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Dear Grown-Up:

I understand that every species is unique and is important to the ecology of the world. Although insignificant as it may seem it is still important even to the little dust mites that live in your house. What I dont really understand is how can someone be important to the world when you consider the time that that person lives on earth compared the age of the universe? What I mean is, if we live so many years when compared to the time of the universe, what difference does it make whether we did wrong against the earth, when the point of living is to die? We are born to live, but if to live in a world that is messed up as it is now, what is the point of living and trying to fix it when you're eventually going to die and the earth will eventually die? I mean, if you're going to die what is the point of being important? You're going to be nothing but "worm food," as they say. If you're not important, then why is the existence of everything else including the earth important? Why cant we say, "Screw it," if everyone and everything is going to be nothing but a memory?

Sincerely,

School Girl

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Dear School Girl,

What you seem to be touching on is the question: What is the purpose of life? Well, this is a question that’s been asked for ages, but so far it’s been unanswerable. Personally, I think it’s been unanswerable because of the way it’s phrased.

You see, the question assumes there IS a purpose to life, and then it assumes that whatever it may be, we can determine what it is. My own view is that we can’t verify either of those things. Given our current understanding of things, there may be a purpose or there may not. We’re not going to be able to figure it out any time soon.

BUT...even if we don’t know what the purpose of life is, we know that life can SERVE a purpose, and it’s up to us to decide what purpose we want to fulfill. That’s a different story altogether, and that’s where you become important.

Now, you said that since everything dies, the purpose of life perhaps is to die, and since we’re all going to die anyway, why bother doing anything at all? Well, quite a bit of the time, if you have a question like this and you can’t find the answer, you can find it in nature. Perhaps you have a dog or cat, or maybe you’ve seen animals in the wild or on TV. If the ultimate purpose of their life is to die, do you see them laying down and dying? I think what you see is every animal doing what it can to ensure that it keeps living, no matter what’s happening. Every animal struggles with everything it has to keep living. If nature is to teach us anything at all about the purpose of life, it’s that the purpose of life is apparently to live. How we go about doing that is up to us.

I strongly suspect that you haven’t totally bought into the fatalism you’re proposing. After all, if it’s all meaningless and we’re going to die anyway, why even bother writing your letter? Why bother even thinking about it at all? The energy you spend thinking about how it’s all meaningless is wasted, because...why? It’s meaningless. You’re going to die anyway.

But no, I think you’re thinking about it and writing your letter because you DON’T believe it’s all a waste, you’re hoping it’s not all a waste, and you’re looking for someone to tell you it’s not. Well, I’ll jump in and say it: It’s not all a waste. When I look at the moon and revel in its beauty or when I listen to Chopin and lose myself in the hypnotic melodies or when I read a fascinating novel and BECOME the characters…it’s not all a waste. It’s very worthwhile.

Is each member of the community of life important? Are you important? Maybe that’s not the right way to phrase it. Important to who or to what? Life, with all its abundance, is also very disposable in nature, that’s for sure. If we can’t agree to say you or any other creature is important, perhaps we can agree on another term…the entire process of the world is a very sacred one, and as part of it, so are you.

When you begin to feel it and really understand what it means...you are sacred...then all of a sudden there won’t be any question about whether “it’s all worth it” or not.

Best,

Grown-Up

A question that many have asked themselves, yet few have found an answer: Why are people here? What is the purpose of human life? The answer: There isn't a reason for people to be here. People don't serve a purpose. We are here, but we don't keep the world running. Without humans, the world would get along fine, probably better than it already is. I'm sure there is a deep, philosophical answer to all this, but I have yet to find it. So, for now, I will write what I have found to be the best thing I can come up with.

The simplest way that I can find to explain this is the following. First, think of the world as an old clock. Inside this clock, there are hundreds of little pieces; cogs, gears, and springs. Some people may think that humans are one of these little gears, keeping the clock functioning properly. But we are not. If we were, the world would be plunged into a nuclear holocaust if the human race were to disappear. Instead think of the world as a house. And inside this house is a machine that's sole reason for existence is to automatically drip water on the floor, and clean it up. People are this machine. If it was gone, there is no major difference in the house. The machine doesn't require any care or help from others. It works on its own, only dripping water so it can clean it up. That is how humans are. We don't directly depend on other species, and other species don't directly depend on us. If the machine were removed from the house, things would get a little bit easier: the machine wouldn't have to be walked around. And if people left the Earth, then things would get a bit easier: there would be no pollution from factories or cars, or destruction of forests, or anything of the like.

But this shouldn't be used as an excuse to never do anything. Just because there is no purpose for our existence, doesn't give us the right to sit around, saying "There is no reason for me to be on this planet, so I shouldn't have to work". To do that would be wrong. People are that little machine, dripping water and cleaning it up. That is what the machine does. As long as the machine is around, it needs to work, continuously cleaning the mess it creates. The machine needs to work, and work it shall.

An afterthought: this answer has disturbed me and it will probably disturb a few others, on account of it letting people know that they are a species that has no reason for existing, but after thinking about this for a few days in a row, I feel better about everything around me. I continue doing what I usually do, but I am much less depressed about it. I have been searching for an answer as to why I was put on this earth, and it feels great to find one, however bleak and sad it may seem. My insomnia has left, I am happier in all aspects of my life, and I have learned to let things go, knowing that I don't have an obligation to help support humanity, because humanity is pointless. In short, I am enlightened. I hope my attempt at answering such an important question will have the same effect on others it had on me.

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