What is the point of living if we are going to die and not remember anything?
Dear Ming Li and other curious minds,
Life is totally meaningless... says who? Did you deduce that statement or has someone told you that with evidence?
Also, let me say this: If life is worthless, why do you sleep? why do you eat? why do talk to people? why do you do what's expected of you? Why do you ask this question?
If life is so worthless, then why are you alive now? Why are you trying to make a living?
This might get long, but allow me to tell you two things:
- "We live, we die."
- Scientific perspective
- "We live, we die."
To put it bluntly, I say, "Thank God we die." (It's an expression, not a religious one from my part).
Why? Let's use one comparison. Let's say life is like a sporting event. It's something that brings lots of people together into doing the same thing, to watch the game (to live the life given to us). Throughout the game, your team (your aspirations and goals) goes through great plays and good scores, but there are times where the opposing team gives your team numerous obstacles from time to time and it seems like they're going to win too. But your team makes comeback after comeback.
After a long game full of emotions and suspense, the game is finally over. For some, their team lost, for others they won. "Ahhh! After a long game of suspense and excitement, there's nothing better than going back home and continuing where I left off."
But wait, the clock keeps ticking! What's going on? Oh the teams are still playing! Well, okay, it doesn't hurt to watch more game. I guess I can stay longer.
"Ugghh, this is the 900th inning! It's the same type of play a couple hours back!"
"Maaaan, this is the 4000th touch down! When is it going to be over? I'm tired of sitting. I already had a conversation with everyone in the stadium too!"
"Seriously, come one, Robben! You've done that play 100 times before! Can't you come up with something new?"
You get tired of sitting, you get tired of watching, you get tired of doing what you once enjoyed when you first eagerly came to the stadium.
"物極必反" Wù jí bì fǎn
I love this Chinese quote, and some people will recognize where it came from. Too much of anything is bad. This quote can be applied to working a job, doing a hobby, eating, exercising, poison, and life itself.
I believe something is truly worthless if that something is infinite. Why do we like diamonds? It's rare and is finite. What about pennies? Ehh, anybody can have that.
But then you might say, "Ezio, you got it all wrong, tizio. Life is full of excitement, and people are always making history, changing the way we live; things will always be different 100 years from now. I wish I was immortal, so I wouldn't worry about dying!"
2. Scientific perspective
Let's change the pace a tiny bit, and look at it a different perspective.
Is it really good to be immortal?
This is what I learned from a video I saw not too long ago.
Let's look at life in terms of simple fractions:
- Ten-year old son- one year is 10% of his lifetime
- Forty-year old mother - one year is 2.5%
- A 100 year old person lived 36,500 days. Perhaps you could say that if that boy lived 36,500 years, every year would feel like 24 hours.
Now look let's follow this person and suppose he is the only person on earth to be immortal. He grows up to be a man, and got his life together. He has a family, his job, and a home. But wait, he lives forever. His mother, father and siblings die. His wife and children die. His coworkers die, his boss dies, the people he used to see so often are gone. He only sees the next generation of everybody he used to be friends with. He will become sad, lonely, depressed, and starting to get bored.
Now let's look at it a different way; Everyone is now immortal.
I don't know about you, but I don't think immortality will be a deterrent for reproduction. But we can't die, so how do we cope with it. Survival games? Too inhumane the way I see it. But of course, not everyone thinks that way...
You live forever, but be honest with yourself, can your body really keep up?
- Soon enough, when you're 10,000 years old, you won't remember what you did in your first hundred years. Our brains have limited power for memory.
- EVOLUTION. Living forever will give us the chance to watch evolution. The future children (who look really different) will look at us ancient homo sapiens and say, "What's up with them?"
- Going back to a more physical health, how many permanent injuries will you have? What's the probability of you getting a lot of injuries now that you live forever?
- What about a job? 1000 years without working because you're too old? Government can't keep you up forever. And you gotta move out of houses constantly as they too will get too old to live in.
- Imagine getting a "life sentence" in jail
Call, me old-fashioned, but I prefer living a short, healthy, and possibly happy life rather than living permanently, lonely, depressed and in agony.
