Recently, I have been thinking about the purpose of my life. Naturally, it’s a topic that everyone will certainly ponder about in some stage of their life. There have been two views presented regarding this topic. 1) There is absolutely no purpose in life and that people just live for the sake of surviving everyday obstacles. It’s not like we really had any choice of being born on this planet. This is kind of a pessimistic approach to life, obviously speaking. 2) Your purpose in life is to serve others. This can be interpreted in any way.
These two views are what I have generally observed among most of the people I have met. Christians obviously believe in serving others. Nihilists are those who belong to group 1. If there are any views at all, I am still not aware of it/them.
So, why worry about our lives at all? Why do we have to think about a purpose for our life here, why bother at all? Why are there so many people around this world, going about finding a purpose for our lives, when maybe none might exist? Or why is it better to have some purpose rather than no purpose at all?
First of all, I believe that everyone should lead a life with a purpose. They might discover it later or earlier in their lives. But it is much better to have clear view of where your life is heading. Ayn Rand says,
“The man without a purpose is a man who drifts at the mercy of random feelings or unidentified urges and is capable of any evil, because he is totally out of control of his own life. In order to be in control of your life, you have to have a purpose — a productive purpose.”…”A central purpose serves to integrate all the other concerns of a man’s life. It establishes the hierarchy, the relative importance, of his values, it saves him from pointless inner conflicts, it permits him to enjoy life on a wide scale and to carry that enjoyment into any area open to his mind; whereas a man without a purpose is lost in chaos. He does not know what his values are. He does not know how to judge. He cannot tell what is or is not important to him, and, therefore, he drifts helplessly at the mercy of any chance stimulus or any whim of the moment. He can enjoy nothing. He spends his life searching for some value which he will never find.” (1964, Playboy Interview)
A purpose in life, will direct you in your life. Of course, you can resort to flexibility. You don’t have to be focussed on just one purpose in your life. So, this is actually a subjective topic. But I completely disagree with people, who believe that “you live life as it comes by”. Or something like, “you should learn to accept and live with what you get, rather than dream about what you might want to get”. I do not tolerate such views. I believe that everybody has an unconscious purpose in life. I believe that everybody has an unconscious affinity towards a certain area of interest.I cannot name the reasons behind such beliefs clearly. I don’t know more about them yet and wish to learn more. But this is certainly what I believe.
Now, coming to the topic on whether the ultimate purpose of our life should be to serve others. As I said earlier, this could be interpretted i many ways by different persons. You can say “making others happy” or you can also, like Christians say “serving others”. But for me, I do not consider it to be my ultimate purpose in life. I am not born to serve others, I am born to serve myself. I strive to keep myself happy, and to do this, I will keep my friends happy. Because seeing them happy, makes me happy. So the basis/motive is the difference here.
One might strive to serve others on the basis of ‘duty’ and ‘God’. My basis is my own happiness. Every act I carry in my life, has my own selfishness in it. Even love, I believe is a very selfish act. Ayn Rand puts it very clearly,
“When you are in love, it means that the person you love is of great personal, selfish importance to you and to your life. If you were selfless, it would have to mean that you derive no personal pleasure or happiness from the company and the existence of the person you love, and that you are motivated only by self-sacrificial pity for that person’s need of you. I don’t have to point out to you that no one would be flattered by, nor would accept, a concept of that kind. Love is not self-sacrifice, but the most profound assertion of your own needs and values. It is for your own happiness that you need the person you love, and that is the greatest compliment, the greatest tribute you can pay to that person.” (1964, Playboy Interview)
So therefore, we need to define a purpose in our life. But we haven’t come to the part where we have to think about why bother at all with a purpose in life? Do you believe that you are already assigned a purpose by some omnipotent being? This is the one topic that is running on my mind right now. Maybe you readers can help me…
2 thoughts on “To have or not to have…”
Ayn Rand is a professional movie writer. Not some enlightened soul to worry about how to scientifically treat philosophy without resorting to rhetoric. I would put as much trust in her as I would in Jerry Buckheimer’s nonsensical patriotic films.
She has to believe in purpose for life because she is a romantic. Her world will fall apart if she believes in anything else. Among her ridiculous feelings include her assertion that art has to reflect on how human should be rather than reflecting reality. How ingenious!
I have no purpose in life other than to watch tennis and be curious about matter on atomic scale to understand how universe works. Have you ever stopped to think about this question even more deeply? Why are we even asking this question? Why should there be only two choices PURPOSE and NO PURPOSE? Could it be that our understanding of nature is so limited that we are destined to rot with only two choices? Shouldn’t we put in our resources to understand nature better?
Nature is much too complex to be understood by a pop-philosopher, whose disturbed childhood in Russia forced her to write about individualism and whose pride didn’t allow her to associate with libertarianism, when its obvious that most of her ideas are already thought out by scientists and presented as a political philosophy. Ofcourse we can pretend, like AYN RAND does, to have all answers.
Omnipotent being? Now I don’t know what it would be. One thing that strikes my mind is matter. Yeah matter is all pervasive. Don’t you think? Shouldn’t we make it our purpose to understand it? Ofcourse, only between those sitcoms, family gatherings, tennis matches and lovemaking.
I guess I am being too harsh on Ayn Rand. Her works are influenced by conditions around her when she lived, as with all other good artists. But the only complaint is that she never evolved a mature understanding of society. I find her hypocritical because at one instance, she writes a damn fiction and becomes upset that none of the frontline critics take her seriously. So she starts off a philosophical foundation to popularise her philosophy and consequently her books. What’s her purpose in life? To shove down a useless philosophy down impressionable minds and have a cult following? Or have I missed something? So far as I know she refuses to associate herself with any political movement (understandable because she believes in individualism), but has her own following. How hypocritical is that? Her best work to me is her first work ‘We the living’. ‘Fountain Head’ was ok. ‘Atlas Shrugged’ was atrocious.