The eternal Question is, of course, why we are living. It manages to tickle the Brains of even the intellectually-challenged. Like all eternal Questions, it has no substantive Answer, of course. It has an Answer only in a self-referential Conundrum, and in a substantive Approximation to that Conundrum. The self-referential Answer can only be this — that the Purpose of Life is to live; the meaningful Approximation is that we live to survive. Survive what, and survive why, is our short Story here.
To begin with, one has often contended that “the Purpose of life,” as a Phrase, makes no sense if one considers what “Purpose” means. What is the Purpose of driving one’s Car? To get to where one wants to be, that is to say, to be in a more desirable state than one is in now. What is the Purpose of going to Work? To cut a long Story short, it is so that one will be better off than if one did not work, else one would not work in the first place. In other Words, all Things that have Purpose are performed with the “after” State in Mind (which recalls the Being versus Becoming Issue in Philosophy). If so, what Purpose can Life itself have (unless one postulates an Afterlife)? None whatsoever; it is a Question that cannot be asked. In Addition, there seems to be no Need to postulate an Afterlife; the Word is in our Vocabulary simply because we have heard it being said.
Dwelling a Little upon Being versus Becoming, what about those Activities that seem Exceptions to this Rule, those Activities that elicit the Answer “It is pleasurable” or “It is fun,” such as listening to Music? In this case, the Fact is that while Music (or Sports, or what not) are perceived with Immediacy as “fun,” Life is not. It would have to be an artificial Dictum unto oneself if one were to say that Life is interesting, or that it is fun, and so on. Coming from direct Feeling, there is no Evidence that Life in the Whole can belong in the same Category as Music or Sports: “enjoyable,” or “fun.” Hedonism is an attained Attitude, not an intrinsic Belief.
Since the Question is obviously malformed, and since Seekers have seen that such malformed Questions usually have self-referential Loops for Answers, it offers itself: Life is to be lived. Life is the purpose of Life. But unfortunately stuck at this level are the metaphysical Midgets who propose that Life be lived “to its fullest,” “to make the most of each Moment,” and so forth. One must look beyond. But on the one Hand, if there is no Future to associate with Life (which can bring in Purpose), and if the task of sating the Void of the Present is to be dismissed, what remains?
In other Words, if one is already alive, what does it mean that one’s Purpose is to live? (The Clue lies therein: “to live on,” but one shall get to that soon.) What it can mean may be indicated by the Circumstances under which one is alive. There are Anxieties, directed towards protecting oneself from Harm and Mishaps. There is Hope, directed at a “better Future,” meaning a more liveable State – which in Turn usually means a State of less Anxiety. There are the Thoughts of Death and Immortality, guised as they might be in the Form of noble Ambition. Why, Ambition itself: it is a Drive to more Power, meaning more Stability, Permanence, Expansiveness, and Universality – indicating Immortality. Yes, one Layer down, the Will to Power is the same as the Will to live on. Fears there are, too, and these again can be related to the Desire for existential Permanence, in other Words, Immortality.
And Desires? Desires for the Past are the psychic Equivalent of the psychiatric “replacement Therapy”; Desires for the Present exist to serve the Void that persists because one is not in Harmony with all that is around; and Desires for the Future are for Power or one of its subsets — Permanence, Expanse, and so forth.
Our everyday State, then, is this: beyond what is obvious — repressed, unnatural, clueless, lost, ignorant, deluded, repeating Words whose Import we fathom not – we are anxious for our Permanence, we crave Stability, we are living and we wish to live on.
In other Words, we wish to survive.
Let definitions be lain aside; the Existence of the Desire to survive is the Bridge between Darwinian Man and the Man created by Man in the Image of God. It seems to answer all.
What indeed is not answered by the Will to survive? Consider Religion. What Religion does not speak of an Afterlife, what Religion says “The Chapter closes when you are dead”? And are not most actual Religions self-referential in that they wish themselves to survive, by spreading their Dictums? Is it not everyday Wisdom that one must persevere, and thus survive? If Evolution is to be believed, why are we here but that we have survived? Can it not be obvious that the greatest Desire, that of Immortality, is in its metaphysical Roots the same as that of Survival?
