I feel I’ve reached a new stage of my life. I was very ill a few months ago and realised some harsh truths.
Amongst them – life inherently has no purpose. It’s an old thread. Are we “spiritual” beings in biological bodies? Or are we biological beings with a “spiritual” nature?
My definition of spiritual is metacognitive, the part of our brain that can not only observe our thought patterns but observe the observance of those thought patterns.
I am no scientist. I understand the rudimentaries of evolution enough and have read several books on neuroscience. These explorations lead me to postulate that I am a biological being with a brain that has advanced past instinct and pattern making to complex thought. And thus, I have come to the conclusion that I am a biological being with a brain capable of thinking about thinking about thinking.
Therefore, I am first biological. If you were to deprive me of mental stimulation and food then offer me one or the other after a period of days, I would need the food first. (I kinda think I’d demand it).
As a biological being I have failed myself and my male sexual partners over the years because I have not carried through with the biological imperative of reproduction. I am the first and last of my line. There will be no one of my bloodline to succeed me and pass along my genetic information.
So as a biological being, I am a failure.
As a thinking, metacognitive being — I cry out “What is my purpose?” And all I get is an echo. Because, as I discovered when my husband was diagnosed with cancer and died, the universe is indifferent and unthinking. It’s neither beneficent or maleficent.
So, as a metacogntive being – my life inherently has no purpose. As a human being of the species Homo Sapiens, my inclinations are to connect and be part of a community according to the author of the book “Sapiens”. It used to be easy to be part of a community – geography and family largely dictated that.
But as a human being who now lives on the other side of the planet from her birthplace and quite a large distance away from family – having created no family of my own – have I created a situation so foreign to my ancient wiring that I am doomed to feel disconnected, confused and purposeless for the rest of my life?
I want more than just a nice place to live, nice food to eat, a job that is reasonably pleasant, and a nice, painless death. Or do I?
Is it egocentric of me to think that I have more to contribute than I do? Am I fooling myself that I’m some sort of special, that I have dormant greatness that I have been too lazy or ignorant to unleash? Am I, at best, common coin? Should I simply get on with anesthetizing myself with the pleasures within my power to enjoy before I succumb to old age?
What DO I have to contribute? I have love. I am good at problem-solving. I have a creative bent, a sense of humor, a pleasant voice and empathy. I can communicate well, enjoy teaching and learning, singing and theatre and am obsessed with politics, philosophy and how brains and bodies work together.
I try to be a better person and to answer big questions such as where I stand on social issues, what sort of feminist I want to be, what would better situations that negatively impact humanity.
But how do I translate those vague, “crime is bad” statements into a blueprint for my life?
What has resonated for me most in my study of existential crises is that the non-biological meaning of life is to be of service to others. To engage in community in a purposeful way, to give back and to receive the benefits of being part of the family of humankind.
I would like to do so as a teacher in some capacity – but what could I teach that is important enough to give back to my community? And which community?
I feel most passion when talking about women’s rights, participating in evidence-based discussions, the importance of learners to develop life-long learning skills beyond a seminar or course or degree and legislation relating to social policy issues.
Topics that interest me include neuroscience, feminism, Jungian archetypes, the current state of US politics, science – fact and fiction, writing, theatre, music, philosophy and future-casting.
So, where to from here?
How do I create a blueprint for my life that taps into my strengths, aligns with my interests and allows me to be of service to at least one of my communities?
Writing comes up for me, but then I do nothing. If it were a passion – surely it would draw me, I would rush home to do it – wake up in the small hours with creative ideas and visions?
Teaching adults draws me. I love working with people, but I have no qualifications as a teacher nor a sufficient body of work or academic background. I have training qualifications, so could explore that – but teaching is more rewarding than training. Training teaches people how to do something – teaching is about helping people to master new content and develop new ways of thinking so they can contribute to the field as not only an efficient practitioner, but as a contributor and innovator. You train someone to use MS Word. You teach someone writing for different audiences and purposes.
I am frustrated – increasingly so – as I hear the beat of time passing and me just getting older. Sometimes I think all I want to do is to live by the beach, watching the eternal pattern of waves and sun and wind and sand – taking in the smells and the spray of the water and the sound of the seagulls as I immerse myself in it, feeling my cells disperse until I lose all sense of time and my physical body and my metacognitive self. That’s what is going to happen after I die – why not enjoy it now?