So in reality, the way I see it, death itself if what make life not worthless.
If people get to live forever, they'll end up squandering it as they have no fear of dying, and that, to me, is a waste of eternity.
Before you continue on that train of thought to nowhere in particular... First, ask yourself these five questions.
I don't mean it in a "I am going to show you some pictures and you need to answer them as quickly as you can" way. Look inside you. In the way only you, who has learnt to live with yourself, can.
1. Have you ever laughed so hard, you forgot what you were laughing about in the first place?
I don't know. It's could be one of those ‘You had to be there kind of moments.'
Like you and three of your friends are walking down a street and you trip on a pothole and almost fall on your face. Cue a barrage of "That's why you failed your driving test 6 times." jokes characteristic among friends with nothing better to do...
And while the most vocal of your limb-coordination critics is about to release another pointed quip about how you should concentrate less on the gifted parts of passing women and more on the road... *CRASH*.
He trips and falls on his face.
You're right. Life is totally meaningless. We live. We wake up. We eat. We do whatever work it is that we do. We use the restroom a few times. We move from place to place. We hold a few conversations in between. We spend time with a few people. We try a few things. And at the end of it all, we die.
So what's the point?
I had trouble seeing the point of living. It got so bad that I figured that I would write a letter to my ex saying goodbye. I didn't want anything to do with life anymore. All my hopes and dreams? I failed at every single one of them.
All that was left for me was a grave that was six feet under. Actually, probably not even a grave since I didn't have life insurance or any money at the time, so I would have probably been cremated on the government's dime. Those ashes would have flown away in the wind with an entire world to travel through.
A much more exciting life, wouldn't you agree? Those ashes getting to travel the entire world, while we stay complacent in our own bodies with nothing to do but face the misery and disappointment of each and every single day.
I had a chance to live that life. The chance to have my ashes flow throughout the world. But I passed it by and gave this life a second shot.
Things didn't go as smoothly as I thought they would. Actually, I take that back. They went a lot smoother than I thought they would, because I thought nothing would have happened in my life. I thought I'd be forever miserable and alone and have to live through the rest of my life without purpose.
Living without purpose.
That is okay.
I did it myself. I had no purpose. I had no reason to live. I didn't even know why I was still alive, except for the fact that my ex made me hang onto another day. That she snapped me out of the decision to end everything. That she made me continue living.
But it made me wonder.
How in the world did I get to this point?
How did I get to the point where I wanted to give up on everything?
Why did I hate life so much that I wanted to end it all?
Much like how a mechanic strips down a vehicle to find that exasperating tick that only appears at 55mph, I stripped down every single detail of my life.
I went back, year by year, clawing away at all the events I had in my life. I looked at action and reaction. I identified each and every flaw I could. Then I went searching for the root cause of it all.
I needed to get rid of that tick. That tick that drove me crazy each time I got in my car, or in this case, the driver's seat of my life.
What was causing all this pain? All this misery? All this hopelessness?
Then I discovered it.
- The root cause of all my problems
- The reason why I could never get up to move ahead
- The reason I kept continually trying to take shortcuts
- The reason I couldn't see the bright side of life
- The reason I held on so tightly to my absolute worst misery
I'll be fair here. It wasn't just one problem, but it was many problems. I started to address these issues one by one, to see where they stemmed. They were all deep rooted from tragic events in my life, such as when my grandfather had forgotten me due to Alzheimer's, how my grandma used to beat me, how my grandmother disowned me, how my parents abandoned me as a child, how I failed financially and so forth.
I worked on these problems, not all of them, but most of them. I started to take a deep dive into how I felt.
The easiest example for me to highlight would be my finances.
I lost everything financially multiple times. Back in 2001 after the twin towers were hit, my mother had to sell all the furniture in our home. Our cars were repossessed. We couldn't afford anything except rice and egg once a day.
Later in 2007, I tried to start my own business and went into $50,000 of debt. I tried to get out of it in 2008 by selling real estate and working at an investment fund. Both companies went bankrupt so I remembered how I initially felt when I lost everything. It was so much harder to get back up and try again. The fear of the memories of pain of getting into debt to begin with held me back from being able move forward, so I stayed in bed and wallowed in my fears.
