We continue to ask ourselves the same rhetorical question, and may always ask this question for all the time we have left. No one can seriously have a claim to knowledge as to the purpose and meaning of life. Albert Camus, acknowledged in the Myth of Sisyphus, that men must find their own meaning, even if life itself is pointless and meaningless. The meaning and purpose of dancing is the dance, wrote Allan Watts. So too the meaning of life itself.
For millions of years, for most of human existence, life has been, as Thomas Hobs described it, ‘nasty, brutish and short.’ Humans must have acknowledged their dreadful existence, the harsh winters, long droughts, natural disasters, decease, war, famine and the myriad other human catastrophes. How many nights must have they looked up at the night sky and wondered, ‘what is the purpose to all of this?’
The answer is however, open-ended, for which any answer is presumed to be correct. There is no overarching universal axiom. People have been asking themselves the same questions since time immemorial, “who are we, what are we doing here, what happens when we die?” The only goal most living organism share is: “don’t die” – this is true for cockroaches, maggots, fish, reptiles, bacteria and humans.
One thing is almost but certain, in the realm of endless possibilities of what you are now, a highly complex organism made up of chemical bonds and processes may never happen again. Parts of you may come back as carbon chains in trees or in the inorganic material of rocks as minerals, or basic water molecules in acid rain, but it is highly unlikely you’ll be back as a human being. If you’re unlucky you’ll come back as a rat, and if your lucky as a dog. It will never be you, don’t fret, it will be unimaginable fractions of your former self. You will not have the memories of your past life. Since your life now, in merely habit, memories and present experience as Bertrand Russel put it.
How do I know this? I don’t, but the evidence surely points in that direction. Do I wish it was different? But Ofcourse! If we only knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we had an “afterlife” that we knew as surely as we know we will one day die It would be evidence I would accept. Death happens to people in the news, it will happen to your neighbor, it happens to your friends and family, and it will happen to you. We – know – this. What we don’t know if we will live forever.
Find your own meaning in our vast meaningless existence.