The Real, Or Non-Real Purpose Of Our Existence
OCTOBER 1999: I like to say that I want to be an expert on something. But an expert on what? History? Philosophy? Psychology? Simple fact is that I’d have to read what I can on all these subjects. That is the only way to answer a question that I have been obsessed with my entire adult life: What makes life worth living for the average person in the modern world? More
WHO IS THE WRITER?
Born on 29 June 1971 in Pretoria, in the Republic of South Africa.
Went to South Korea in June 1996 to work as an English teacher.
Worked in Johannesburg for six months in 1998.
Departed for Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan, in January 1999.
WHAT IS THIS COLLECTION OF NOTES ABOUT?
I am consumed with questions: What are we? Why do we do what we do? Why do we live the way we do? What is “happiness”? What does it mean to be “unhappy”? What do people do to be “satisfied”? Are there noticeable universal patterns? What does it mean to live a “meaningful life”? How do we live meaningful lives? What is the nature of a human being? Needs, desires, goals … I can’t devote my life to making money while being consumed by these questions. I am driven to find answers. I can’t ignore them.
Despite my obsession I have to continue playing by the rules. I have to buy food and groceries, pay rent and water and electricity, and so on. I can’t fulfil my needs by living in a cave, and by going hunting, or maybe by cultivating my own patch of land – not in the world in which I live, anyway.
I have long since learned that what I need is available, as long as I have something to exchange for the food I want to eat, and the clothes I want to wear. What I need is credit. How do you get credit? By either producing a product for a market, or by delivering a service. That’s why I get up at 6:45 every morning – so I can provide a service to obtain credit in the form of cash, which can then be exchanged for what I need. Whether I enjoy my service is of secondary importance – I have to do it.
But still I am consumed with what I don’t know or understand. Can something like a purpose be attributed to human life? Maybe, maybe not. All I know is that if there is a purpose but you fail to fulfil it, the regret you’ll experience later in life would feel like a ton of bricks on your shoulders.
A man sits on his porch smoking a cigarette. He’s contemplating life and asks himself The Question. He has abandoned the doctrines of his youth, and now looks at his own life experiences and all the knowledge he has gained so far to see if that can offer him any answers. He will find it: in his own experience, the knowledge he has acquired, in himself, and in other people. For just as he searches, from the essence of his nature and driven by his instincts, so others are searching, as well.
No one possesses perfect knowledge, but listen to a hundred people, and you will receive a hundred pieces of information that form part of the whole. Many pieces of knowledge will overlap, and there are many people who simply recite what they have been taught. Then there are libraries filled with books written by people generations or centuries ago who had some degree of knowledge of the Truth, even though this knowledge has become obscure or has even been lost and forgotten.
Sometimes you’ll find someone – through a personal encounter, or by reading a story or an article or a news bulletin, or by watching a movie or listening to someone’s music – who has contemplated his or her own experiences for long enough to have obtained what can be called More Profound Knowledge. In the same way, if he is sincere in his search, the man on the porch will also find peace about the meaning of his particular life.
I like to say that I want to be an expert on something. But an expert on what? History? Philosophy? Psychology? Simple fact is that I’d have to read what I can on all these subjects. That is the only way to answer a question that I have been obsessed with my entire adult life: What makes life worth living for the average person in the modern world?
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