Image above: Depositphotos.com.
What’s the point of life if it’s so fragile that a simple virus can suddenly take it? What remains and what we can do with our lives in the age of coronavirus?
I mean, besides wearing masks, washing hands with alcohol gel and avoiding public places, what can we do?
Is life just about surviving? If so, we are screwed because sooner or later, we must die. So, what’s worth fighting for, and what’s the point of existing in this fragile and short dimension of time?
Let’s answer these questions. But let’s do this from a deep and real place. We have had enough religious and motivational bullshit. If we want to find answers, we must dig deep.
Our quest must begin by looking at the most undesirable, scary, but undoubtedly present reality in the chain of life: death.
Have you ever looked at someone dying? Not the statistics of coronavirus or Hollywood movies, but in real life, in front of you. Have you ever had to deal with a chronic disease slowly taking away a beloved one? Have you suffered the loss of having some sudden accident or crime suddenly interrupting a friend’s or relative’s life?
Death, disease, and disgrace look banal when displayed on media or movies, but if you’ve seen it from close, you were probably shaken at your very foundation.
We are trained to believe in the beauty of life. Programmed to think we are special and can change the world. We behave as if everything we do matters. From post-death religious and new age theories to the pursuit of some remarkable glory to immortalize our name, each of us has created a personal way to anesthetize the inconvenient feeling which arises from the confrontation with the fragility and brevity of life. But we can’t escape those moments when all our positiveness is taken away, and we’re left with this son inconvenient question: “what is the point of life?”
We fear death not only because it threatens our survival. We fear it because it puts in check the meaning of all our dreams and purpose. Money, assets, glories, knowledge, even our memories become pointless once we realize we’re just tiny particles of life about to disappear in the infiniteness of time. Death puts in to check our most basic reasons for living.
From the gigantic pyramids and golden sarcophagus of Egypt to the Tibetan Book of Dead and the Christian myth of paradise, purgatory, and hell, our ancestors have developed different approaches to death. Real or not, positive or evil, at least such approaches existed. Our ancestors at least gave a place for death in their understanding of life.
But what about our current world? How do we deal with death?
We’ve learned to banalize it.
Our movie industry has created Rambo, Terminator, and other captivating massive killers, turning death into entertainment. Our media brings daily news about accidents, natural disasters, plagues, and killings, mixed with weather reports and cake recipes. We’ve gotten so busy with work or entertainment that we don’t stop to contemplate our deepest feelings about death. We’ve created a husk to protect us from these emotions. We don’t find it productive or fun, so we just anesthetize our feelings and turn our back, sweeping the matter under the carpet.
We are replacing our philosophers with motivational coaches and capitalist gurus. They sell rules of life or techniques to awake our inner lion so we can keep our existential crisis in the closet. But the point is: existential crises are necessary! It can be an excellent thing if we are courageous enough to go deep. Unfortunately, and ironically, our society condemns and labels this as defeatism, weakness or cowardice. But facing the question of death and all the emotions hidden under its surface is one of the bravest and most productive things a human being can do. It’s the most effective path to find true meaning in life.
So, let’s face the facts. Let’s see the shadow cast by death over our kind. Let’s face some obvious conclusions that we usually prefer to ignore:
1) Human life is a constant fight against nature
Yes, if you want to stay alive, you cannot stop fighting nature. It doesn’t matter how exhausted or depressed you are; you can’t stop.
Stop cutting your hair and nails. Stop taking a shower; let your body exhale its natural smells. Eat all you want—no more working out. Let it be. Never again cut the grass of your garden. No maintenance for your car. No cleaning for your house. Sleep whenever you want. Wake up whenever you want. Say whatever you want, whenever you want. Don’t repress your emotions. Cry at the office. Runaway every time you feel afraid. Don’t suppress your violence. Punch whoever you wish to. Let it be. Free your innermost sexual instincts. Be free!
Yes, do all of this and be free for as long as you can before you get caught, imprisoned, fired, exiled, killed. We have no other choice than fighting nature inside and around us to survive. If we stop, we are done. It’s exhaustive! We spend so much time, energy, and money – also much of our life – just to postpone death. So many things we must do, just to be alive! Yet will be defeated at the end. We’re fighting a losing war. Is it worth it?
2) You’ll be erased from the planetary memory
We all live under the shadow of meaninglessness. How long will it take until you are completely forgotten? It doesn’t matter how notorious you are, you’ll end up being vanished from the memory of the future generations. It doesn’t matter how much you do; time will make sure to destroy not only you but everyone you love and everything you have done. And if you look up at the sky, you may realize you are one of almost 8 billion humans, alive just for a brief moment, inside this tiny planet, orbiting around one of the 250 billion suns contained in the Milky Way.
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Maybe this will make you question the real importance of your actions, goals, and even your bigger purpose. Are you really important? Does what you do really matter?
3) The nature of life is cruel
It doesn’t matter how much we worship the beauty of life and the sanctity of God. Life is painful, violent, cruel, and brutal. Nature itself is good and evil in the same proportion. It doesn’t matter how much we try to be good. We, children of nature, end up bringing destruction to our environment, to other species, and our own kind. And we’re not alone. The whole chain of life is structured this way. There are not many options but eating or being eaten. Even the plants fight and kill each other.
