Musings on Life’s purpose
The last few weeks have brought on smiles, chuckles, frowns – a rainbow of emotions – an invariable event when the World Cup is on. This blog too tended to stay away from brooding for a few weeks, however a question from a friend got me reflecting back on more heady matters.
The question was one of those really simple yet profound ones that keep popping up unexpectedly, race around the brain for a while and then just disappear.
“What really is driving us – and how do we define success?”
Philosophers – I know – have engaged this question in plenty of detail and come back with detailed explanations. I thought I’d ask a few acquaintances – and here’s what I came up with:
Most live their lives for a future result – in many cases, one they may not live to experience in the flesh in this life. Consider:
1. Many are driven by the legacy they will leave behind:
– Biological genes (As in kids and grandkids who will change the world).
– Ideas (these are the guys who hope to leave behind an invention that will propel mankind further)
– Sagas (People who leave behind stories that will inspire future generations by their deeds)
2. Some are driven by a belief (from religion/ society) –
– Many devout christians live so they are called to the right side of the ledger on judgement day, many hindus live so they earn the right karma for a favourable rebirth and so on..
– Some live propelled by the vision of a better world they can help establish – usually by eradicating some blemish of society. Feminists, Caste(race)-free and Minority-right crusaders all live for a cause they believe in very strongly – though they know they may not live to see it happen in their lifetime
Interestingly, there are some people who don’t live for the future – but live in the present. Consider:
– Sages – they live as witnesses, unaffected by life but fully contributing to it.Think “ramana maharishi” for instance.
– Many scientists and even technocrats live by this credo – where they live not for the success of their experiments but for the joy of participating in the experiment and driven by curiosity more than anything else. This is best of course exemplified by Steve Job’s quote “The journey is the reward”. Or Robert Pirsig’s view that “sometimes its a little better to travel than to arrive”.
The majority of us however seem to live defined by our constraints. If you were to ask such folks what propells them, they’d not be able to define it – they can however very clearly define what constrains their journey (we would have all heard these sometime!):
– financial dependence
– inadequate family support/ need to support family
– not the best childhood/ pedigree..
Some actually define their life in terms of sacrifices made – these are the career “victims”. They always a have a story of how much nature/ world/ family/ Colleagues/ fate always stunted “what could have been”. Many a time, “the what may have been” is vague – leaving life unfulfilled….
I am of course unqualified to say which one of these is the best one – or even if there is a better set that I haven’t been exposed yet to. What I do know is some of this exchanges today’s joys for a belief in what tomorrow would bring – though in many instances, its these belief’s that underpin actions to provide us with a stable society. This is the “mind” winning over the “heart” – conservative, thoughtful, planned.
In sharp contradistinction, the other option brings in joy today – with a neigh a care for what will happen tomorrow. There’s an acceptance of “what will be, will be” – no point worrying about it. Those from this group often have a song in their hearts and their joy inspires our spirits as well. This is the maverick at work – joyous, spontaneous, wild.
The question really I guess is – which one of these are we? And is that who we want to be…