Sometimes, I feel really lost in the whirlwind that is life. Everything around me seems to be moving so quickly. My friend just took the SAT and got a score over 2100. My teammate signed up for a R.O.P class in dentistry because she’s so sure that’s what she wants to do. I just sat here and procrastinated on my homework. “What am I doing?” seems to run through my head a lot. Everyone around me has a path they want to take in life. I lost the purpose of my life; I can’t find the reason why every breathe I take is important.
Is it love? Some people might say that love is the ultimate goal in life. They say that when you find someone you love, your purpose in life becomes them. You do anything to make sure that they’re happy and comfortable, but no one wants to talk about the flip side of that situation. People can always leave, no matter how much effort you put into your relationship. In Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, Siddhartha’s son wasn’t happy living with his father after his mother’s death, even when Siddhartha showered him with the gentlest of care and an abundance of love. He still left.
Is it wealth? The want of materials goods is obvious, especially in our society. Of course, the goods that are necessary to life, like food and clothes, are needed, but what about stuff that we just want? That new iPhone 6s or those new pairs of Jordans; are these things truly the reason why we live? Our entire lives are led with the intent of succeeding; we go to school because we want to get a job; we want to get a job because we want money. A quote from Siddhartha, “He who staked ten thousand on the throw of the dice and laughed, became more hard and mean in business, and sometimes dreamt of money.” perfectly reflects the results of an excess of material goods. An outcome like that is obviously not what we want our lives to turn out like, but if it is not possession that we are after, than what is it?
Leaving the most typical answer for last, most people would answer that the purpose of life is to find happiness. In fact, the two potential purposes of life that I previously mentioned all lead to happiness. When you find love, you are happy. When you get something that you want, you are happy. Everyone forgets something very important; happiness cannot go on forever. There will always be days where we find it hard to wake up in the morning, where we don’t want to eat, where we get irritated by the same people we claim to “love whole-heartedly.”
I don’t think any of these answers are the correct one. I believe that the purpose of life is to reach a state of perpetual peace. Peace with the world, peace with others, and peace with yourself. In the Seven Samurai, the main character, Kambei, is admired for his strength and calm. He is wise and never truly gets upset in the film; this is the state that we all should strive to achieve in life. At the end of Siddhartha, Siddhartha has achieved a true sense of peace, but not with love or material possession, just with his self-acceptance and life experiences. In a more realistic example of this state of happiness, Taoism, a Chinese religion, mentions tao and te. Tao is the “channel” or “path” of life and can be found inside of one’s self. Te is the action of living with tao, achieving the ultimate state of peace.
May we strive to find our own tao and live a life that is meaningful and happy.
“He was aware of a great happiness mounting within him.”
–Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha