“Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” These are the big questions of life. We call these existential questions because, without the answers, we suffer from an existential crisis.
We think of a crisis as a bad thing, as something to be avoided. But, the origin of the word crisis is the Greek words krisis” and “krino,” ancient Greek words meaning “to decide” and “turning point.” A crisis can be an opportunity.
I believe the biggest problem facing humanity today is that we have forgotten who we are and why we are here. For most of our existence, we’ve had a decent handle on this. Ancient people believed we were spiritual beings placed here by a creator (some thought of these creators as loving, some not so loving). But, they knew this material world was not all that exists.
A little over a century ago, we became enamored with science and technology. The need for gods to explain the natural order of things seemed to be an relic of the past.
The scientific method was developed because humanity believed that to understand an orderly God, the way to learn about him was by understanding his orderly creation. God’s creation was a reflection of who God himself is. But, the modern understanding came to be that the creation created itself. God was superfluous, which meant we were not spiritual beings.
Meaningful Life Questions
This led to the conclusion that we are biological robots existing in an accidental and uncaring universe. We are nothing more than the sum of our body parts.
Consciousness, if it exists, arises from this lump of materials that have self-organized into such a complex structure that something we cannot explain rose out of it. If consciousness arises from this organization of material structures, it indeed collapses when the structure crumbles.
This belief might make it difficult for you to find meaning in your life. If you are an accident of nature only here for a fleeting moment, too brief for nature to even take notice, what is the purpose of your existence?
Answering Big Life Questions
We have a choice in how we view thing the big questions of life. I always like to start with what we know. In the law, they say there’s what you know and what you can prove. When I look at a situation, I like to break it down into what I know and what I believe.
We know that we all come into this plane of existence via birth. And, we know that this body will die. Everyone who has ever been born has died, except those born recently. We know there are no 500-year-old people running. The death of the body is universal. This is what we know. This is an indisputable bedrock fact.
We’ve already discussed the first point of view we can choose, the belief that we came into existence when our bodies in our mothers’ wombs became sufficiently complex to boot up and create consciousness. When that brain isn’t adequately oxygenated, consciousness shuts off like turning off a light switch.
The other point of view is vastly different. But, it’s the point of view most of mankind had for the first several millennia of our existence. It’s also the point of view of many people who are seemingly more connected to who they are today. We often refer to them as “indigenous” people.
That point of view is that all is not as it seems here. There’s more to the story. We are spiritual beings here for a temporary human experience.
Suppose we hold this point of view. If we grasp that we are spiritual beings from a place beyond here, it has profound implications for life. We come here to experience, grow, love, and improve. Our bodies are temporary. We are not. These experiences and this love; we take with us when our time here is over.
This point of view brings meaning to what can seem to be little lives. It brings a purpose for the pain that forges us. The pain forces us to grow. Our lives, as short as they are in the body, stretch for eternity.
It’s the crises of life that force us to examine why we are here. Suddenly, nothing makes sense anymore. The old ways of doing things no longer work. Nothing brings us joy. Life feels like a colossal waste of time and effort. These crises rouse us from our slumber and make us examine these big questions of life: “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?”
It’s in the answers to those questions that the true joy of life resides because people’s spirits need hope and purpose as much as our biological bodies need food and water.
Brian D. Smith is the author of Grief 2 Growth: Planted, Not Buried. How to Survive and Thrive After Life’s Greatest Challenges – Kindle edition by Smith, Brian D. Health, Fitness & Dieting Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.Tags: grief process