“It is a good thing to experience everything oneself… I learned that pleasures of the world were not good. I have known it for a long time, but I have only just experienced it.”
It’s everywhere. You see it everywhere. Someone loses a family member, but they are strangers and it doesn’t affect you at all in anyway―besides the slight twinge of sympathy. Someone believes in God, but you don’t believe because you’ve never experienced what it’s like to really believe. Someone gets into a car crash―you see it on TV all the time―but they’re only strangers. It doesn’t affect you at all.
But what if your parents started to get sick, the stupid mistake that leads you from the road to the hospital, the feeling that makes you need a purpose in life to live.
But it doesn’t happen.
So it doesn’t matter.
Because it doesn’t affect you.
So what does really matter in our lives? What is our purpose? Humans always seem to go on with their lives, living for their own benefits. For money. For happiness. For satisfaction. But our lives are all repetitive. That’s how the world was built; you wake up, go to school, do homework, and then sleep. Repeat. The extraordinary ones step up to change the world. The rest of us lie in the dirt… working, working, working until we’re dead.
But life isn’t that straightforward, it never was. There’s so many adventures that are restricted to us, as teenagers, until we find what’s important to us―what we want to do. Siddhartha, from the novel Siddhartha written by Hermann Hesse, knew that he wasn’t happy―that he was miserable―so he made a change for himself. He stood up and walked away from his old life-started a journey for himself, that in the end, he wouldn’t regret.
Three years ago, my friend asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. It’s a constant, recurring question―the more important the closer you get to college. I guess it was just how she asked it, “What do you want to be when you grow up, Christina?” that made me hesitate. My usually answer: “To be a doctor.” And as the BFF she is, she counterattacked me. Do you really want to be that? Avoids eye contact, stares into distance, nods. Are you sure? Hesitate. Nod. Or is that what your parents want you to be? It’s a torrent of questions, and I was a nervous, shy kid. Yet I’m still very thankful for the turn of events. Three years later now, I want to become something that I actually care about. Something that I’m truly passionate about. I don’t think I would last a year in med school if it was me now; I wouldn’t have a purpose to live. I wouldn’t be passionate and I wouldn’t love life. But now I’ve chosen a different road, a different perspective―one that I actually decided myself and one that I actually want to try pursuing.
From Tao Te Ching, Laotzu said: “Do you want to improve the world? I don’t think it can be done.” But you can improve yourself. You can try to find yourself, like Siddhartha found his Self. Taoism is exactly like that. According to this article, Taoism is a system of beliefs. “The path of understanding Taoism is simply accepting yourself. Live life and discover who you are. Don’t try to resolve the various contradictions in life, instead learn acceptance of your nature.”
I see it a lot. From videos on Youtube to Facebook posts. “I want to become ____, but I’m here stuck studying something I dislike because of money.” It breaks my heart, it really does. I feel like I’m getting myself into a lot of hardships for doing something that I actually want to do instead of taking the easy route and becoming what my parents wanted me to be. I don’t know what to expect, but I want to try. Because I care. I’ve voiced my thoughts to a few people, and they all supported me. “Do it because you won’t have a second chance―so take the shot.” “It’s generally a bad idea if you pick something you have no interest in and if you can’t succeed at.”
Despite all of this, you can’t only benefit yourself. Similar to Siddhartha, he was at one point, accumulating upon riches and riches for himself, yet he was still very unsatisfied and unhappy―even more unsatisfied than when he started off―and nearing the point of killing himself. But what saves his life? His old friend, Govinda. The secrets of the river. The ferryman that helped him several years prior. Throughout his lifelong journey, he comes to realize more and more things. He learns from himself and how to be better.
In the Seven Samurai, a village of farmers is in desperate need of help because of nearby bandits who are coming to steal their crops for food. Troubled, they try to recruit samurais to help. Kambei Shimada comes to the rescue, and despite the penalty of death, he helps them even though he barely gets anything out of it.
So what really is the purpose of life? Learn your strengths and weaknesses. Learn to see what you really want and pursue it. Learn to benefit and help others through acts of selflessness. But honestly, there’s really no definite answer. Life is too full of surprises and cracks that all we can really do is push through. And whilst doing so, finding what you want to do in life and are passionate about would make the journey, not easier, but better.