal taste? Are any worldviews “better” than any others? If so, how do we know? How do you even measure that?
That’s explored in some depth right here.
We offer several yardsticks to measure by.
As it turns out, when we measure worldviews using those yardsticks, some of them hold up pretty well.
When a worldview collapses, that leads to an existential crisis, which is no fun.
But here’s where things get really interesting.
Our answers here – to the “why are we here?” question, as well as the worldview question – are interconnected with other questions.
To answer one, you have to answer another.
In other words, to answer question A, you have to answer question B. And to answer question B, you have to answer question C. And so on. Hence the sense of overwhelm that keeps cropping up.
The answer to “why we’re here,” for example, is connected to the answer to the question of meaning. And the answer to the question of meaning is connected to the answer to the question “why do we suffer?” (which is one of the big reasons for feelings of meaninglessness, or soft nihilism.) And suffering, of course, is also connected to our ideas about “happiness.” Happiness, of course, is also related to things like our psychological health, which is also related to things like inner strength, our existential fitness, our basic model of human nature, our level of psychological self-defense, our relationships, and so on.
At this point, once again, this might all start to seem like a lot to digest.
But that’s because these problems are “everything problems.”
Some problems are interconnected to other problems.
And eventually, it can start to seem like everything is connected to everything else.
It might seem, for example, that “why are we here?” is an everything problem, and in order to understand one thing, we have to understand everything.
But that can also work in our favor if we reverse it.
If everything is interconnected, then if we then solve one problem, it can have a ripple effect.
Solving one problem can start solving lots of others.
So, if we go through the exercise of establishing a strong foundation – or if we establish a solid groundwork for a life philosophy – then it’s no longer overwhelming. We might no longer get the sense that we’re trying to fit together a thousand unrelated pieces from a thousand different puzzles.
Instead, it can be like we’ve glimpsed the image on the front of the puzzle box.
The image on the front of the puzzle box shows how all the various puzzle pieces will eventually fit together.
So suddenly, all of these various pieces can fit together into one coherent, unified whole. Everything complements everything else, and it all makes much more sense.
Of course, there’s still plenty to do.
We can keep adding pieces and connecting them to make the puzzle more complete.
But now, it seems, we can become much clearer on The Big Questions. Because some answers to Big Questions are connected with other answers, clarity on even one or two can lead to clarity on others. This can help us experience more clarity not just intellectually, but experientially – directly and firsthand – especially if we put in some time on some real contemplation of the whole thing. If we want, we can even run some experiments to help us gather more data on all of it.
If we take that route, we might just wind up with more clarity on knowing “why we’re here.”
But even more, this clarity on knowing why we’re here can ripple out into improving life in other ways, too. In this sense, the quest to “know thyself” might be the most practical search in the world.
Nobody can find that clarity for us, just like no one can eat or breathe or walk through these woods for us. But this is one trail.
"There are only four questions of value in life, Don Octavio.
What is sacred?
Of what is the spirit made?
What is worth living for?
And what is worth dying for?
The answer to each is the same: only love."
from Don Juan de Marco by Francis Ford Coppola/Jeremy Leven