It can happen even in the middle of what you might call “the best of times.” Life is passing by me. And although I might very well be experiencing it in the present without regrets about the past or hesitation and worry regarding the future, I’m still watching time pass by, wondering, “What’s the point?”
Most people would say it comes down to an individual’s purpose. But I’d suggest that that’s only the case in a perfect world. In an imperfect one, purpose can be interrupted or misaligned by illness, war, famine, or natural disaster—especially when they lead to premature death. So, when you think about it, purpose can’t be counted on—not really.
Don’t get me wrong, I believed in purpose for a long time and still do, at times, but I’ve come to see my own as pretty trivial in the face of eternity. Putting a couple of films in the can or wrapping a few books in a jacket? Maybe that’s why it makes the most sense to think that helping or loving others should be our purpose.
But isn’t that a given? I’ve known that since I was in bible school, almost 40 years ago. And it seems like there should be more to it than that. Why? Because I’m not in the position to do much about war or famine, for one. Nor can I leave my job to help those after natural disasters.
There are other ways to love, though. And maybe there isn’t more than that. The Beatles and Jesus were right: All you need is love. So, that’s the point. Well, to be honest, it’s not entirely soothing in those moments when you find yourself in the present, and there is no one to love. (That sounds like something that could only happen in an imperfect world, don’t you think?)
It all makes me wonder if we’re not just here to admire the scenery. Do you know what I mean? The ocean and the mountains, for instance. I’m no naturalist, but I do know that the ocean is very good for me. Very good. However, I also know that I still wonder what I’m doing with my life while facing the sea’s vastness. Sometimes, especially then.
So, love seems to be a strange answer but also the one that makes the most sense. But is love fulfilling? Can you love and wonder if there isn’t something more? I think anyone would. The ability to create is more or less unique to human beings. So, even if my creations fade away in time, I can admire them and those of others who choose to build and dream. Can life then be wonderous?
It can, but it can still make me feel as though I’m on a conveyor belt moving toward the great precipice of death, despite being self-actualized and conforming myself to the mold of Love (Yes, with a capital L). Simply put, I will see and do and die. We all will.
In those moments when I’m questioning the point of life, I know I don’t have the best answer. Maybe not even the right answer, but if all of this is simply a dream that we are to wake up from then, we can learn to enjoy it. (Even if we become slightly more Epicurean in our slant.) If this is all there is, then we could do worse than enjoying the view.
Perhaps there should be a more definitive answer. Not that love isn’t ultimate. It was meant to be, anyway. But I understand why someone might leave something lacking. Love is good. But I still want there to be more. Those are the times I think it’s purpose. Even if that’s wrong, the pursuit of meaning gives me something to do. And when I’m doing it right, I don’t ask myself the point of it.
photo: IJ Portwine