(9) THE IMPORTANCE OF KNOWING THE PURPOSE OF LIFE
Means and purpose are different. The purpose is what we aim to achieve, while the means is how we try to achieve it. Means are significant only when the purpose is clear.
We always have a purpose when we do something. The purpose comes first, and the means realizes the purpose. Without knowing the purpose there is no sense in having the means.
Living is like any activity; it is essential to have an end in mind. We can reach our destination by many means such as walking, running or flying. Likewise we achieve life's purpose through living.
Nobody starts a journey without knowing his or her destination. For example, when an airplane flies, it flies to an airport. The destination is the purpose of the flight. When we fly, we feel safe and secure because we know where we are going to land. It would be suicidal to take a flight with a pilot who does not know where he is going to land. When the airplane runs out of fuel, it will crash.
To know the purpose of living means to know "why we live." In order to accomplish this goal, we need to make use of efficient means. Politics, economics, science, medicine, arts, literature, laws and other disciplines are means that help us fulfill the purpose of our lives.
The industrialized world has made dramatic improvements in the standard of living for its citizens. Medical advances have enhanced life expectancy to the point that the average person now lives into his mid-seventies. Political systems allow individuals more voice in their governments and more personal freedoms than ever before. The humanities promote compassion among people, and assist people of diverse backgrounds to better understand one another. Though important, these disciplines and developments do not provide insight into "why we live."
These means are useless if we don't know why we are living. What is the sense trying to live for as long as possible without knowing why we are living in the first place?
People say, "well, my purpose in life is to attain a high position in my job." Other might say that their purpose is to become a great artist, thus they live for their art. Other say that a human being's purpose in life is to love.
Although all are admirable in their own respect, they are, however, only means of "how to live." The objective of each is how to get along in this world. Having a better position at work means more power, more income and a more comfortable lifestyle. The artist wants to create for many reasons: to express himself or herself, to be famous, or because it is what he or she is good at, and so on. Those who say that love is the purpose of life, believe that loving is the highest form of life that a human can experience.
However, none of the above gives an answer to the question "why we live?"
If we do not know why we live, or see life as not having any purpose then what could we say to someone who wanted to kill themselves?
"Don't kill yourself."
"Because you must live for the sake of living."
This kind of reply is meaningless, yet this is what everyone is doing.
Purpose and means are both important. However, the means become useless if we do not know the purpose. This is why knowing the purpose of life is so crucial.