Last night I got to talking with one of my best friends about the notion of purpose, of why we're here. My thinking on the subject could probably be described as nihilistic - so fair warning, it might get a touch dark, or a touch nothing.
To put it bluntly:
We don't have a purpose.
That deserves refinement, mind. We do of course have purpose in our day-to-day lives but those purposes tend to be situational - be they from the very, very short-term ("I need to walk to the bus stop so I can get the bus to get to work") to the rather more long-term ("I need to work to earn money to go on holiday").
In terms of a great over-arching defining purpose, though - well that's a different matter. I don't - can't - believe there is some kind of mystic race track that we should be going down. That leans a little too close to determinism for me, and I don't believe in destiny or fate. I believe in causality and chance and consequence.
That doesn't mean to say I don't feel there's an answer to the question: "Why are we here?" That's another matter entirely. We're here because of sperm and eggs and natural growth cycles and survival. Again, to need a greater meaning to that flies a little too close to the mythical for me. The very notion leaves me a little cold, and I'll tell you why.
If we all of us are born with a purpose, then the next question is obviously: what is that purpose? Are we fulfilling it without even knowing, or are we stumbling away from it with no way to tell we've gone off-track? If there's no way to know that we are off-track as mentioned, then the purpose itself is totally irrelevant - and if the only sign that we're off-track is that vague feeling of questioning unease we experience with regularity, then we're in trouble, because it's perfectly normal for human beings to experience anxiety and doubt. It's probably best to try and find the real source, though, rather than convincing ourselves that we've fallen off the invisible tightrope and need to find it again to feel better.
Let us suppose, though, that there IS a purpose. That the road map exists, in the ephemeral sense that it is there in ways we can't actively perceive.
If I'm doing it right, and following that road map, then fuck you, whoever drew the map. My life hasn't been that great. There's been some great views and some fantastic stopovers but the roadworks have been fucking awful and some of these directions have been totally counter-intuitive. Thanks for not warning me about the traffic jams too. You asshole.
If I'm doing it wrong...then...what? What's the consequence for my non-deviation? Is it this anxious feeling? This gnawing doubtful ache that sometimes sits low in my stomach and keeps me awake at night? Fuck you again, whoever drew the map. If I get punished for not walking the line but you don't signpost the line, then that's arbitrary cruelty. It's like drawing an imaginary box around a puppy and kicking it whenever it leaves the box that it can't see. Think about that image for a moment.
I can't believe that there is purpose beyond that which we make for ourselves. That's a valid sense of worry and angst - not knowing where you are going because you can't decide, not because you don't know what the skywizard or the fatewriter or whatever the fucking thing is has decided for you. If our own inability to determine our own fate leaves us so insecure that we feel the need to assign a greater meaning to that inability, then we have bigger problems than what the invisible road map says.
We are not the slaves of puppet strings stretching off into the infinite abyss of bullshit. We've got enough strings - strings like our biological need for food and water and warmth and shelter, like our psychological need for comfort and security, like societal pressures, like the drives and urges that swell and surge in our minds from a thousand different sources. Assigning them to the wishy-washy outer spheres of existence is outright denial of the most awful, and yet most liberating and beautiful, of all truths.
If there is nothing outside of us and what we are, and what we perceive as real, then the universe is still jam-packed with wonders and miracles. If all that exists is what our senses and the tools we use to enhance those senses can detect, then we still have an entire galaxy populated by the beauty of numbers and the magnificence of the horseshoe nebula and the awesome yet tiny world that inhabits a plant cell seen through a microscope and the surging rush of absolutely everything that your favourite song sends through every single nerve ending in your body whenever you hear it.
If there is a purpose - if there is truly a reason for us being here - then it is simply for us to be here. What this means is that we need to keep going. Find whatever we need to keep us going to tomorrow, because in the end, our lives aren't measured by how well we followed an invisible non-existent road map. Our lives aren't measured by anything outside of ourselves.
Don't waste that life inventing reasons to be afraid. Don't wait for a destiny to spring out of the echo of your own mind - or anyone else's. Find those things that make you want to see tomorrow, and then see that tomorrow.
See every tomorrow you can.
I think that's more than enough purpose for me.