Lately, as we emerge from the Covid era, my thoughts turn more toward what purpose we have in life… what is the true path humans should take?
Perhaps you are the same? Perhaps many of you have been giving thought to your own lives, and what path or paths you should take in this life.
We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.-Carl Sagan
Many around the world look to work for a purpose. Some would use income and wealth as the absolute measure of a person’s worth. In the United States, where crony capitalism has taken over, just three people own more wealth than the bottom 50% of the country. Also, since 1978 (a long time ago, I was only 4 years old), worker compensation growth has increased at a rate of only 12%! That is not enough to even keep pace with inflation. What about CEO salaries? You guessed it… they have increased at a blistering pace of 940%!
Clearly, the top half of society is taking all of the pie, leaving nothing but a few wayward crumbs for the bottom 99% to fight over. People should not have to live like this. People’s lives should be more than this…
People are waking up to the fact that out-of-control capitalism forces us all down, reduces us to slave drones. In a society where the billionaires call all the shots, they expect capitalism to be internalised by everyone.
It is no wonder people are filled with anxiety. In our modern society, we are pressed to overwork ourselves until the point of exhaustion. A recent paper by Medic et al. illuminates the serious consequences of sleep deprivation:
“Despite the importance of sleep, up to 70 million people in the US and ~45 million people in Europe have a chronic sleep disorder that impacts daily functioning and health.” (Medic et al., 2017)
And still the corporate mantra continues to be one of longer hours and less rest. These types of destructive behaviors have become normalized. Is it any wonder that people are seeking something more to life?
In Japan, a country known for its obsessive work culture, people have found a way to cope.
Ikigai cannot be directly translated into English, its real meaning is something akin to finding happiness in living. It is often associated with the accompanying Venn diagram, that guides you (hopefully) to the real reason you get up in the morning. One can find a true purpose by following the diagram and (perhaps having nothing to do with income) finding small joys in every day life. The challenge is to match your life’s work with your true passions and skills. The idea is to work at what you truly want to do, while feeling that your work is making a real difference in people’s lives. This goes far beyond simply collecting a paycheck.
To me, this echoes the great advice given by Curly (Jack Palance) in the film City Slickers:
- Curly : Do you know what the secret of life is?[holds up one finger] Curly : This. Mitch : Your finger? Curly : One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit. Mitch : But, what is the “one thing?” Curly : [smiles] That’s what *you* have to find out. – City Slickers (1991)
SO… what is that one thing? For centuries, religion has tried to fill this void by proclaiming that the one thing is preordained, that your destiny and purpose were already decided long ago by God. As an Agnostic, I do not subscribe to this belief. I recognize that these beliefs are a matter of choice, yet there is no actual scientific evidence to back any of them up. What does science have to say on the matter?
Science is only now beginning to piece together the origins of our universe. Such a grand feat cannot happen overnight, however there has been some progress over the last century. We can now trace the universe back to at least 10-34 seconds after it was born in the Big Bang. We do not know the origin of the Big Bang… what exactly banged or even why it banged. However, we have gathered evidence that points toward a multiverse… in other words, the universe is only the latest of a possible infinite number of universes, floating in a vast Brane sea.
-Brane cosmology: an introduction (David Langlois (GRECO/IAP, Paris)
For a more reader-friendly introduction, Lawrence Krauss describes how the universe could have come into being, seemingly out of nothing, in his book, “A Universe From Nothing” (Free Press 2012).
Why is there something rather than nothing?
Setting aside the logical challenges (such as how matter / energy can be created from nothing), followers of organized religion (mainly Christianity) will immediately become disturbed by these revelations… citing the (seemingly logical) argument that something cannot come from nothing.
Krauss covers this in his book. However, the more orthodox followers of Christianity and other such creationist beliefs do have one unavoidable problem… How did God come from nothing? To debate such a problem is perhaps beyond the scope of this article. I can say that it would be extremely unlikely (read impossible) for a complex creator God to have spawned out of nowhere, seemingly infinite, without any beginning. Such a proposition is no different than the multiverse theory. Either way, we are left with the conundrum of nothing becoming something. Perhaps we can table that argument for now. We shall await a time in the future when we have more evidence at hand.
I like the multiverse theory, however, for one simple reason. If (and I am only being Agnostic about this now) there is no such creator God, and the universe spawned, itself within a multiverse sea, evolving along the laws of physics, then there may indeed be no purpose to the universe.
This startling revelation may be frightening or depressing to many, especially those of more fundamental religious beliefs, however, to me it is a refreshing and freeing concept. If indeed the universe was not created with some set purpose, then we, as its inhabitants, have no preordained purpose ourselves.
We are now free to set our own purpose. Perhaps by using the Japanese path of Ikigai. Or perhaps by some other method. Which will you choose?
Please feel free to leave comments below if you disagree. Or, tell me if you do agree. Please scroll down and become a subscriber. I am terribly busy at the moment, trying to finish my Master’s thesis before summer ends, but after that I should have more time to produce blogging content for you.
Peace and remember to try and learn something new each day. 😊