From 3 translations of the verse 20 Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching:
(Brian Browne Walker, 1996): “Everyone else takes his place and does his job; I alone remain wild and natural and free.”
(Stephen Mitchell, 1988): “Other people have a purpose; I alone don’t know. I drift like a wave on the ocean, I blow as aimless as the wind.”
(Derek Lin, 2006): “The people all have goals And I alone am stubborn and lowly”
Lao Tzu’s aimlessness, the opposition against purpose stuck in my mind for quite a while. I let the subconscious do its magic and the insight popped out couple of weeks later.
Man has built an artificial human game atop of the way of the Nature. Over the past 200 years since the Industrial Revolution he’s isolated himself so much from the Nature that he foolishly believes the human game is the real deal, of higher importance, that Nature is just a background noise providing raw materials to serve his endless desires. He takes the Nature as a servant to the human kind.
His life is defined by GDP, sustainable growth in finite supply, globalization, competition, success, rewards, debt, ownership, consumption, standard of living, wealth. He doesn’t want prosperity for all, but for himself. For himself the most, to the fullest extent.
But history repeats itself unless he learns the lessons. It took Copernicus, Galileo & Kepler to debunk Geocentric model. Man has another “-centric” self-deception to be corrected. In today’s society, money is the center of the human kind. He’s created Argentumcentric model — supposedly endless supply of fiat currencies ruling the world, appearing to make the Nature revolve around money.
He buys the Nature, sells the Nature, owns the Nature, exploits the Nature, poisons the Nature, reshapes the Nature. Whatever he likes, he can do with the Nature. At least he believes so.
Yet the Nature herself is tirelessly working on her own dissertation for the public release. She actually publishes her findings around the clock. But the mainstream — the common man — seems to be ignorant of her observations. He seems to be too preoccupied chasing the perks of the human game instead of living in harmony with the real world.
The best part — he knows the human game is a scam. Perhaps not knowing it consciously, but there’s a self-correcting mechanism built in in all the Nature, including the man.
When a man starves, all he wants is to eat a bit. When he has enough food, he craves for exquisite and rare food. When he has nothing, all he wants is to have enough. When he has enough, he craves for expensive and cool. When a man is lonely, all he wants is a human companion. When he is with a companion, his mind wonders somewhere else. When a man is depressed, all he wants is a moment of joy or love. When joy and love are present, he takes them for granted. When he reaches his goal, he creates more ambitious ones. When he buys a new perk, his “happiness” diminishes quickly, so he craves for a new perk.
Whether you take a man for a man, or for a nation, or for a human kind, it’s the same for all. Never saying “I have enough, I need not more,” but always craving for more, or better, or more precious.
From his indulgence to food he becomes fat, to things he gets in debt, to companion he becomes possessive, to love he gets jealous or cheats, to goals he becomes tired and lonely, to perks he becomes addicted.
Self-correction appears as pain. And he can either embrace the pain and remove the causes to reach balance, or he can numb the pain. Alcohol, drugs, medication, TV&movies, video games, entertainment, shopping, sex, work, deception, lying — all is a mind numbing black hole.
So, why do we search for meaning of life?
Because we know this game is insane. Red flags are all over the place, constantly. But we think it’s impossible to get out of this game, so making up a meaning of life serves just as a rationalized justification to keep on playing. To be able to bear it, without breaking down in hopelessness.
When you read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning, his horrific experience from the Auschwitz concentration camp, he explained that from those prisoners who didn’t make up a meaning of life, no matter how small or commonplace, none survived the death camps.
I drift like a wave on the ocean, I blow as aimless as the wind.
When we think about purpose or meaning, it should answer the question why we (should) do what we do. It should be the final point, nothing more profound should appear behind it. Yet Frankl claims that the purpose is different for every man. If that’s so, then it’s simply a psychological construct, a sham, a matter of personal choice.
It is fake. No matter what meaning of life you come up with, simply continuously asking “Why?” around the chosen purpose just creates more rationalizations.
Meaning is hope. To keep going. To keep taking the downfalls, misfortunes, even horrors caused by other men. Why? Because we choose to.
Take invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11. They said we need to defend the freedom of people everywhere (=meaning, purpose). Strip it down of this psychological construct, and you stare down at coldblooded murdering in revenge. And even the revenge is questionable.
Ask a tree what is its meaning of life. What are its ambitions. What it takes for being cut down after decades of life. Nothing. The tree simply does what is its function.
Ask a dog what is his meaning of life. Why he loves you. Why he takes your incompetence in training him. He simply does.
Ask a small child what is his meaning of life. Why he loves. Why he laughs. Why he runs. Why he throws sand in the air. He simply does.
Searching for the meaning of life is nothing more but an desperate attempt to survive the insanity of this deranged consumer society.
Blow as aimless as the wind. Don’t search for painkillers to escape the global hallucination, let the pain keep your eyes open, abandon rat race and return to what feels natural, including being one with the Nature. Have what you need, but what is enough (functional property). Eat well, exercise daily, work less yet do more, buy less, spend quality time with your loved ones and love them truly and deeply, learn new skills, read 100 books more, volunteer few days, enjoy wilderness, travel the world, build up communities, dismantle rulers, enjoy autonomy, brotherhood and peace.
Keep yourself in balance, in all things. And pass it on to others.