whole point of life

What is the point of life?

What do you think about when you read this question? Like what immediately comes to mind? What is the image in your head?

Surely there is one. For me, it is more than a picture. It is a movie. That often happens with particular phrases. I would not go as far as to call it “triggering” but I would say that particular words or sentences immediately evoke more than synonyms—they evoke VIBES.

In this case, my eyes roll a bit. Especially if I didn’t know me—the writer—I would think the person writing this thinks they are someone they are not. I would immediately gravitate towards the word poser. Is this Aristotle? Napoleon? Who do they think they are trying to answer a question of this magnitude. Forget a question of this magnitude, it is THE question of ALL magnitude. “What is the purpose life?”

Is this person about to go on an unsolicited advice lecture? Okay, my rant is not over but I am pausing it. You can see the above paragraphs are a reflection of me and my relationship with advice-givers more than it is about that simple sentence. But conclusively, I can say that my brain immediately wires to judgement, in thinking that the writer is someone looking to be status signaling more than they are genuinely trying to answer that question. Yet…yet…in my heart, I know this is an important question. It is the question if you can wrestle with (and maybe even comes to term with) you can actually use to better your own life.

Well, if you are the reader, I can tell you that me, the writer, is not interested in social manipulation in any capacity, especially not in this capacity. I am not writing to impress you. I am not writing for you. I do not care about you. Not because I want to hurt you. Really quite the opposite—it’s just this blog, this million words or so, this is really for me. My mental fitness. My mental gymnasium. My million words in pursuit of nothing fancy—just simplicity and clarity. You can read them if you want. You are invited. But it is a simple invite. No begging. Do as you please. But that is up to you so do not interpret the question as acting in any capacity.

I genuinely want to know what the point of life is. You probably do, too, though perhaps you were not bold enough to think you could answer it. So don’t. No one is forcing you. You can stop reading now.

But there are those who have seriously tried to answer this question. We can define serious at a later date, but yes there are people who have gone into the arena and tried to wrestle with the question. Everyone does to some extent and to varying levels of seriousness. We can call it—the meaning of life thingy—the “sacred” question of sorts. The question that we all eventually try to answer but do not have the requisite boldness in place to actually take a stand at an answer. It is scary! Scary to try to take on humanity’s boldest and biggest prompt. Yet we are tempted because we know if we could answer it, we would think of it as the underlying abstraction that makes all the other abstractions clearer and easier to understand. There’s a lot of appetite to figure this out.

We realize it’s importance early on but it takes us a lot of maturity and courage to figure out how to approach it. Like kids in school rebel because, for various reasons, things feel off. We try for decades to outsource the answering to other people. Like religion and like school and like teachers etc. There comes a point in childhood when you realize your parents and the authorities do not have all the answers that you have to start seeing things for yourself. But many of us die having never really tried answering the question. But some of us want to find out the answer for ourselves—we do not want to give up on the urge. We do not want to push it away.

Outsourcing is not inherently bad. I mean the idea of it could actually be really good. It feels ~silly in ways that we are all replicating the same journey trying to figure out the answer for ourselves. Surely someone has thought about this and figured it out. Surely there is a religion worth subscribing to?

Yet it is never that easy. Never a click of a button. Why? Why is it so hard?

There is definitely a comprehension element to this. As we mentioned, the prompt is is a highly sought after question to answer. Lots of people try to explain this in different ways. They think that perhaps using a different medium to try and answer the question will leave them with a different set of answers, and they think changing up the medium will increase the legibility and comprehension of the potential solutions.

They are not entirely wrong. They use different forms of media/content to try and prove their points. To try to take a different path down the idea maze. Perhaps they use a book or a movie or a speech or a play. They find a conduit for their spirit to try and answer the question. Some approaches are more direct than others. Some spike in rationality, while others spike in an art form. There is a lot of breadth—people go to what you could view as extreme lengths to try and find clarity in this department. Perhaps they even go as far as to orient an entire religion or community or society around this question of what is life? (More on this in a second but this is basically what we’ve ended up with today in a few different ways).