In the end of 2009, the startup I worked with afterwards fell apart. I had no clue what else to do, so because I held on to the pain of the first few financial failures, I gave up. I turned to drinking each night. I tried to get out of my situation, but it wasn't a bold attempt. It was just trying to get up and get out, but in reality I just gave up. I knew what was to come and I let it happen.
I started showering in the dark. I started taking my microwave out into the hallway to microwave food. Then when I had my eviction notice, I thought it was over. Time for me to go live under a bridge.
I lost all hope. I had nothing. No motivation. No drive. No reason to move forward. But my grandmother let me live with her.
Afterwards, I found the courage to try again and move out, yet I failed again. And again. And again.
The same thing happened to my confidence, my love life, my relationship with my family and everything else I had in life. And that's what led me to the moment where I was ready to end everything.
There was a cycle that continued to happen. The actions I continued to take kept leading me down to a path. A cyclical path where the ultimate demise was failure.
But what was it that kept causing me to cycle back into failure, each and every time?
- Was it the events of my life?
- Was it the outside influences?
- Was it the people around me?
- Was it the people I worked with?
- Was it the people I loved?
- Or was it me?
As hard of a pill it was to swallow, after taking that year to reflect, I came to realize that the underlying issue of all these issues: finances, relationships, love, family, passion, goals, work, life, everything... The underlying issue of all this was me.
Something was deep rooted within me that caused me to fail. In fact, the actions I took led me to failure. Because subconsciously in my mind, I felt I didn't deserve what I thought I wanted, so I self-destructed on the path to obtain them. Or I remembered a similar tragedy from the past and thought the new experience would lead to the same outcome. Or a distraction would get in the way that made me decide to take shortcuts. Or an outside influence would have told me that I wasn't good enough, so I believed it, and I wanted to get to where I wanted to go faster.
No matter what I did, I failed. That is, until I found out what the underlying issues were. I went back to the very beginning. I started analyzing why I was acting the way I did.
- Was it because I was hurt by someone in the past?
- Was it because I experienced something similar and was scared of this happening again?
- Was it because I wasn't loved?
- Was it because I wanted something and would take shortcuts to get it?
- Was it because I was completely scared of something I wanted so I gave up on it?
- Was it because I thought I wanted something, but something inside me told me I didn't want it because of other signs, so I just sabotaged it?
I thought everything through, then went back to the very beginning. Within the engine, I started by changing out the oil, then I changed the spark plugs, then the piston rings, then the timing belt, the engine mounts and finally, the head gasket.
I had to go through and change out every single part of myself and replace it with a better version for my vehicle to work. For that engine to run without that tick. But it wasn't going to happen unless I processed all the information, went through it all and put it together.
But once I had it figured out, I was able to move forward.
For me, these problems were rooted from deep tragedies in my life, such as forgetting how my grandfather had raised me, being selfish because I was scared of being hurt, taking shortcuts to try to earn more money because that was all my ex cared about, screwing people over because I was hurt so badly that I stopped caring about people and cared about money instead and so forth.
I went in and went to the very beginning, the first event that began the series of tragedies. I started to examine what happened. I took myself out of the picture and examined the event as a spectator. I played it out as a movie. I looked at it from all angles, without any emotional connection that would convolute my judgment. Then I realized that these beginnings weren't tragedies at all, but travesties. They were false, absurd and distorted representations of what had happened that were drowned within my emotions.
Or they were just events I completely forgot because I was so scarred by the moment, such as when my grandfather had passed away and I forgot who he was.
Once I began to understand these events, I was able to see them differently. When I was able to see them differently, I was able to frame them differently in my memories. Or to let go of the burdens that held me back. And I was able to break free from the grasps of my own mind, which had it set out for me to fail.
And I was able to finally stop living in the past. To stop living in fear. To stop holding onto what didn't matter. To stop being sad and depressed. And to start move forward.
But you can't just fix something and expect these problems to never occur again. Just like how a car needs to be routinely maintained, so do you.
