Discover more from "Attack"
The Meaning of Life?
Original version published in “Being Reasonable” by this author
Some subjects are so strange that the only way we can discuss them is by being a bit goofy. Accepting that, we might as well get this "Meaning of Life" thing out of the way. It has become a preoccupation with my generation, (boomers), particularly those on the wealthy and listless end of the spectrum. With so many involved in this "Grail Quest" it has turned into a running joke. The bargain basement humour dished out by comics derives from the obvious futility of looking for something that is both personal and vague.
Of course, consumerism being what it is, this hasn't deterred an entire industry from surging forth to promote a variety of paths, usually spiritual, toward achieving the hoped-for result. Most involve the teachings of various swamis, gurus, shaman, or ancient religious scholars, (preferably from the mysterious east), to help in pursuit of the ultimate goal, which is, apparently, finding "inner peace through enlightenment". Indeed, if you've got a few bucks in your jeans you can attend select gatherings populated by these “holy” people, and if you are so blessed they may even invite you to spend time at their monasteries, ashrams, or back to nature retreats where you can meditate, fast, and primal scream at each other. And no doubt you will emerge feeling peaceful and enlightened, regardless of whether you achieve any insight into what is the meaning of life.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the time and resources to engage in this adventure. So, for those of you who want to attain this goal but don’t have the financial means, I am here to help. I’m sincere in this, (perhaps not completely), so if your voyage has run aground and you can’t spare the money for a ticket to never-never land, you need go no farther. Praise be, this is your lucky day. Indeed, I, personally, have discovered the answer to this age old question. Life does in fact have meaning and I am duty bound to impart, to you, this great and glorious secret of the ages – get ready, here it comes – drum roll please – the meaning of life is... sex, intercourse, getting it on, the horizontal mambo, or whatever is your favourite terminology. I'm not joking. We are living creatures who have existed in one form or another since the primordial soup. Evolution has brought us to our present incarnation and the reason we got here is because we are ardent and successful procreators, (a less than ideal word choice but it reads better than some of the more popular alternatives). In fact, we are the offspring of millions of years of ardent procreators.
As science informs us, (ad nauseam), a species survives because it has a large and varied population of ardent procreators producing an abundant supply of offspring. It's a bit more complicated than that with minor mutations in each generation creating variability throughout the species, and natural selection choosing members of the species whose variations best help them survive and prosper in a changing landscape. But if they lack a strong desire to procreate their special variation is dead in its tracks. We have done that. Arguably, as the dominant species on Earth, we have done that better than all other species since day one. We are the best procreators ever.
Now you know why every time you turn around procreation is staring you right between the eyes. It is used to sell every product, every activity - it understates or is blatant in everything we read, or watch, or talk about - music, dance, literature, television, movies, gossip, even the news.
Why else should we have to endure night after night of lurid details when some attractive young woman, (usually white and blond), is kidnapped or raped or murdered. Far greater tragedies are taking place every moment of every day and we don't hear about them because they aren't sexy. Why do you suppose the good guy always has to get the good girl in the movie? If that evil, ugly, little, gnome got to leap on the blond virgin it would revolt us to the bottom of our chromosomes. Why do you think trillions of dollars are spent every year on our appearance? Why is what car we drive, or what neighborhood we live in, or what money we make, or who our family is, so important – sex appeal. It is the world's largest consumer product - by far. We are absorbed by procreation. And why not, that is how we got here, and that is how the next generation will get here.
There are flies in the ointment. Occasionally cultures attempt to hide this particular aspect of our animal nature. When I was young sex was dirty and we weren't allowed to see it, read it, or even talk about it. It was a sin, except for married couples making babies, and even that wasn't to be enjoyed. Victorian morality, cultures outlawing hormonal drives, nurture condemning nature; it was a dark age and I'm glad it faded while I could still get in on the good stuff. But Victorian morality was just a blip on the screen compared to what is now on the horizon.