These attempts at orienting society around answering this question will be familiar to you. They will have been indoctrinated to you in every form factor you could imagine (and also some channels you were probably not aware of). Since you were small, people have been advertising these ideologies in your face. They have been telling you that you should understand what life is about. Yet the answers have always felt dissatisfying. Reciting the Pledge Allegiance—mandated in your elementary school—was a start. Life was about pledging allegiance to the country. Your dollar bill says in god we trust. Life was about pledging to god. Your bills have white men’s faces on them. Life was about serving people with more fame and experience than you. You watch them in entertainment. In plays and shows and movies. Life was about the rise and falls of heroes you see on the screens. Think of the lessons of to be or not to be. These lessons have been retold in every which form factor: Star Wars, Siddhartha, and more. Much modern society is modeled around the the “what is the point of life” question. Except, we are not really forcing everyone to answer it so bluntly and explicitly. We instead allow people to float along with the wind and be dragged by society. The skip this question entirely throughout their lives.

In a lot of way, society has oriented towards optionality more than anything. People do not have to choose. They can avoid answering questions. THE question. They can just float around, sit on the couch, and ride the corporate ladder of sorts to the bank.

But this does not help with my question. In fact, it is a distraction. And for some, it is a rather enticing distraction? Not having to answer the ultimate question of life, basically ever, especially when said question turns out to be extremely taxing to answer. Taxing because it requires care and discipline and honestly it requires commitment which a lot of people are not prepared to do. Because we have been coached for some odd reason to prioritize optionality for our future selves above protecting the spirit of our current self.

This has left us in a tricky position. Because we know that we are not actually set up to better answer this question. And that is a weird feeling. Weird in the context of flying cars and AI coming soon. But also weird in a materially frustrating way. In a waste of life type of way. For if we do not know what life should be about, how and if can we design the right life?

How much closer are we on a micro level? Are our smartest students—from the fancy schools—closer to knowing this answer with confidence? You would think yes. You would think that these are our best and brightest who have been given all the resources in the world to better understand the world around them. But it feels like the answer to the prompt is no. They cannot understand themselves let alone the world around them. It feels like we as individuals are not much closer to having conviction in this answer. Ask the average 26 year old. Ask the average 35 year old. How do they feel about the world? How do they feel about having clarity? Do they have it? Do they know what the purpose of life is?

And then on the macro level, how much closer are we? Are we all aligned, together? Surely not. We agree probably on some basic things—or at least things we now call basic. Like killing others is bad. But beyond that we could say that we, if we polled 100 people, even 100 people from a similar neighborhood, we would get different answers to the prompt. My intuition is yes. Like people are not on the same page. They are not playing for the same team in aggregate. It is not that they don’t want to, it is just that randomness has creeped in and people have been influenced by a set of values implicitly rather than explicitly. And the values being given to us—granted/sold/etc. to us—are rather weak in nature. They are not values that we would self-identify as wanting to have necessarily nor would we openly cast a new disney movie based on these values. Yet, that’s the state of things. Now us having different answers or having some variety is not inherently a bad thing. Diversity of answers can be great. It can help us come to better solutions. But it is confusing.

Confusing in that it is not clear what WE think, nor how we should go about arriving at answers (if now or ever). We do not know what we do not know. And that keeps us up in the shower.

So we have this ultimate question—a question that has been studied in every which way throughout history. Every society has grappled with it. Every religion has tried to pose an answer or at least framework to guide answers. Every financially poor person has thought about it and every financially rich person has thought about it. Call it the great equalizer of sorts. A question we must all face and we all have freedom as if we want to run from it or take it head on. Luckily, we have a lifetime to figure that out. Unless that runs out, too. And figuring it out might not be achievable pending our definition for figuring something out. Does that mean we will one day sit at the top of some holy mountain? (I have done this, and I can report back that it did not solve my problem. And yes, it was on multiple continents that I have tried).

It is worth calling out that you do not need to know the answer or rather have an answer in order to live your life. If you did, we could say that most all of us would not be living life. And on some abstractions that may be a more or less accurate statement. But I want to acknowledge that not every system requires you to leverage a work backwards methodology in order to be effective. Sometimes, and yes in some systems nearly all the time, you can merely exist and fly by the wind in order to maximize your function.

