What's the Point?

Musings on the purpose of human life.

Posted by Abhi Desai on July 8, 2016

We humans are evolutionarily little more than complex monkeys. We may have created the Internet and the ISS, but at the end of the day our brains are little different than they were 40,000 years ago.

It seems our brains have run away with themselves in those 40,000 years. We are no longer content to simply live as our animal brethren are - we are constantly wracked by the tension between our desire to be accepted, loved, and acknowledged and our desire to be elite - to be superior to our peers, to be competitive and ambitious. This combination of cooperativity and ambition has allowed us to reach the moon and completely dominate our planet.

But at what cost?

Perhaps the price of human intelligence is human happiness. Consciousness and intellect have robbed our species of our ability to be content with survival; we get bored now, we invent games, we gossip, we fabricate fantastical worlds to escape into.

What is the point of human life, then?

Other animals exist to exist, their primary motive is to survive. But humans are immune from this impulse - we can be altruistic, we can sacrifice our own happiness (even our lives) for others or for our beliefs/morals. We are the only thing in existence with the capacity to understand its own form - we debate the existence of God, we ask why we exist, we attempt to split the atom and understand nature as it exists around us.

But what’s the point?

Some of us become addicted to monetary ambition - they attempt to achieve as much as possible, make as much money as they can. Are these people happy? Is the billionaire content, or does he constantly worry about maintaining and growing his riches? There is no joy in material wealth, because our brains are older than currency. How can a fabrication of our society be the solution to our happiness? No, the point of human life is not to achieve.

Some of us become lazy. Our society has so enabled survival that many choose to simply stumble along, performing the bare minimum expected of them and escaping from this reality whenever they can. They work mediocre jobs, live mediocre lives, enjoy mediocre comforts. There is no joy in simply existing - the greatest pain in the world must be that of a dying man who knows he has squandered his time on Earth.

Perhaps the purpose of consciousness is to be happy - to maximize our joy in the most productive and cooperative manner possible. We may find this joy in exploring the world, in helping others, in excelling at our chosen profession. In the same way that no two humans are the same, their happiness cannot be the same.

But we are still monkeys. We still want, more than anything, to be accepted and respected. We want to be acknowledged and valued, we want to be able to trust and confide in our loved ones. We want to be loved. This is perhaps the only desire all humans share.

Do we stand a chance?