What do you see as the purpose of being a human being? The purpose of being here? What is the point?
These are some of the questions I have asked myself throughout my 53 years on this ball we call ‘earth’.
The answers I have come up with have changed, evolved and gone through many cycles. This process encourages broader and deeper thought, which can invariably lead to fine tuning, if not radical changes, to one’s way of being and living. Personally, it seems sad to me that so many of us get caught up in the relatively mindless and banal existence of being producers and consumers; meaning, that we work to produce some good or service in exchange for money, which we then exchange for some goods or services like food, shelter, transportation, entertainment, medical services etc.
Then we retire hoping to have enough material goods like shelter, vehicles and such, combined with a pension and other sources of income, together with (hopefully) good heath in order to do less producing and more consuming.
That approach, whether mindless and unconscious, or totally intentional, has never been adequate for me. In my ‘teen’ years, I began to contemplate suicide (and talk about it)—not from a place of hopelessness, depression and despondency; instead, it came from a very rational place of not seeing the point. I had moved out of house at 17, had a full time job, a girlfriend, a car, etc.
I was mortified when all the offered was the typical paradigm: In tears they asked me, “what about getting married, owning a house and having children?” My internal response was, “Is that all there is”?
For years I wrestled with ‘The Meaning of Life’. This topic is a whole other article or book—too much to go into here, but it bears mentioning that my search for purpose and meaning landed me in born-again Christianity for a number or years. I always feel some degree of embarrassment or shame when I admit this, but at the time it made sense to me and met my need.
Having a ‘belief’, a faith as it were, gave me temporary respite from the angst and ‘existentialistic’ turmoil I had lived with for so many years. It gave me ‘the answers’ (albeit temporarily) to: who am I, why am I here, what is my purpose and where am I going? It was very neat, tidy and comforting. It met my basic human need of belonging and having some form of purpose and meaning. After some years, there was some upheaval in the church I was in. I was one of the very few who challenged the leadership and the direction, and thus became a casualty. This plunged me and my new bride into an abyss… a vacuum of nothingness.
If the foundation of our belief system is faulty and a crack forms, our whole world can fall apart. This is why people generally become defensive, angry and lash out when their beliefs are questioned—whatever they are:
…Trickle down economics, unlimited growth, unlimited resources, ‘trust your doctor’, trust the authorities, ‘we live in a democracy’ (LOL), ‘god will take care of you’, you can be wealthy, there is “unlimited abundance in the universe”, you can have whatever your heart desires, you are special, you will be successful, university will yield a good paying job, as long as you eat a ‘balanced diet’ you will have good heath… the list goes on.
Most of these examples are little more than beliefs based on a host of suppositions that may or may not pan out; however, we hold to and even cling to these beliefs in order to generate good feelings, particularly feeling safe and secure. This seems to serve us well in our primordial, caveman brain until we come up against an experience that is contrary to our belief(s).
At the point of finding your belief(s) challenged or shattered, what do you do? Pass it off as an anomaly? Try even harder to find yet more ‘proof’ to shore up your teetering belief system? Ignore the lesson/ opportunity and bury your head yet deeper into the sand to avoid the niggling feelings inside? Or, do reflect, contemplate and at least consider modifying your belief system(s) and the choices you make that flow from what you believe?
For a number of years, my first wife and I buried ourselves in work and shopping. Our marriage was based on the aforementioned belief system, so as the belief system fell apart, so did our marriage. After eight long, miserable years of busying ourselves with work, shopping, family, buying a truck and camper, traveling, looking for places to live, moving to Nanaimo to be closer to my wife’s family, buying a house, trying to find meaning… we finally gave up.
My next move (another article or book, but bears mentioning) was to become a socio-economic-environmental-political activist and feminist. That included joining a whole host of groups, sitting as director on three different boards at a time, going to as many as three meetings in one night (after working all day), co-founding several groups, running for city council and the list goes on.
Then I met a woman (whom I partnered with for a number of years) who was totally into yoga and all of the eastern teachings, beliefs, philosophy and mysticism that goes with that. Westernized yogic, buddhistic spirituality is certainly not as ‘neat and tidy’—with its hundreds of deities and dozens of tomes—as Western, Euro-centric monotheism—which is basically one god and one book.
Nevertheless, again, I found some relief from the pain stemming from the big picture, global-awareness that I had acquired through my delving into a deeper understanding of our corporatist, consumer culture, the banking system, slavery, ongoing genocide (such as Suharto on East Timor, China on Tibet), and how this is all connected to the obscene wealth that we enjoy in North America, etc. Believing (again) that there were greater unseen forces at work and that we are reincarnated thousands of times until we learn our lessons and get rid ‘karma’, was a pressure relief valve that I was very grateful for at the time.
For the last seven years, I have managed to find the courage and strength to resist the need to have answers. That is, to choose to be satisfied with the notion that ‘this’ (right here, right now) is all there is…
How I ‘do my life’ or the ‘position’ I take is that my responsibility is to be the very best human being I can be.
This, by the way, has little to do with most of our brain washing we have received around ‘success’. It does not mean ‘conquering’ mountain peaks (as if the mountains give a rip)! Nor does it mean financial, material and/or social success (which almost invariably flows from the aforementioned).
What my purpose-vision-mission-goal(s) boil down to is simply this:
Take less, give more, be of service to those and around me and to those I encounter, and daily endeavor to reduce my ecological footprint; all in order to leave the world a better place than when I came into it.
That is why I am an activist first and farmer second. That is why we grow 12,000+ pounds of vegetables and fruit every year. Food, farming, farmers, farmland and farmers markets have proven to be the most effective way to engage people in a broader, deeper conversation with the hope that it leads to awareness-consciousness, better choices and finally a desperately need shift in our culture.
A group of researchers travelled around the world surveying people, creating something called the ‘SWB Index’ (Subjective Well Being Index). The extremely short version is, the people with the most money and material success (like movie stars, rock stars, athletes, millionaires and billionaires) were the least happy. While the people with the least money and least material ‘success’ (those who were even ‘poor’) were the most happy. Something to think about, yes?
Ask yourself, “Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose on earth? What is the meaning of my life? And, how can I live my life in such a way that I can feel really good about laying on my death bed?”
The choice is yours… may you choose wisely! n
Dirk Becker is a do-er, some of which includes supporting people on their path, being a socio-economic-political-environmental activist, an organic farmer, agricultural advocate and assists in the creation of this publication.