This can be underwhelming at times. Almost surprisingly simple. For example, there are some people whose primary existence is merely to exist. This is true of the most basic of animals and plants. All they want to do is exist, with effectively no constraints. They need food, water, shelter, and that is about it. They want safety effectively—an assurance they will have those things and if they do, they will be content. There are many humans who fall under this model as it is written above. Except nearly all humans have this confounding variable attached to the equation which effectively states that safety for humans also requires safety of the brain or peace of the brain and the brain has this thing, II call it THE DESIRE TO HAVE AN ANSWER TO THE QUESTION OF WHAT IS THE POINT OF LIFE. This plays a role in what people perceive as safety. In other words, people have an ego that is naturally drawing them to answer the question. They have a pull. It is unlike most other things in nature but it exists. And you will find that on your journey through life that you will be drawn to answering this question in one form or another. You probably start small, as with most things, but you wake up and you look upstream and realize the quandary you are stuck in—the big blocker in your face, is merely being blocked by you not being able to see through the ultimate question of life. Weird, right? You would think we could just look past this. You would think we could just NOT suffer and not desire and keep to ourselves. We can try, and people do try this, but often humans just cannot sit still with themselves.

Try it. I have. You will find yourself gravitating towards this question. In your heart, you will feel your brain’s presence.

But it is built into the way we operate as social creatures. We crave an answer to the question. And we stumble through the life with flickering flashlights trying to come up with a genuine answer to the question.

So long as we do not have an answer to the question, we find ourselves suffering from a variety of insecureness. We have a hole in our equation. A breakage. A loose end. So this thing, perhaps you can think about it like an organism of sorts, distorts our peace. Almost like an infection it goes through our system. We crave trying to answer this question. If we didn’t, perhaps we could be content simply satisfying what we could call “simple safety requirements” (a la modeling us like a dog would suffice). But no, us humans, we have this other variable that draws more out of us. That can be really good. It can drive us to create things that make the world better, the latter being at least in theory. Drive and insecurity sometimes go hand in hand—that chip on your shoulder mentality can take you quite far so by no means do I mean to imply that this is net bad or all bad or even bad.

I just mean it’s a thing. And with some people you can see it louder than others. But with most everyone, if you were to look them in the eyes, and make serious eye contact, and ask them what the purpose of life looks like.

They would shudder. Maybe roll their eyes as I did in the beginning of this essay. But they would 100000% shudder. They would, if forced to answer, for the most part, would be stuck externally processing. They would realize this is a complicated question. They may answer happiness—probably a common answer nowadays if you ask the average person in the US—but try then to have them explain it. Could they give a ted talk on the spot? Probably not. Surely not. And the ones who could, how much variety went into producing that artifact? How proud are they of their answer?

They will soon again have that chip on their shoulder. Which, as mentioned, can be a very helpful and powerful attribute for humans to advance their evolution.

But it can also be bad. It can lead us to betraying our authentic selves. It can starve us in new ways—perhaps most importantly from being true to us. So it is tricky to navigate this variable.

And then we come back to awareness and see magnetic like pull is constantly tugging at us—what is the purpose of my life?

Some people’s model, as they answer this question (intentionally or not), helps them realize, quite profoundly, that their life’s purpose is really merely to live as defined by being their most true self. This is the to be or not to be reincarnated in an even simpler format.

This answer is simple—JUST BE YOU.

Oof. What a relief. A simple sentence.

But it feels insufficient. So insufficient. Like cmon the most important question in the history of mankind and the answer is three short words: just be you.

Sure it could satisfy other people we tell ourselves, but how could it be enough for us? We are more than average, right?? How could this be life? We have evolved this far in history—how can we sit with such a simple answer? How can we not crave something more? Something more complicated or more sophisticated? How is this enough for us?

We wrestle with this question endlessly. We try to make things more complicated as a means to give us an answer that FEELS right. Then we end up thinking that words do not seem to be sufficient to try and answer the prompt. We find ourselves in a common loop: a denial loop. A frustration loop. Emotional blinders come on and there is no making progress.

So what are you to do?

One problem we have with this answer is that, when embraced fully, may lead to LONELINESS. We have this annoying human?esque desire to not feel alone. Yet being truly yourself, especially when there is a sheep epidemic going on across the world right now with so few people actually thinking for themselves (myself included in many capacities), can feel extremely lonely.

What are you to do with this tension? What are you to do when you, and by you maybe we can say nearly all of society, throughout the existence of society, have failed to come up with an answer to the question that satisfies our burning desire to BE and also to FIT in.

Which is more important? When do you compromise what if anything? The world may be a big place. Sure. Time may feel like a life time. Sure. But how much closer are we now to answering this question for ourselves? What will change between now and when we are 60 trying to answer things? What will we learn? What will be the difference?

