Thursday, August 27, 2015

Oh, What's the Bloody Point?

Don't worry, despite the title, I'm not in the depths of depression or having a breakdown.  'Oh, what's the bloody point?' was, of course, the last entry Kenneth Williams made in his diary before taking a fatal overdose of barbiturates.  Whilst an open verdict was returned by the coroner's inquest into Williams' death, those words certainly indicate that he was a man at the end of his tether: tired of life, growing old and probably feeling that the various avenues of life were increasingly closed for him.  That said, perhaps his overdose was just an accident, rather than suicide.  After all, we've probably all uttered something similar at times of emotional stress, without it presaging an attempt to take our own lives.  I certainly seem to recall spitting out something along the same lines many, many years ago, when I young, foolish and careless with my heart - the stimulus being the announcement of a girl I was seeing that she wasn't just seeing someone else, but was going to marry them.  (It really shouldn't have come as a surprise that she was seeing someone else or getting married - in retrospect, my casualness about the relationship must have made it seem to her that: a) I wasn't interested in an 'exclusive' relationship and b) that I wasn't interested in a permanent relationship, which she clearly was.  To be fair, on the latter point she was right: at that time in my life the idea of a permanent or even just long-term relationship seemed horrifying.  Now, I'm not so sure).

But I'm straying from the point, which isn't to rake over the cold ashes of the dim and distant past.  I was reminded of the Williams quote the other day, when I came across an article on the web in which various atheists, agnostics and humanists explained what they thought the 'point' of life was and how they gave their lives 'purpose' in the absence of religious faith.  Many of their answers were interesting, but the ones I admired the most were the ones who eschewed the notion of 'purpose' altogether.  The apparent need of many people to feel that their lives should have 'meaning', 'purpose' or a 'point' has always fascinated me - it is something I've never really understood.  I can understand people who want to achieve some life's work for which they will be remembered after their death - it is a way of giving a gift to posterity or making a lasting contribution to the human experience.  But that's somewhat different to wanting life to have a point to it.  Surely simply being alive and staying in that state is a purpose in itself?  On a purely biological level, the only purpose of life is to perpetuate itself - reproduction to ensure the survival of the species. (I must admit, that I'm not sold on this - I feel no necessity to perpetuate my genes or my species.  Surely it must be the scorpions turn to be the dominant species?) Perhaps life's only 'purpose', in cosmic terms, is to battle entropy and temporarily stave off the eventual heat death of the universe, (according to the third law of thermodynamics - I think it is the third, feel free to correct me - all energy will eventually be reduced to heat, the lowest level of energy, which cannot be transformed into any higher form of energy: except by living beings and even then only temporarily).   Personally, I've never had a problem with my life being 'pointless': I feel no 'higher calling' or 'greater purpose'. I simply exist.  Which is the crux of it - the existence of life and human consciousness is, in itself, something of a miracle. A miracle we experience on a daily basis.  So we should enjoy it for what it is, while it lasts.



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