Ziel: Maybe the purpose of life is just to live

Renee Ziel

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Philosophers and religions ponder our purpose and try to attain the answers. Deep thinkers and lost souls ask, “What are we even doing here?” Some students, in their most mentally formative years, wonder what the purpose of life might be.

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Some people appear to keep a firm grip on the idea that we are all individual cogs in one giant cosmic machine, moving in harmony with one another to form the life that humanity collectively keeps functioning.

But what if our purpose is just to be cogs?

Simply “being” is different for everyone. If someone likes the idea that we’re all a part of a machine, that’s fantastic. Others believe in God or have a personal purpose that keeps them going. Perhaps it’s to be useful in a society, perhaps it’s to have a family and keep the population alive or perhaps it means thriving on an ambition to make a lasting impact on the world. And all of that should be the point.

Religion in particular spends a lot of time wondering why we’re here or, rather, where we came from and where we’re going. It’s fine to wonder those things, but why is there so little emphasis on where we are now?

Bad news is going through our ears so often that United States residents in particular seem to be going numb to it.

President Donald Trump appears to be more unstable by the day, evidently having a poor understanding of the southern U.S. border. In addition, tensions rise across the globe and threaten U.S. leadership.

There have been almost 300 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2019 alone. Because of such violence in schools, some children have had to think about things they shouldn’t.

One 8-year-old girl no longer wanted light-up shoes because they would give away her location. Another 10-year-old boy volunteered to be at the front of a group of students in order to protect them in the event of an active shooter. This doesn’t include those who have already died protecting their peers, such as Colorado student Kendrick Castillo.

We live in a world like that, so why are we asking who may have created us or where we go when we die?

This sort of mentality can also be attributed to humanism, a progressive, human rights-centric philosophy “informed by science, inspired by art and motivated by compassion.”

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In a similar sentiment, life, in essence, is about pursuing what we most wish for and being as kind as possible in order to lift up the lives of those around us.”

Famed author Kurt Vonnegut was an outspoken humanist who was active with the American Humanist Association as an honorary president of the organization for many years. As cited by the AHA, Vonnegut defined it as “trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead.”

In a similar sentiment, life, in essence, is about pursuing what we most wish for and being as kind as possible in order to lift up the lives of those around us.

A good attitude leads to a good outlook, after all. What’s more, living with a consistently poor attitude affects health. It’s fairly well known that excessive stress and depression hurts your physical body, but studies have shown negative emotions have links to heart disease, such as one completed at the University of Pittsburgh. Chronic stress also encourages digestive disorders, a poor immune system and faster aging, according to a University of Minnesota health article.

While specific research on positive emotions and their link to health is limited, it can be inferred from the connections to bad attitudes that positivity is simply better.

In addition to the health benefits of being positive, there is simply no reason not to be kind. It is our best course of action to focus on improving ourselves and our outlook and to merely help those around us without taking away their personal freedom to live and independently grow. In a previous article I wrote for The Collegian about not judging others, I point out that negativity is simply a waste of time and energy.

Finally, in the words of Vonnegut himself, “A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”

Renee Ziel can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @reneezwrites.