The two forces pull at us strongly. Sometimes they are in cohesion, but often times, being ourselves requires us to abandon the status quo. The social capital. The thing we were trained to fear leaving. The pack. The rules. The line in the sand. So again we get stuck in the loop?

Forget the we—I get stuck in the loop. I start thinking to myself: how is it possible to satisfy both? If society demands X, but my heart demands Y, what am I to choose? Is there an analysis needed to be done or is there just an answer staring at me in the face?

The answer to this is obvious. I know the answer. We all do. It is to be myself. Period. That is the answer.

The world will mold around this energy.

But something feels like it is missing. It feels weird. Not popular. To have such a simple answer. Just like it is not obviously popular among the so called rich (financially stable) nowadays to use simple old things—we prefer newer fancy things with more buttons. So rather than just repeat to myself: this is the answer, simple is the answer, just accept that and forget about everything else—why not go a different direction.

My hear and brain in this case both agree there is but one option—which is to go upstream. And to find out what are the questions BEHIND this sacred question. So that in order to figure out what is the point of life, perhaps it is worthy to think about the words behind the words? What are my assumptions governing the question to begin with. Why is this question so tricky to begin with? What am I afraid of in trying to answer it?

The atomic components are seemingly simple: “LIFE” and “THE POINT”. As silly as it looks and sounds, breaking down the words beyond the words can be an extremely productive exercise.

By all of my time I quite literally mean all time I spend alive (as opposed to obviously dead). On the latter piece, the all my time, there comes an interesting decision point. Do I mean to say all of my time is weighted equal? Or do I value a portion of that more than let’s say the last 5 years of my life? Or is the current decade let’s say worth a _different_ amount in the ROI function? I will get back to this in a moment.

Taking the word LIFE head on, you can start, or in this case I am starting (standing on the shoulders of some giants), trying to slice it to be digestible in a way that I can make concrete. These are externally processed thoughts, to be refined many times over, but life could be modeled in my head as the return on investment of ALL OF MY TIME.

Now before you go what a ridiculous formula that will totally erode presence and distract anyone from actually living life, let’s continue to break it down. Return on investment I am defining in the abstract sense. Not just monetary. In fact, barely if any monetary. I mean in the abstract sense so literally any type of return. Fun, learning, impact, prestige, etc. These are all forms of return on investment (ROI). If I were to apply to myself, I wrestle with a few immediate instincts. The first, which was commented on before, is that what I value (to some extent at least) was indoctrinated to me by my growing up systems which is the value of optionality. I am afraid to commit to ONE FORM OF ROI. I want the freedom to be able to choose the ROI at any point in the future. But on the other hand I find that to be an unproductive useless answer. Something that drives no progress or clarity. And then my head goes to the ROI being “the feeling you get when you do something you are truly proud of.” Still has some fluff, but far less fluff, and far more of a stake in the ground. The ROI I care about could be getting more of the “feeling I care about when I do something I am proud of.” But then, it may ask the question, well, what are the things that make me proud? My gut again immediately wants to say well it depends on my time in life and the era I am in and what is important to me. Sure, but fluff and that’s buying optionality. And I know there are answers here—I know one is that I am proud when I do something that feels authentic. To feel authentic, I must not violate integrity. Integrity is conducting myself with a level of honesty, care, and respect. Now the truth I admit now even in writing this is I don’t think I have produced much if any work in my life that I am extremely proud of. Surely none I would love to hang in a museum. But woah that feeling would be special. If I could just replicate that feeling over and over for life. That would be special. And I think one of the core inputs to it would be constrained on living with authenticity. Like in order for me to feel proud I would have to live on a mode that did not violate my integrity. So like in my head basic but things like being honest (first to myself and also I would add requirement of being honest with the external world, too. I do not like lying to people. It makes me feel not proud. Even if the prize is $1B. I would not feel proud). So it’s honesty, but then there’s a flavor of IT MATTERING that would be required for me to feel truly proud. IT Mattering to who is an interesting thread to pull on. Does it need to matter to everyone in the world for me? Or a group of people? Or just me? Hmmm.

I would say that whenever I optimized for it mattering to a wide group of people, especially people I did not know, I have felt disappointed. These feel like tactics but should not be the main pieces of my definition. Like I should not and do not feel proud simply by impressing others.

I think the requirement in my head therefore is producing work that I am proud of boils down to %does not violate my integrity (honesty function) and %protects myself.