Recognizing this, I started to change my habits.
- I started a regular sleeping schedule so my mind had enough rest each day and wouldn't start to short-circuit
- I started to eat at regularly scheduled times to ensure I had the energy I needed to get through the day
- I stopped living in the past and instead used the lessons I learned from it to better myself in the present
- I stopped living in the future because there would be no future unless I focused on the present instead
- I went on a 10 minute walk in the morning to get in touch with nature and start the movements within my body
- I started to think about a few things I was grateful for each morning to stop my negative self-talk and to initiate positive conversations instead
- I started to write out my thoughts so I could get a better understanding of my situations
- I started to tell the people who mattered to me how much they meant to me and that I appreciated them
- I started to forgive people who wronged me because if I didn't, I wouldn't ever be able to move forward and put the events in my past
- I started to give back to others so I could create a world of abundance
- Then I started to eliminate all my expectations so I would never face disappointment
This worked and worked well, because not only was I able to get out of the toxic cyclical mess I was in, I was able to propel my life forward faster than I would have ever imagined.
I propelled myself so far forward that my income skyrocketed, my friendships grew stronger and my reputation became impenetrable.
But at the same time, I'm human, so I got lost along the way. And I didn't fix absolutely everything within myself, such as my deep rooted abandonment issues, that were caused by a father who left me, a mother who let me live with my grandparents, a grandfather who passed away, a grandmother who disowned me, a mother who left me to fend on my own.
Or the relationships I lost in the past due to my other shortcomings, such as taking them for granted, holding things against them, dealing with impostor syndrome or whatever else it may have been.
All these issues resurfaced because at some point in my life, I stopped doing my routine maintenance, or my daily habits. I wasn't as consistent as I should have been and focused on the wrong things, such as the future and having expectations.
And this has caused more problems in my life that I need to work on overcoming. But it's also put me in a mood to where when I see a question like what's the point of life? I have to question it myself.
What is the point of life?
- If you ask the people closest to me, they will tell you that the purpose of my life is that I have a responsibility to the people who look up to me
- If you ask my friends, it's what we can do to have the most fun on any given day
- If you ask my business partners, they will tell you that the purpose of my life is to teach them how to do whatever it is that I have been able to achieve
- If you ask my employer, it's to showcase brilliant research and developments in the world of medicine
- If you ask the people who look up to me, they will tell you that the purpose of my life is to inspire others
- If you ask someone who is seeking an answer, it's how we can lift each other up and better improve our lives
But if you ask me...
The point of life changes each and every single day.
One day it'll be to eat cupcakes. Another day it will be to look at the squirrel climbing up the tree. The next it'll be to give someone a hug. Or it'll be to share my insights with a media outlet. Or to speak in front of thousands. Or to hit a goal or major milestone. Or to go out and celebrate.
Then the next it will be to tell someone precious in my life how much I love them. And on other days, the point of life will be to cry. Or to wonder why I'm even here. Or to examine my insecurities. Or to wonder if I'm worthy or not. Or to wonder if I deserve to be loved or not. Or to ask someone who means the world to you what you need to do for them to trust you. Or to question why I didn't end it all when I had the opportunity to do so back in the end of 2011.
Or to ask the same question you asked...
What is the point of all of this?
Some days, I find an answer. Some days, I don't.
But that's just how life works.
You pose a question.
You get an answer.
But no two days are exactly the same. So there's no way the answer is ever exactly the same either.
So what's the point of living life today?
There may not be one, but there could be one tomorrow. And there's only one way to find out...
And that's to survive...
Just for another day...
Until that moment arrives where you get a spark of inspiration and make a decision to figure it all out.
Ha ha. Good one !!
So, you want to know what's the point of life itself !?
Ok. Sit down & relax. Need some water ? Have it !!
Now, Let me tell you a story ! Excited !? :)
Once upon a time, there lived a drawing teacher in a village. She thought to give her students a task one day !
Next day morning, the bell rang & students went to classrooms after the prayer !
She brings all the materials needed for the drawings and entered the classroom.