And what is Goodness, Nobleness, Selflessness? It might well be said of a good Man, a noble one, a selfless one: “he looked not at his Survival but at ours, too.” For that is the Essence, Core, and even the Entirety of Goodness: what the Whole gets from the Part. We praise the brave Man because he has shielded us at his own Risk. We praise the Man of Knowledge because he has put his effort into uplifting us. In short, the Good Man is one who carries the Weight of the Survival of several Men on his Shoulders. Naturally, as a tribal Species, we exalt him.
To return from the Digression: the strongest Call to Survival comes from the Revelation of romantic Love. Those who have not experienced it are but Frogs in the Well, as it were; those who “possess” it are again “bored” – the word for Detachment from the Unity of all Things. It is only those in the Flux of romantic Love who are truly in Life’s Thrall; mere Existence becomes Pleasure, or in plain Words, Life is beautiful.
For these fortunate ones to continue on their Journey, Love must be renewed every now and then; Love must progress. Eventually, of course, human Tendencies cause Love to be dulled. But we digress: the Point at Hand is that when Love dies, the Lover asks his God more fervently than anyone else ever asked his God: “How could this happen?” “My Breath has been taken from me!” “Is this Life, that it imprints in me a Desire to love, then shows me how to live without it, then shows me Love, then takes it away?” “I am as a Man biting into an Apple and the Apple has been snatched from me!”
The grotesque Churning of Emotions that results has made Life, for many, “unbearable.” Why, when Love is lost, does Existence become a Thing of Weight? For the simple Reason that the Prospect of one’s Genes being propagated has been halted. Survival has been thwarted.
But there is a higher Mirroring of all lower Things, and what we have called the Stoppage of the Possibility of Procreation is perceived, verily, as a Threat to the Stability of the Organism. Depression results; the Part says, “I am not ready to complete the Whole.” From that Dissociation results Pain. And from deep within, the Will of the Organism to Survive is called forth in the strongest Manner possible. A superlative Being seems to be saying, “Love is everything, and you have lost it, and you have no other Goal, but you must live on.”
We turn now from Survival to something grander. When one says, “You will not survive in the big City,” one does not mean to imply that one will perish of Hunger; when one says, “I have survived life’s Ups and Downs,” one means that one is flourishing. Yes, empty Survival is of no Value. One might lie on one’s Bed for Weeks on end, partaking of a few Morsels a Day, but we do not call that Survival.
When we say we have survived as a Species, we do not mean to say that we exist despite Dangers; we mean that we are thriving. Let us, therefore, modify our initial Statement a little: we do not wish to merely survive, we wish to survive and flourish.
Though our Joys be taken from us, we shall replace them and survive and flourish. Though our everyday Void be unfulfilled, though this Day bring to fruition not one Dream, not one, we shall survive and flourish. Though the Breast of Love be snatched from us while we are still suckling, we shall survive, we shall thrive, we shall flourish. Such are the Demands of this Existence, and they shall be fulfilled; it is when declaring the Universe cruel — for showing us Love and then blanking it out — that we truly “come to Terms with Reality.” Love is beautiful; after Love is Survival – and thus, Life.
One is reminded of Beethoven’s Music at this Point: someone once said, “If Man’s Fate is to suffer in an unfriendly Universe, Beethoven’s Music creates the Spirit to endure and even to exult in the Endurance.” Yes, Beethoven called to the Survivor in us: if the Hammerklavier Sonata was a brash Display of the pure Will to survive, op. 132 reminds us of the sheer Relief at having survived. Op. 131 goes further, laying bare before us the Conditions under which we must survive, the fact of the Absence of a Master Coördinator, and a supremely lofty Disgust with which to view all.
One now views Things with a high Vision and a calm Eye. The End of Love is the Beginning of Life. And living means to survive proud, even haughty. Beethoven’s Music rumbles in the Background.