The protects myself function really boils down probably the most complicated function. It is the function to matter. It is what I alluded to above. It is that urge to ask what is the point of life. It is that thing that if yes life were “simpler” and I could just be satisfied eating and sleeping I would. But Napoleon wasn’t. And no authentic human really is. We crave more. It’s part of us. From the time we are babies we are grasping beyond. Sometimes it is dangerous but sometimes And I realize now, perhaps closer to clarity, that for me to protect my identity, I must be working on things that are making the world closer to MY VERSION OF THE WORLD. This sounds dangerous. I hear you. It’s how you end up destroying cultures and manipulating others. But that is not the plan. The plan is to make the world fairer and more meritocratic. Make the world more of a deterministic function of sorts. At the micro or the macro and everything in between I realize that for me to feel safe, i would need my identity to know that I am working on melding the world towards better (per my definition, which is not this “oh there are many ways to live thing. It is actually taking a stance on what I view as better and/or worse.). It is me embarking control on the world. Whenever you do that, you are bound to make some enemies. I mean it’s an inherent risk to model. But the urge to control can certainly be a bad and toxic trait. But it can also be a very healthy one. An urge to positively impact the world per my own definitions. I own them. It is a desire to make the world UNDERSTANDABLE with my lens. To arrive at my conclusions, in a way that is honest, though, I must really independently understand the drivers and variables. If I outsource that, I will not be proud of the work I will not arrive at the maximization question I am optimizing for and choosing to care about.

So that was a mouthful way of saying…that the function for the life question boils down to me getting the feeling of being proud which is a product of not violating my integrity (aka being honest) and protecting myself (beyond the basics of food and water this also includes identity which also includes shaping the world towards my identity).

That last one I want to emphasize definitely has pros and cons and can be weaponized as an excuse of sorts for laziness and not conforming. Perhaps there is a better clearer wording out there because that is not my intention by any means. My intention or what I am really trying to say is simpler: it is that for me to create things I am proud of I must be driving towards my northstar, and my northstar in the heart is driving the world closer to a world that I myself would want to live in or even better that I would want others to live in. That world above all else is a world that vitalizes vitality (aliveness) and spreads it more fairly.

It is important to draw out though the scope of this ambition because maybe it is not obvious in its current form. Molding the world towards something I want in any sort of actual sustainable way if you are being real about yourself is not exactly a thing people do, and certainly not by accident. I am talking about an impact that will last 200+ years if it is to make it to my kids kids kids. The world! A version of this scope could be impacting just the kids. Or my kids kids kids kids. Money could do that. In a trust or whatever. Buying lots of land could do that. But no I said the world and I think that is accurate. The world they interact with. Even if you are president, even if you are regarded as successful as president (literally FDR!) — even then will you really be responsible for making a lasting impact to that degree? Should all work that I do have to orient towards such a scale? Should all time I spend need to? Is that practical or useful? Will I run out of energy? And why is that scale so important?

Well these are more questions to dive into. Showing that getting to the requisite variety takes volume, I am not going to answer everything today. Though I know that the question of scope is appropriate in my heart because I know that I want to make the world I live in better for myself as a starter and ideally in a lasting way because I do not want others have to live in a world that is not deterministic. Increasing determinism can take place in many ways – via writing or companies or organizations or movements – but I know with confidence that that is the thing I care about doing. So if it occurs on a big or small scale, well that is more of a risk/cost adjusted implementation detail. I know that giving my former self more money growing up would have been ~cool but would not have made the world more deterministic. So that is not enough. I know the scope needs to be wider. This is to not say fun does not fit in this category of things to work on. There is a lot of space for fun. Fun does not negate any of the above. Doing proud things is fun. Makes me feel good. Makes me sleep well. There’s a lot of room in the world for people to take on different pursuits. The one I care about right now is the one that gives people vitality.

Put more comprehensively: My point in life is to create and do things I am proud of. I am proud of things that do not violate my integrity and mold the world towards the world I want to live in. The world I want (and want my kids kids kids to live in) is one that orients towards vitality and distributes that vitality via meritocracy. And I want to live in that world because I believe that world best allows people to be themselves, which, to return to the loop, allows people to create and do things they are proud of (myself included).

Put more simply: I want to help people BE.

That is my current answer to the prompt. There are more ways to slice it. There are examples to run through it. But this is at the minimum the beginning of a framework. Not a random framework that you keep on paper. A thing you can literally use tomorrow. Tonight. For me at least.

This is not your answer; this is mine.


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