On the radio today, there was a reference to a kindness test, that followed a programme on BBC Radio 4. It’s worth a listen if this link works. It made me think about that age old philosophical conundrum, asked of children and adults the world over. “Why are we here, mum?” Very existentialist, I know. .
For centuries, millennia probably, man/woman has asked him/herself that question and belief systems have been created to try and answer it. It haunts many people, this need to find a purpose to their existence that is embedded, innate. In some cases the lack can have appalling consequences for the individual who finds they don’t have a purpose or the purpose they identify is insufficiently compelling to justify to themselves their continued existence.
Sometimes, the passing of the years allows a certain comfort that each individual can find their own way, understand their own purpose, maybe in their family, in their work, in their beliefs. I suspect that finding empathy with oneself, having an internal compassion is crucial to finding that level of equanimity. However…
Why are we put here?
For me the answer to that age old question is not 42, or some derivative as Douglas Adams would have us believe but more a rather indifferent: ‘why not?’
Why does their have to be a pre-determined purpose at all? I realise I might be straying into the territory of religion and I’m not here to suggest anyone who finds their purpose through their beliefs is wrong.
But for me this question is misconceived. Irrelevant. I don’t believe anyone is here for a purpose ordained by someone/thing else.
No, for me the question is not ‘why am I here?’ but rather ‘what am I going to do now I am here and for however long I remain here?’ It isn’t about anyone else, anyone else’s ideas for me, but more about my own ideas for myself.
I don’t believe that, per Thomas Hobbes
the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short
though there are times when he seemed nearer to the truth than Panglossian optimisim
all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds
Or some Micawberish hope
something will turn up
But it is undeniable that life is uncertain and transient.
So don’t go about wondering on the befores and the afters of your existence but concentrate on the now, on what you can do today. In the words of Tom Hanks – sorry Mr Rodgers: “Be kind.” That’s the way to ensure a measure of self compassion and inner quietude. After all a cleverer man than me said
“Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together.” —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Or, as I used to do as a kid when served my mum’s treacle sponge pudding, start on the inside and work out.