The importance of purpose

Hat man sein warum des Lebens, so verträgt man sich fast mit jedem wie.

If one has a why in life, he can bear almost any how.

– Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

For most animals, the majority of their waking hours are spent on tasks that help them sustain their life.  If the animal is a predator, he will spend most of his time hunting for its next meal.  If the animal is trapped in a storm, he will spend a great deal of time trying to stay dry and warm.  If the animal is thirsty, he will try to find a cold and clear pool to drink from.

For most of our history, man was such an animal.  His purpose was immediate and apparent.  He had to survive.  Most everything else in his life was incidental and secondary.  If ancient man made any sort of error in these basic essentials, he was doomed to death.

In contrast, modern man, assuming he was born in a half way competent county, has no such worries.  Even the most incompetent members of modern society are given plenty of food to eat, a roof over their head, and safety from danger is as good as guaranteed from birth.

Not having to constantly be on the look out for panther attacks or worrying about your where your next meal is coming from has left modern man with a lot of spare time on his hands.  It has left man open to pursue the grandeur of high art, study the mysteries of science, and construct and tame his environment through engineering.  It has also allowed him to grow fat from excess, indulge every sexual whim without consequence, and own more shiny bits of plastic than he could possibly have use for.  Unfortunately, humanity chooses the latter pursuits more often than not.

What distinguishes noble pursuits from base ones is purely a result of their outcome.   These one type of behavior can lead to waste and destruction while the other leads to a better quality of life and creation.  When looking at it from a distance, the choice is clear what kind of behavior man should encourage.  Why is it the case then that so many people do not act with creative intent?

The answer lies in the kind of motivation that precedes each of these activities.  Think of the choice between eating junk food or something healthy.  Given the choose between a slice of pizza or an apple for a snack, the vast majority of humanity would choice the junk food.  Yet, almost everyone knows the apple is better for you.

The reason that people will choose the pizza almost every time is because it offers instant gratification.  It tastes great.  You will instantly feel pleasure while you consume it.  The apple offers essential vitamins and complex sugars needed for nutrition.  It’s effects can only be seen after a long time.

Consider now that you are on a diet.  You need to lose weight and you know eating bad food will prevent you from doing so.  If your will to lose weight was stronger than the desire for instant gratification, you’ll have the apple for the snack.  Your long term goal would allow you to weigh each option with that in mind and allow you to make the correct choice.

Societies live by these same principles.  Right now, modernity does not offer anyone a purpose. Our ability to survive has outpaced our societies ability to come up with reasons to live. As modern technology continues to make life easier and easier, we will continue to see more destructive behavior emerge from the general populace for the sake of pleasure. We will continue to degenerate until the very things that make life easy now are not so easily attained.  Perhaps then, nature will then have the final say after all.

3 responses to “The importance of purpose

  1. “Our ability to survive has outpaced our societies ability to come up with reasons to live.” This is so true, and particularly evident in today’s youth.

    • And it keeps on getting worse the younger the generation gets. The amount of time some of the people, even my own age, spend on pointless things like social media and gaming is mind-boggling.

      It’s hard to blame them though. It’s the path of least resistance when the cards are stacked against you to do anything else.

  2. Pingback: Society without sense | NOVUS SÆCULUM OBSCURUM

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