Letters to a Concerned Free-Thinker, Letter #1: Purpose:
The worst human crime that one can bestow upon another, the crime that one should not seek to spread, is the crime of appropriated purpose; it is a crime to tell someone what their purpose is.
I once was asked by a stranger, well walking past the usual corner store that I pass on my trips home from my department, the question:“What is the purpose of life?” Having been at that time not particularly interested in existential musings – more interested in stock numbers – and not really in the best frame of mind to talk to as well, I responded with a question of my own, “What is the meaning of your life?“- All in the expectation of avoiding conversation. However, what I did not expect was his quick and strange response, “the meaning of my life is subjective: purpose is not”, and the stare that accompanied it. Instead of engaging further, I sought to rush home as soon as possible and get away from the individual. It was during that night that the most peculiar thoughts came to my mind; thoughts at which I now express here.
The question that the stranger has initially asked, well strange, was in fact an objective question. If one is to consider the question, “what is the purpose of life?” and compare it with the question, “what is the meaning of your life?” one will notice an interesting difference. Well the latter is easily recognised as being a subjective question on the basis of the pronoun “your”, the former, however, is not as easily recognisable. The former carries with it an objective property, this being the noun “purpose”, which can be either taken subjectively (depending on the context), or objectively (again, depending on the context). Depending upon how the individual views the question, the answer to it will shape their mental framework. If one viewed the question in a subjective manner, then the answer would depend upon the person assessing it; the street sweeper might find the purpose to their life in the medial task they do. If, however, one were to view the question in an objective manner, then the answer would not be determined by the person assessing it; the street sweeper might find the purpose to their life as not being in the medial task they do, and in some external factor. Objectivity is not the ideal form of a property; objectivity is rather the maximum potential of a property to be ideal. Instead of purpose being strictly the ideal vision of a system, purpose is instead the maximum potential for that system to be ideal. The biological purpose of a mammal is to reproduce and spread their genes; however the mammal can only get as close to that ideal. I distinctly remember my writings as an adolescent, who was still wondering about my place in this cosmos. Some of the notes have been provided below:
The first time someone tells you what your purpose is, is the moment you know that they are deciding an answer for you. No one can answer the question for you; no one!
It is you who answers it. For that answer you give is one that, not only is one of liberty, but freedom as well. Humans seem to want control over their neighbour’s lives, more so then they should. From religious apologists to concerned passers, everyone seems to want to have a say in each other’s destiny. It is, however, always bad; we all, after all, share a ‘room’ with our neighbour, and what we do in that room affects what our neighbour will do. Yet, purpose and meaning are still our own to decide; our neighbour may share the same room, but in effect we have our own book to write. We keep our own book on a shelf, or a different shelf (dependent what types of shelves you get cheap), the point is there are separate books, one for us and the one for our neighbours. By having the liberty and freedom to the contents in the book with which we write in, it will allow one the greatest of rights. The problem comes when others start writing in our own book.
When your neighbour writes the contents and decides what happens next, directing you in what way they wish you to go, you will have your freedom impeded upon. Putting this into perspective, the people who tell you the answer to a question that only concerns you are the ones threatening your liberty and freedom. People must be aware of their neighbour’s activity, if it concerns their interests. This is not to be taken as ‘peaking over your neighbour’s shoulder, while they write’ (though there will be those that do, to you, and you may do it in-spite of your neighbour), or ‘taking your neighbour’s book and scanning through its contents’, no. It is to say to be aware of your neighbour’s presence. People forget about the company they keep, and it is this forgetfulness that can prove their downfall.
As one can see by my writings, I have since developed in my attitude towards the book one places on their shelf. Though everyone has the liberty to write what they wish, and in that affect live the way they wish, there will always be a collision of ideals. We live in unison to others, we interact with others on a daily basis, some by accident, others not. The stranger that I had met only asked me a question that I should have given a proper answer to, but in my arrogance I left it. In some way I have left a tiny note in their book, but I do not think it is one that I might approve of…but that is how the wind blew that day. Looking back on some of my notes, and recollecting at the nature I wrote them in; I cannot help but mention one last note:
For meaning and purpose may be yours to decide, the answer is not always permanent; it is forever changing as time and circumstance allows it to do so. For the look in the room may grow weary with time, but as long as there is the author to write out the book of their life, the room will always be vibrant, and will always live on. When all the time is up and the last words written, it will join a great library where it will remain as an omen of what once was the author’s words.
This I write to you.
Knowledge is power.
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson 19/02/2014