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March 2019
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Caleb Goldberg

Why exactly are we alive? I think most people have asked some variant of this question
at some point or other in their existences. It’s understable that such a consideration would cross many a mind; after all, it appeals to our rational sides as well as our emotional ones. A concrete answer, assuming it would be agreeable to our desires, would give us a satisfying degree of practicality behind our actions, as well as quenching our emotional desire to hold importance. But a concrete answer is hard for come by for a plethora of reasons. For starters, when one attempts to analyse the question, one makes the realization that it’s rather vague. “Why” from the perspective of whom? Of ourselves? Of our close community? Of the whole universe? Considering life’s multitude of perspectives, it’s rather silly to presume that our life has the same effect on everyone and everything, so it’s rather silly to limit our purpose to a single concept. So whose perspective do we conclude is primary to determining our meaning? Er… well,
that’s a good question. Unsurprisingly, there’s no clear-cut answer, and if anything trying to find one only makes the big question all the more confusing. Assigning importance to others’ viewpoints by extension implies a degree of importance within the people holding the viewpoints. Importance as a concept is by nature linked to purpose, and it’s hard to consider the importance of other people without factoring in their purposes in this life. An idea that isn’t particularly more tangible than the purpose of our own lives. So now we’re not only pondering the point of our existence, but the point of others’ lives as well. That hardly guides us on the path to finding an answer.

It seems implausible that we can determine why others are alive before we answer the
same question in regards to ourselves. Surely there is some correlation between the notions, after all; none of us are so important that our lives follow a totally different pattern from the lives of the people we interact with! Indeed, civilized humanity in its current form is a linked species. Clearly there are some people who mingle and socialize more than others, but it’s pretty difficult to survive without interacting with anyone at all. Even if your conversation doesn’t extend beyond “I’ll have fries with that, please,” you are bound to exchange words and ideas with someone at some point. Then that person exchanges words and ideas with someone else, who exchanges words and ideas with yet another person, etc., etc., etc. The following statement is certainly debatable, but I would assert that even the smallest of interactions hold a degree of influence over the people involved in them. That smile you cracked when that person opened the door for you might have made the receiver of the gratitude consider the degree to which others appreciate her actions, so maybe she decides to reconcile with her mother after the latest of many disagreements, and the mother tells her coworker, who realizes she needs to pay more attention to her own children. Or maybe nothing of the sort happens, and the person holding the door doesn’t even notice your mouth pointing itself slightly
upward. But the former scenario is totally conceivable, and I would venture that all of you have unwittingly been involved in a similar chain of interactions. Maybe not every single thing you do changes lives, but because all humans are to a degree linked, anything you do potentially can. To me, the question of why we are alive should focus not on any individual person’s perspective, but on the collective viewpoints of anyone who you can potentially influence﹣in other words, literally every person living on this world. For one thing, this perspective is pleasantly humanistic and doesn’t unfairly grant disproportionate magnitude to particular people; for another, it saves the one who’s calculating from a lot of headaches!

So a universal perspective is a good foundation for figuring out our purpose, but what structure is built upon that foundation? Why are we actually alive? Realistically we’re never going to get a totally concrete answer. Yet the general idea is getting closer and closer, so close that you probably already feel an unconscious semblance of it forming inside your mind. We’ve established that you conceivably have the power to reach anyone in the world, so what should you be doing with that power? Well, helping those people, of course! That, to me, is what the meaning of life is ultimately about: improving as many lives as is possible (while worsening as few as we can). I genuinely believe that humans have evolved with the purpose of helping each other, and that we must meet this genetically-predisposed expectation to truly be happy ourselves. Now, I think that the methods we use to help the people around us must be determined on an individualistic basis. Some feel their purposes most realized when they’re healing or teaching, and others feel most helpful when they’re simply being friendly. Indeed, that’s how it should be﹣people are unlikely to have precisely the same needs at a given time, so we need separate people focusing on different means of construction. Ultimately, think we are alive to fit ourselves into the spaces we must occupy to bring our own unique positive forces into the world

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