To make it worse, nature is temperamental. It can’t resist creating storms, hurricanes, volcanos, tsunamis, and earthquakes. Natural disasters periodically come with no sense of justice, messing with everything and everyone they find in their path.
How do we keep our faith and stay positive in the face of so much brutality and destruction? It doesn’t matter how good we are, how much we achieve, and how positive our mind is. There will be no happy ending. Just death awaiting us at the end of the path.
What’s the point of life?
So, if life is a constant fight against nature, we will be erased from the planetary memory, and the nature of life is cruel, does it make sense to be alive? What’s the point of life? Is it possible to find a reasonable answer without relying on post-death religious or new age theories?
The nature of life cannot be interpreted by our intellect. It will never make sense to our minds. But if we observe our natural and instinctive reaction in front of our existential dilemmas, we’ll find what defines us as human beings.
We can learn a lot from observing our attitude in the face of life and death. And we can learn precious lessons from these observations:
1) We are warriors – you are made of personal power
We are warriors at our very core. We were born from violence! A hundred million sperms were competing to invade an egg full of chemical barriers intended to kill them all. That’s how we began. And we fight during our whole life. Think of how many threats you have faced. Each of your skills, you’ve developed through effort. Nothing came for free! While still a baby, you’ve fought such a battle against gravity, till you could walk. Developing language was hard. How much effort did you put into learning while you were still a kid so you could develop your intellectual skills at school? And the list goes on, until the battle you have to fight today, to survive one more day in this wild world we live.
Our warrior spirit, combined with our creativity and ingenuity, makes us incredible beings! We, small creatures, lacking strength and agility, have managed to surpass so many species that could have extinguished us. We’ve fought our way and have made the impossible possible, thriving in such a competitive, wild, and dangerous world. And despite all the challenges around and within ourselves, we don’t stop our fight. We’ve invented beautiful things to fight our challenges! Agriculture for starvation, medicine for diseases, even diplomacy and ecology for the collateral damage of our inherent violence over ourselves and our environment. We’re constantly facing death, and it doesn’t matter how many times it wins, we keep pushing it farther and farther away, extending step by step each generation’s lifetime.
We’re miraculous creatures! We dream of the impossible and fight hard to make it achievable. We believe in perfection, peace, goodness, and eternal happiness. We have this flame that insists on being alive, despite how much we may be suffering.
Now, instead of intellectualizing, just feel it. You can connect with this inherent power, which makes you so human and so incredible. You can meditate there, contemplating your personal power. It doesn’t matter how exhausted you are, it’s still there, keeping you alive. It’s yours. You can grab it and enjoy it!
2) Our actions define us much more than our results
It’s quite interesting to notice how much we’ve become obsessed with success. Even before starting a project, we’re already anxious for the results. Such social behavior has achieved a pathological level! We live for the future. We’ve become addicted to it. Although, when you bring time and death to the equation of life, all your accomplishments and victories become almost pointless. Nothing will remain. All your accomplishments will be erased by time. And the happiness and boost of self-importance you feel when you achieve a goal is even more fragile. It vanishes after a few days, if not hours. But you can focus on your actions, instead of on the results, and it can make all the difference in your life.
The only thing you have is your present moment. Life is in constant change, and you’ll never live the same moment twice. How can you bring your best now? How can you bring your heart to whatever you do? Real miracles happen when you stop trying to avoid your present. When you face your love, sadness, anger, fear, joy, anxiety, and boringness with the same acceptance, this whole chaotic and wild set of contradictory emotions burning and boiling within your guts is your inner life.
Embrace it! Feel its crazy intensity. It passes too fast. The wholly peaceful and happy person you wish to be will never exist. But when you stop running away and open yourself to whatever you feel at the moment, you also get much more receptive to the life around you. Your numbness will vanish. You’ll get much closer to people. You will find yourself much more sympathetic and compassionate. And from this place, you can find little daily actions which make the difference.
So, don’t hurry. Remember, the end of the journey is in the grave. Your most precious asset is your present moment. It doesn’t matter how much you dream of a better life, don’t neglect the life you already have. Enjoy each step of your journey. Don’t forget the future, but don’t let it blind you to the actions you can take today—act from your heart. Maybe you can’t save the world, but you can bring a smile to someone’s face today, and it can be enough.
3) Respect and admire who you are
If you can find chaos, cruelty, and brutality in life, you can expect to find these elements also within yourself. You are nature, you are life. You are good and evil, constructive, and destructive at once.
Have you ever seen a volcano crying of guilt after exploding? So, why should you blame yourself for your negative aspects? We human beings are transcendent creatures! We care, and we fight our own darkness. We want to be better.
Sometimes we succeed, but there are times when we lose the battle. It’s ok; you don’t need to blame yourself. You don’t need self-punishment. You are already much better than you should be! Recognize and honor your efforts. Respect yourself so that you can stand in a place of power in your life. So, whenever the inescapable hands of death come to rip you, you will not find a defeated and broken sinner, but an honorable person, with peace in the heart, conscious of your contribution to the chain of life.
Rudá Iandê is a shaman and creator of Out of the Box, an online workshop based on his lifetime of supporting people to break through imprisoning structures to live life with personal power. You can attend a free masterclass with Rudá Iandê here (it plays in your local time).