In Defence of Purposelessness

In this universe, there is a lot of purpose and a lot of purposelessness. An example of the latter is this blog post.

When I was in my late childhood the main purpose in my life seemed to be to become a great karate exponent. Fresh from watching all the Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris movies I used to imagine myself bringing down whole skyscrapers with a series of calculated head-butts and hand-chops. It seemed the most important thing in the world, to be able to bring down powerful things with your bare hands. I would finish the job, dust my hands as if nothing had happened, look with disdain upon the applauding masses and walk away with determined strides and an expression of great resolve.

But just a few years before that, this wasn’t the real dream. the dream then was to be a master woodcutter, who, armed merely with a handsaw, would outsaw fancy, noisy, diesel-guzzling chainsaws held by hefty texans wearing cowboy hats — however incongruous the image may be. And there would be timber sawing contests where the latest and best power saws would be introduced, and I would whip all them by felling double the number of trees in the given time, without breaking a sweat.

And before that- memory fades, but I am sure there were hopes and dreams associated with many such destructive professions.

In short, my life’s purpose has not been constant. It has always varied, with the common theme being destruction: becoming a human WMD, if you will, in the early parts. In the later parts, after turning adult, I can discern no such common theme.

But each of those ‘purposes’ or dreams would have required a different set of actions for their realisation. And the fact is -I did not undertake any of those actions.

As someone once said- “Your goals are not shown by your proclamations. They are shown by your actions.” In effect, this translates to “Show me your actions, and I will show you your goals.”

Put so brutally, it appears that my whole life has been a ‘drunkard’s walk’ — lurching from one post to another, and not really heading towards any specific destination.

Well, a lesser man might have castigated himself upon hitting this realization. Not me, though- I am a bit busy at the moment, you see? I got something to do. I have to become the greatest …(secret) in the world in the next two-three months.

“What! Not again!” you groan. “Haven’t you learnt your lesson ? Haven’t you done enough, all of these years, what good has it done you? Why can’t you stick to what you have and be happy and content?”

Well I have the following to say to all such naysayers and cynics:

-You are never done until the ECG shows a flatline 24 hours in a row
-And then you look for the EEG
-Your life’s purpose is not in the reaching; it is in the striving.
-The above-mentioned striving need not be through the ‘right’ set of actions. It can be through what feels good at the moment; and I don’t mean this in the Epicurean or Hedonistic sense, though, on second thoughts, why not?
-Uniform straight-line motion is the same as inertia which is exactly the same as death.
-Your ECG and EEG are all secondary. What you need to look for, to detect signs of life is evidence of striving; thrashing; change of direction; shifting goalposts; activity; action.

Some explanations:

-To those who laugh derisively when I use the word ‘activity’ — ‘Don’t mistake activity for action,’ they say. I tell them — ‘Activity is better than inaction.’

-To those who say ‘Running around in circles is silly’ — all I can say is ‘It is better than sitting on your butt warming the sofa; the running builds aerobic capacity, makes your joints stronger- and the change of direction keeps you agile.’

-And to those smartasses who say ‘all of this energy can be used in purposeful, goal-oriented activity instead of wasting it on shifting goalposts; — my answer is ‘ Well absolutely; but how do you know what is your goal? What is today’s goal is tomorrow’s frivolity. Is it not better to be on your toes, fully fit and alert, to catch that moment when your life’s goal suddenly clicks into place, and you are able to hit the ground running after it? And even if it doesn’t click into place, the running keeps you from worrying.’

So in summary, my words of advice to all of those out there who sit back after a hard day’s labour and wonder if their ladder is leaning against the right wall, is it all worth it, are they spending enough of quality time and all that blah blah blah- First, don’t discount purposelessness; don’t worry about the goal not being the right one or at least a significant one; and don’t Fall for the Albert Camus line of Absurdism creeping into every aspect of your actions and sapping your energy — every action is worth it, every bit of activity is worth far more than inactivity, and is a goal in itself. Go for it with gusto, make running after things a habit, and never mind the ultimate purposelessness of it all in the end.