The Grand Illusion

The purpose of life is to work.

The purpose of life is to play.

Or, there is no purpose to life.

These are schools of thought that you may or may not subscribe to. You might have been in one camp and moved to another. You may change your mind every time something good happens and change it again when your boyfriend leaves you for some skank with a tattoo on her ankle.

The purpose of life is…

To make children. To support a family. To leave something behind. Something or someone who’ll carry on the species, the genes, the distant memory of You.

That’s another school of thought.

Then there’s one that encourages every person to improve this world incrementally, leaving it an infinitesimally slightly better place than he found it. The definition of “better” is open to interpretation, which is fun.

This whole Life thing, it does have a purpose, doesn’t it? There’s a reason God (or the opposite of that concept) made you conscious, giving you just enough information to be trapped forever in an unsolvable maze of awareness and ignorance. There must be.

Or this God dude is one perverse muthajumper.

Now, so long as we’re discussing purpose you might be asking yourself: What is the purpose of this essay?

Fair question. Its purpose is to work and to play.

Another way of looking at it, especially if you want to be argumentative, is that its purpose is to make money, because, come on, let’s be real, that’s what everything is about at the end of the day. Money. It’s all about the Benjamins. Every transaction between human beings: money. Even husbands and wives. Especially between husbands and wives. This essay exists to attract money, like a magical currency magnet constructed of nicely organized words.

Except, in this case, the essay is free. Free of charge and free of commercial interruptions.

But not free from tendentiousness. Which should give you a clue, dear reader – and I use the phrase “dear reader” with profound irony, since it is a smelly and smug term that self-serious authors enjoy and also because I’ve come to realize late in life that I don’t really have dear readers, or plain ones for that matter. (If you just read the previous sentence than you could possibly prove me wrong, but only metaphysically.) One cannot cultivate dear readers when one is expostulating on This one day and That the next, and all the while maintaining an air of infallibility by declaring upfront that one knows nothing about nothing. Instead, when a serious-minded writer does this kind of thing, shouting into space and dreaming of a satisfying reply, he learns quickly that each of us is indeed his own discrete universe. We’re all suns and moons and stars, and made of the same stuff, and when all that stuff is going on there’s really not much time or energy left over for meandering conjectures.

We have just enough time for answers. Conclusive ones, without any of the qualifications and mushiness. This is why the certainty of religions, in the form of the supernatural promises they offer, occasionally succors the hole in our soul. At least what they’re selling sounds and feels like certainty, the kind that’s blissfully unencumbered by the bounds of rational thought. You’ve got questions? You came to the right place!

So here’s one: How can anyone know (or care to know) why we’re all here, why the birds are here, why the trees are here, why here is here, when we’re only “here” in our own unique version of events?

Your dream of existence might be different than the dream of saxophone virtuoso Ernie Watts, whose dream is different than the intellectual property lawyer David Hanson’s, whose dream of existence is wildly, comically different than the Moses Mbuthi of Botswana who works as a waiter for rich white folks who wouldn’t dream of owning slaves. And all of them see the world differently than the enigmatic West Hollywood barista Andrea, whose family was just wealthy and powerful enough to keep her out of some form of prostitution but not from getting involved with men who suspect that beneath her upper class trappings lurks the easily dominated heart of a whore.

There is no definitive version. Salt does not taste the same universally, and Beethoven sounds different depending on the ears in use.

Our purpose in life is to be.  To live and die and maybe evolve so microscopically as to be undetectable without the illuminating perspective of 700 billion light years. Our purpose is to find our purpose, even when there doesn’t seem to be one.

In conclusion [sigh of relief], take three cups of doubt, two tablespoons of regret, and one fresh wound. Mix them all briskly in an ill-focused, poorly executed essay. Let simmer for 23 years or more. Season with clichés and tired metaphors frowned upon by Mssrs. Strunk and White. Serve cold (and prepare for copious leftovers).

Welcome to the carnival, my friends. Welcome to the freak show. Welcome to the story that you’re about to write and the one that’s just now coming to an end.

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1 Response

  1. Kelly says:

    Yeah oh Yeah! Pretty good jaunt down the ole “what does it all mean” question.
    360, zero, nothingness, everything-ness, vulva, phallus, life-death-rebirth, ready-set-go.
    But I like: The purpose of life is to find your purpose in life.
    Nicely done.

    ……one more thing: never trust wikipedia.