Sex has been the meaning of life for billions of years, literally from the beginning of time until... until I was born, or, more specifically, until my parent’s generation and my generation combined to change the world, making it far less predictable and safe. At the present time there are more people on Earth than the Earth can support, at least in the lifestyle they wish to be supported, so the meaning of life is changing. In response, various cultural imperatives are offering a host of new and confusing alternatives. Hormones are out, consumerism and ideology are in, but we can’t figure out which combination of these is the most satisfying. Thus, we remain adrift, dumbfounded, stupefied (to borrow from Harry Potter), with no solid meaning in our lives to create forward action.
In the good old days achieving lifetime success was easy. It was all about producing children and seeing them grow and prosper – eventually producing children of their own. Now we are being forced to accomplish something else. In fact, the children we produce may actually be contributing to humanities eventual demise. Who wants to hear that. So what now? What will become the next new meaning of life?
I know the answer, again, (I'm a know-it-all – but my wife puts up with me) so here goes – another drum roll please, get ready to shout it out – the next new meaning of life is… whatever you want it to be – ta daaa! Sounds weak, I know, but it works. In our highly sophisticated, technological world you now have the ability, and freedom, to create a comprehensive individual reality. You can decide on – or invent – your own truths, and build them into your environment. Whether your particular reality, and the environment you create to sustain it, are confined within four walls, a computer hard drive, or a chemical formulation, it is your choice and, furthermore, you have the ability to overlay this special reality onto the entire world and make it as exciting and as much a part of your daily life as you need it to be. With relatively few resources you can make this happen.
If that sounds crazy you’re missing the boat because everyone does this already on a small scale and always has. Fantasy is a part of everyone's life. The Walter Mitty in us is alive and well. However, new technologies are magnifying the scale. The ability for each of us to seek out and fulfill our individual needs within a fantasy is growing, and it's happening at the same time as our attachment to family and community is weakening. Never has life been more impersonal and anonymous. Every day you are constantly being reminded of how few people you really know, and who really know you. Do you adapt, fit into the community around you, or go on line and seek out a community just as weird as you, or even create a new one all your own? It is now your choice. And why go to all the effort and vulnerability of finding a love-of-your-life partner to sacrifice for and create and raise children with in a world that doesn't need more children? Why not just find someone you can enjoy having sex with who has a compatible fantasy or, at least, one that doesn't conflict with yours? Look around, the answer may be closer than you think. It's not an original idea.
If you question my sincerity in believing the meaning of life to be, "what ever you want it to be", you would be wrong. It is not a facetious way of saying that life really has no meaning. Even if I believe we have evolved to a point precariously close to habitat saturation, life still has value, perhaps more so than at any other time in our existence. New technologies have raised the learning curve and given us more knowledge, a greater understanding, and a vision of the infinite diversity – limited only by our imagination – that encompasses the human condition. From this we have learned to see the potential for joy and satisfaction inherent in every human being. Life has never been more precious.
Having and raising babies may have been what we were created and designed for by evolution, but we have evolved beyond the bounds of evolution. We have reached a state where we can feed and nurture our imaginations, and construct realities that satisfy individual needs however sublime or driven. We still can’t completely opt out. We have a long list of social and physical requirements that must be satisfied so interaction is necessary, complete with a level of tolerance for others. A joint connection with the greater society must remain if for no better reason than a variety of threats exist, at every level, which demand co-operative action to overcome.
Still, who is so all knowing that they can sit in judgment over a life lived within itself, and say that it has no meaning. Think of the freedom gained in such a life. The only boundaries are within your ability to create a nurturing story.
It could be worse. For instance, everyday we encounter people who see the problems this world faces but still promote child production as a means of furthering their religion, or skin colour, or cultural beliefs.
Ultimately, regardless of how we define our lives we will find a way to justify it. Self awareness allows human beings that privilege. In the end, and I mean end as in the one that decrepit old septuagenarians like me face, it’s all about what you can be proud of. When you add it up did your life make a difference - to others - and was it a positive difference. Of course, that is unless you are a psychopath and then who cares.
Thanks for reading "Attack"! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Just a Picture