Existentialism is the constant need to wrestle with the nature of life – it a Philosophical ideology coined by writers like Nietzsche who, at the turn of the century and in the face of war, had begun to question the rationale of their modern culture. Why are we on this earth if there is so much death? Why are we on this earth if the job that, until a week ago only I could do, is now being done by a machine? Existentialism, I would argue, beyond being a tool or label used by influential thinkers, is still a part of society – how many of us, in my generation of 18 to 30 year olds, are struggling with the indefinable question: why am I here?
Classical philosophy and traditional morals have always taught that our possessions are not a part of the recipe for happiness; some people still believe that they do not have to be rich to be content, and some still believe that they could be happy in a gutter as long as they had the right person beside them. In some cases that might be true, but happiness is subjective and in many cases it is not. So what is the point in life? And not in the depressed way, but in the curious way.
To my mind it seems all too clear that, effectually, the nature and purpose of life is a matter of perspective. Some people will say that the meaning is Jesus or Allah, some will say that it is work or family, but is anybody right? There are some questions that we, as humans, ask but never have answered. The meaning of life is one of them. I personally believe that there is no meaning – we are here as a result of randomness, chaos and evolution, is there something I should aim for with my day to day exploits? Yes, but only because there are some things that I, as an individual, want from life. I would like to be comfortable, have money, a nice house and cool car and ultimately be happy – ideally I would do this all with A. as little effort as possible, or B. a job that I adore doing.
…happiness is subjective…
But beyond that, I have no real aims – some people would argue that this is a bad thing but, at the end of the day, being the way I am, I don’t believe in any spiritual calling or divine purpose – I believe that we have this one life and so should be as happy as we can within it. Of course I would like to leave behind a legacy of some sort: children who loved me, family who miss me, people who perhaps remember me for what I did in life. But when I’m gone I won’t know about any of that, so does it matter?
Who knows, maybe I’ll find religion in the next few years and suddenly my life will turn around and the purpose will become attaining salvation through Christian charity – I doubt it, but I cannot account against the possibility.
…I would like to leave behind a legacy of some sort…
I know full well that to some people this way of approaching life might seem empty or without a definitive end goal, but I also believe that this is the way of life that is probably the way of thinking most common in my generation. We have grown up in a capitalist system – I see advertisements and products all of the time and I always have, religion and philosophical debate are at the very rear of my mind, pushed their by SONY and TESCO and Starbucks. I come from a village so I know about fields and the countryside, but I know that some people from cities like London, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle wouldn’t have been exposed to them so much – some people in my generation won’t know the countryside as a real thing – it might just be something they see on TV or in pictures or on Facebook sometimes.
I believe that today we do all live, to some degree, with the ultimate goal being personal corporeal satisfaction – how many of us, religious or Philosophical or not, would pass up money or things? We live in a time where being a hippy or a free thinker is a trend rather than an ideological standpoint. People don’t hug trees anymore, they hug radio antenna, and their mobile phone satellites and 4G. I for one don’t think this is negative – we get one chance to live, one chance to be happy, so why don’t we take everything that we can in pursuit of that? If you need a big TV to be content, then aim to get one, if you need to kneel in a church, then go do it.
…being a hippy or a free thinker is a trend rather than an ideological standpoint…
Modern lines between idealism and possession are blurred at an ever increasing rate – one hundred years ago we were a nation at war, what you had wasn’t important then, it was who you had. Now we are a nation in some nervous fever of consumption – we need what other people need, we want what they have, we like McDonald’s and KFC and we’d rather eat that than vegetables and salad.
Ultimately, the question of life is multi-faceted and deceptive. It is a superlative and utterly complex, idyllic simplification of an incredibly chaotic and endless, impossible mixture of reactions. But for now, rather than worrying about that, I’m going to try to make as much money as I can, have as much fun as I can, love my girlfriend as much as I can, and be as happy as I possibly can.