WHY are we here?

WHY are we here?

A page of text can’t answer such an absurdly huge question. Different people have different answers, or choose to avoid any answer.

One deeply depressing “rationale” for life was captured in the phrase “Eat. Consume. Die.” Wiki has some interesting conjectures on its origin. For example, that the phrase "Consume, be silent, die" is a critique of consumer culture, capturing what Belgian author Raoul Vaneigem called "the poverty of abundance".

Whatever variation you choose, it defines a grey or colourless existence without hope, vision or purpose. Existing isn’t living, it’s drifting rudderless in a small boat on the sea of Life.

So people invent purposes, or reasons to live. Children. Wealth. Teaching. Learning. Research. Nurturing (whether plants or people). Leadership. All these facets, and more, keep us busy enough to avoid confronting “the big Why”.

Interestingly, the paths to greater knowledge and broader views (“inspiration”) are quite similar. Some recommend meditation. In a Zen sense, meditation is about excluding “noise” from the mind in order to achieve enlightenment. While this technique mightn’t prompt a new utopian garden of understanding, it might generate one seed that can be nurtured.

Of course, many people have also turned to God for inspiration and visions, at least in the past. The recommended method is prayer, or silent contemplation, which is essentially a form of meditation, with the possible addition of a penitent and humble heart – unless the latter describes your attempt to screen out the “noise” of your outer life.

Successful people “reach within” to find the hope, the spark and the knowledge to carry them and others forward. Teachers are inspirational when they do this naturally and effortlessly. It is about making and sharing connections, whatever your field.

Leaders are people who inspire change. They empower people to achieve more by knowing themselves better. They lift others up; they don’t gain height by standing on others. They say “our team” before outlining a team challenge but stand and shield their team by saying “my team” if performance is questioned. This attitude is summed up in one of my favourite quotes, by 15th century Japanese leader Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who said: “be a leader, not a superior”.

Leaders are not limited to the military, government or industry. Anyone who inspires someone to do more, to be more, to reach for a bigger tomorrow, is leading. They are shining light on the path ahead, regardless of whether they say “follow me” or allow a free choice. Compare this to the dull, grey existence that some people lead in their subway cattle-cars, amply echoed in the recent revival of the song Sounds of Silence by music group Disturbed.

We need to have values to hang on to. Things we won’t sacrifice while remaining willing to grow and adapt. We mustn’t let ourselves be soured by our worldly experience and become cynical and critical. Oscar Wilde once said, a critic is “someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”.

Above all, humanity needs to realise that we can’t be better, or do things better, if we’re unwilling to change or think differently. Even if we can’t answer “the big Why”, we can look at some of the hedges that border our path and change them. Why not? To paraphrase the 35th US President, John F Kennedy:

The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by sceptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need people who can dream of things that never were & ask "why not?"

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