Then, She started explaining the task for the students !
Just because something is ephemeral doesn't mean it doesn't have any value. The kiss from that child in the park lasted a few seconds. Does that make it any less valuable? The rock in your garden has probably existed for the last million years. Do you value it highly?
What's the purpose of living, you ask?
Look up in the sky.
Right this very second, millions of stars are simultaneously exploding, creating a symphony too beautiful to fathom. Galaxies, light years across, colliding into each others; the black holes at their centers merging, spewing out trillions of tons of raw energy into the universe, that would fuel the creation of next generation of stars!
On that scale, a human life a ephemeral - like a blip in the cosmic background. In the blink of an eye, it is over. Now come back to your tiny human mind, and consider how comically improbable your life is. That a bunch of lifeless molecules would come together, and somehow attain the power of consciousness; then for the briefest of moment, they would look around them in awe as they experience the magic of life and the symphony of the universe for the first time. And then as abruptly they took their first breath, they would take their last, and decay back into the lifeless molecules they once were. How amazing is that!
Close your eyes.
Good. Now, take a deep breath and just think about it.
Think about how crazy and astounding and preposterous and breathtaking your existence is! Tell me - have you ever fallen madly in love? Have you ever felt crushing heartbreak? Or insane jealousy, or intense anger, or spine-chilling fear? Don't you realize how magical this ability is - the ability to feel. It's something that even angels don't have!
And not just feel, you have the ability to create! You can dream the wildest dreams, and then breathe life into them. You can create ideas, write books, build companies - do literally anything. Everything that you see around you - every inventions, every piece of technology - was once just a wild idea in somebody's mind. And then, it happened. That's how entire civilizations were built.
You don't even have to go that deep to figure out this mystery. Just think about the last time you walked barefoot on wet green grass on a dew-soaked March morning. The last time you danced in the rain. The last time you licked an ice-cream cone. The last time you felt the cool breeze blowing against your face. The last time you got lost while going down an unfamiliar path. The last time you saw a baby smiling. The last time you helped that old man carry his bags. The last time you showed extraordinary courage that you never knew you had.
Do you see it now?
I know that right now, you are scared. You are worried. You have the weight of the world on your shoulders. You have got millions of problems and you have no clue how to solve them. But in a few decades, when you are gone, none of this would matter. I guess most people spend their lives with the feeling that they were born with a script. And life is all about acting out that script. They constantly feel that there is something that they have to do, someone they have to be. They don't know what that someone or something is, but they believe that unless they are doing and becoming that, they are not fulfilling their life's purpose.
The truth that they never realize is that humans are born, not with a script, but with a slate. And that slate is totally blank. Life isn't about living out the script, it's about filling that blank slate. And the beautiful thing is that you can fill it with anything you want. You have to write your own story - create your own universe.
So I'll say this to you, the asker -
Yes, it's true that one day we are born. And yes, one day we'll die. But between those two points, there is a space. And in that space we have the power to create our destiny.
And that's the whole point of the funny thing we call life.
In case we're meeting for the first time,
Hi! I'm Abhimanyu Sood, ‘the storyteller'.
Thanks for reading my answer.
Following is a conversation from an Indian web series "Pitchers" :-
"What is this?"
Yes you might be just right that life is meaningless and pointless.
And people wanted to give meaning into it, that is why we hope for other lifeforms besides here on earth. That's why we make religion, just to have something or someone to blame for all of this.
A tree sprouts from a seed emerging from the ground, it becomes alive, it brought forth fruits. Alas! its final days had transpired, something slew it.
The tree came into existence, then it perished. What's the point?
Ah! It brought some fruits into this land. Those fruits had seeds, and these seeds can also grow into a useful tree. But then all of them will soon die. Whats the point?
Haven't you seen the meaning?
To fulfill a purpose, make a difference, and soon give the others the chance to do so, by continuing your species. Sigmund Freud even pointed out that the only drive of people is to have sex, that is, to procreate, to nurture and let the species propagate.
But how do we know it is real?
Well here's Rene Descartes on Meditations on First Philosophy, pretty much simplified...