Monday, December 24, 2007

What is the purpose of your life?

Through the ages man has changed from a hunter-gatherer to the modern day specialized employee. In this process he has upgraded his needs and desires from the bare minimum necessities of prehistoric times to the ultramodern luxuries and fancies of the 21st century. You and me being part of this mad race have been doing this same thing and are destined to do this unless we stop and think. What am I really after? What is the purpose of my life?

A typical human life goes as follows - birth, childhood, schooling, college education, job, marriage, kids', rearing children, children's education, retirement, children's marriages, their kids, rearing grandchildren, death. This is a cycle that has been going on since the birth of mankind. But am I bound to do these things? What is it that I am after? Why should I follow this routine? What is the ultimate purpose of life around which these activities are intertwined?

Most people do not get time to think about these questions, being busy as they are in the various activities mentioned above or planning the various events mentioned above. Generally these activities and events themselves becomes the main objectives of their lives. Once that happens the relevance of the above questions vanishes for such a person.

So the process can be rewritten as follows. Going through childhood is not optional and I have to go through it. I have to have a good education because I have to have a good job. I have to have a good job to be able to support a family. I have to marry because I have to have a family. I have to have kids as that is what is expected when having a family. Then I have to prepare my kids to follow the same cycle I went through. In the meanwhile I have to progress in my career parallelly to take care of growing needs. Finally I retire from my job. Along the way my kids will have married and would have had kids of their own. I play my role in bringing them up. In the end I die.

Did I miss anything here? I am sorry, but I heard that man is different from animals. I don't really see how different we are from animals who follow almost the same general routine as above in their own ways. So what is the point? Isn't everything fine the way it is, as it is now? Why do you really want to have any other purpose other than the process discussed above?

Yes you are right you really don't need to have any other purpose but you should decide on your own that the above process is your purpose. People follow the above process not because they have embraced it as their ultimate purpose but because they have been taught to do so by generations of practice and has been embedded into the society as the default expected behavior.

People should at least think about what they want to do with their lives. Not everybody has to go outside the set boundaries, but those who think they can, and those who think they should, should. People bold enough to tread uncharted territories should. It is the efforts of such adventurers that have taken the world to what it is now. If people had just followed routines I would not be sitting here typing on my laptop but instead would have been hunting for my grubs in the wild.

Going outside the orthodox routines does not just mean breaking the conventional routines. It is about thinking and deciding about your course of action on your own rather than following a set pattern of actions. It would mean identifying and following your passion. It would mean setting and embracing your ideals. It would mean taking control over your life. It would mean defining your future.

So if you are still living a life defined and dictated by others, stop, think, decide, take control and march ahead. Your life would be happier, more meaningful and ultimately purposeful.


  1. "Civilized man refused to adapt himself to his environment. Instead he adapted his environment to suit him.So he built cities, roads,vehicles, machinery .And he put up power lines to run his labor-saving devices.The more he improved his surroundings to make life easier...the more complicated he made it. Now his children are sentenced to 10 - 15 years of school, to learn how to survive in this complex and hazardous habitat.

    And civilized man, who refused to adapt to his surroundings now finds he has to adapt and re-adapt every hour of the day to his self-created environment.
    For instance, if it`s Monday.and 7:30 comes up, you have to dis-adapt from your domestic surroundings...and re-adapt yourself to an entirely different job environment.
    Your day is chopped into pieces.In each segment of time you adapt to new circumstances.

    In the Kalahari, for the gentle and contented bushmen it`s always Tuesday,or Thursday if you like , Or even a Sunday.No clocks or calendars tell you to do this or that."

    The above statements were borrowed directly from the movie "Gods must be crazy"(which i saw thanks to my friend Anand). I still seriously doubt whether what mankind has "achieved" is really "progress".

  2. Credit must be given where it is due. Progress has been achieved in terms of free time available by increasing efficiency in different processes, thereby giving man more time to think and perform other activities, other than the perpetual search for food and fight against enemies. The issue is that the progress has not been forward in all areas - in some areas he has gone backward instead of forward. For example quality of life in terms of peace of mind.

  3. "Progress has been achieved in terms of free time available by increasing efficiency in different processes, thereby giving man more time to think and perform other activities, other than the perpetual search for food and fight against enemies."

    In the initial stages of development i agree with the above statement. But these days its like the whole point is lost. Its like living just for the sake of living. And the above mentioned efficiency has just made us lazy.

  4. I have to agree with you. This was the purpose of the post. To make one stop and think about the purpose of one's life.

  5. Totally agree that its good to step out and chart a course that one believes is in tune with one's nature and beliefs.

    As far as the difference between man and animals go, true - there are lots in common. But the key differentiator is this: man has been endowed with knowledge if used wisely can help him in attaining the ultimate purpose of life.

    And that ultimate purpose is self-realization.

    What you mentioned in your blog as the cycle is not a purpose, its only a path that one can choose to take or not to take. It is only a matter of choice.

    What is most important irrespective of whether one lives the life of a typical householder or that of a ascetic or anything else is this: Understanding who this 'I' that one keeps referring oneself to is? Who am 'I'?At the end of the day, it boils down to that one simple question.And there is no greater purpose in life than this realization:)