Most unanswerable questions have an easy answer. Of course that doesn’t mean that it’s the right answer—there is no right answer to an unanswerable question. We call those Questions ‘unanswerable’ because we can never be certain what the answers are, but humans have been tossing out possibilities since the beginning of our fragile history.
How did we get here? God. Evolutionary luck. Spaceships.
Where are we going? To a better place. To a shallow grave. To another dimension.
What is life? A sacred gift. A convenient accident. The opposite of death.
What is our purpose?
Hmm. Okay, so not all unanswerable questions have easy answers. Not that we as a species haven’t had a few stabs at it—some as simple and palatable as monotheism—but the intricacies of the question and the implications of such possible answers have made this one of the Toughies. I say that upfront so as not to get any hopes up. This question will not be answered once and for all in the following paragraphs, and there is a good chance that after reading this you will be more frustrated and uncertain than before you started. But if you possess a strong disposition and/or a vein of metaphysical masochism, then by all means, read on and explore with me the nature of the universe within ourselves.
At the risk of being smote, be it by lightning or less dramatic means, I am going to put aside God for the time being. No offense to the Great Creator, be it who it may, but when it comes to answering big Questions, the idea of a single omnipotent being is an oversimplified answer that makes moot more sophisticated discussion. Not that God is any less right than any other answer, it is just a lot less fun to discuss. So let’s move on to the next simplest answer.
Ahh, but isn’t it beautiful just to say? As simple as God, as complex as God, as lovely and as true—but so much more interesting to discuss, I think, because there are more distinct individualized ideas of love than there are of God. I love sunshine. I love baking. I love you. I love myself. I love lamp. The love list goes on and on, and who’s to say what I really mean by love? Oh, I know, when you know you know. Sure there’s that kind of love—the stare in each other’s eyes and don’t say a word because you don’t need to, and besides what word can come close to describing the feeling of sharing that…that connection, with someone else?
So, there’s a simple answer for you. The purpose of life is to feel that otherworldly, interdimensional, time-altering feeling of connection with someone—for a brief, eternal moment to have your leaky raft bump into someone else’s and be lashed together, to cling desperately to this other lost soul so that you may enjoy the beauty of the terrifyingly endless ocean together—or at least to be lonely together. Logic is not much use to you in this line of thinking, but that’s part of the beauty of it. As faith is to God, illogic emotion is to love. Don’t over-think it. Just believe.
There are other kinds of love, though, besides the airbrushed heartthrob that gets all the leading Hollywood roles. There is the love of friendship (same same but different?) and family (OHHH so different, but maybe even stronger, but wait, do I even get a choice?) and pets (so innocent, so pure, so…wait, are you my slave??). There is the love of crafts (using your body to create something more immortal than yourself) and art (creatively expressing your emotions, articulating higher truths, serving as a conduit from something deep within or high above) and athletics (pushing your delicate shell of a body to is farthest limits with only your indomitable will as the motivator). You can love being happy. You can love life. You can love the fact that you love and not think any more about it than that. And are those loves any less important or likely to be the Purpose that you seek?
Maybe. Probably. Ah, who knows? Nobody! This is an unanswerable question we’re talking about. Maybe love is the answer, however you define it; or maybe it is God, however you define that. Maybe the purpose of life is any number of the billion other possibilities that people have dreamt up since the invention of dreams, including the nihilistic favorite: nothing. Whatever answer you tell yourself, whatever certainty you set your mind to, the aggravating and beautiful thing about our species is that we will never be able to silence that nagging voice in the back of our mind. We will never be able to stop searching for purpose, to try and answer those unanswerable questions.
I love that.