The Meaning of Life and Existence
Excuse me sir, but why do you smile?
Young man, I’m enthralled that I exist and that existence is quite weird.
The words “I exist” encapsulate the answer to one of life’s more profound questions:
What is the point of living if we are going to die and not remember anything?
Let’s explore the meaning of life through these two words as I did recently on Quora for an audience.
You Were You Before I
As a child, I too faced this existential question that you now pose and was ill prepared to answer. What followed was another thirty years of running from the fear of death.
However, this effort was subject to futility as you undoubtedly would suspect. Lately, I have found peace through acceptance, but before we move too fast, let’s examine one of the more debilitating words in our lexicon, the word, “I.”
We raise this soul-searching question from a place of isolation, masked in the identity of a singular form. Implicitly, there is a background story at play, one in which the central character can seemingly dissolve into an infinite nothingness at a moment’s notice.
This realization seeks to cheapen the accumulation of any wealth and stature as one day it will all pass. “So why bother if ALL your efforts will eventually wither on the vine?”
I would argue that you shouldn’t if the game of life was officiated under these rules, but is it? Hang on, Dorothy, our journey is about to go deeper down the rabbit hole.
The Layers of the Onion
Imagine that you are dying, one layer at a time. There will eventually become a point at which all form and thought cease. “What remains of the precious YOU? Better yet, where are you?”
Answer — you have returned to the void from which you once emerged and experienced life as a different “I.” A beautiful thought develops as you continue to watch this movie and rewind the film stock.
These multiple “I’s” are not separate after all. They are all expressions of the same oneness. This Being is the YOU that existed before I. As the great Alan Watts puts it, we are the sum of all “I’s.”
The feeling that we can vanish into oblivion at any moment is only there because of the disconnected way we perceive ourselves. Our ego promotes this isolation and mortal danger from the moment we open our eyes to this world.
Les Brown states that we are born with two fears, the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling, but I respectfully disagree. I believe that all fears are an expression of one primal fear and that is the fear of death driven by the egoic mind.
Who else compels your thoughts 24 hours a day with past regrets and future concerns? This insane behavior is what the ego needs to survive, and it exacts a high toll on the negative view we have of life and our failure to fully expand into the present moment.
Existence is a Game
I sense that you are still not convinced. You believe that the role you play in existence begins and ends at the boundary of your form. After all, you identify with a form represented by thought which engenders a feeling of uniqueness and importance.
The ego tells us that we must go on forever, but is this the case? Are you it or part of it? Let’s look at waves in the ocean. They are distinct expressions which exist for a brief moment, achieving attainment in the shape of a crest before dissolving.
But are waves in the ocean or are they the ocean? The obvious answer is the latter. In this sense, each wave is I, as are we, stepping out from the fabric of the unmanifested for a brief twinkle. You are existence, my friend; you always have been and always will be.
A wave is not in the ocean. A wave is the ocean. — Jeff Lieberman
The fear that you must desperately hold on to the millions of atoms that make up your form is quite silly. How do you improve the unmanifested, the very essence from which you unfolded? You don’t!
But this thought raises another interesting question as is always the case when you venture deeper down the rabbit hole. What do you do in life when there is nothing left to do? Jim Carey raised this question and provided a profound response. You play life!
Life is not a journey. It is not some destination that we are striving to reach. We have been sold a false premise from infancy in the belief that this “great thing” is coming. And many of us live our lives in this constant state of preparation.
You know this to be true as do I, and we both feel the burden. You can see it in the workplace, having designed your entire life to arrive at this destination only to find it immensely lacking the gift that was promised. And this is because there was never a one day and there was never a there. These are the two fallacies of life when it is modeled as a journey.
You play life by co-creating with the universe by manifesting the ideas which come to and through you from the universe to inspire, impact, and uplift others. Just like in dancing, you dance. There is no point on the floor that you ought to reach, as observed by Alan Watts. You just dance!
And, in your case, you just live here and in the now. You ease the tight grip on life and death, embrace the duality, and do your part in the game. Catch the ball, go in for the touchdown, rejoice with the quarterback that is the universe, and do it all again.
Just play, my friend, and marvel in the confusion!