The Nature of Purpose
When I go to the beach, it is always with trepidation that I go into the ocean. Its vastness and anonymity keep me safely on the sand, collecting shells or lounging on a towel watching the myriad of beach-goer silhouettes bopping in the waves. I always fear that the waves that provide child-like amusement one moment, can drag a person under, causing pain and death another. Of course, waves were not designed to be watery executioners. They are merely the result of wind blowing across the ocean. They ultimately have no purpose and do not actively seek one out yet they perpetually persist as long as there is wind to create them. However, they are vital to our planet and we marvel at their majesty and frolic in the ocean amusement park they create.
We can behold this same type of habitual, unintentional purpose throughout nature. The sun rising to present the day and its paler counterpart concluding it, bees zipping around pollinating flowers or even your lungs constantly taking in air as you read this piece. Everything in nature knows, executes and does not require active searching to find its purpose. Mountains do not spontaneously decide to turn into molehills because that is the job of the molehill. How nature works is astounding once one stops to contemplate it. Through simplicity and merely existing everything is able to find a function that fits into the whole around it.
However, humans have always been a species that defies nature. Nature deemed that we cannot fly yet we construct contraptions that enable us to do so. Nature deemed that we cannot breathe underwater yet we construct contraptions that allow us to do so. Because of our intellect, humanity has been greatly able to simplify life but simultaneously complicate the processes of nature. We have severely impeded the ability for other animals to perform their intentions through our environmental destruction and, in my opinion, we have severely warped what it means to have ‘a purpose in life’.
Why cannot simply existing be deemed a worthy enough purpose? “Composing music is my purpose”, “helping the poor is my calling”, “being a doctor is what I’m meant to do with my life”. Purpose is associated with doing instead of being. People take gap years and embark on deep introspection to “find their life’s purpose”. But what if purpose is something that just is rather than something that can be actively sought out or known. Mosquitoes were put on this Earth solely to be food for other animals yet they obliviously and perpetually serve their purpose.
We want our contribution in life to be these life-changing, grandiose feats when our most meaningful contribution could frankly be just existing. Oblivious to our purpose like the mosquito but executing it perfectly at the same time. Humanity loves to put a meaning to everything, to say that we all have an aim in life and our ultimate goal during our time on this planet should be finding out what it is and achieving it because the concept that we are here just to exist and that we don't have answers, petrifies us. Our intellectual capacity is superior therefore our intention in life must be superior.
As an adolescent I am in a phase where I am trying to figure out who I am and what my objective in life is. Lockdown afforded me the time to contemplate these questions. Truth be told, I do not think I will ever be at a place in my life where I will truly know the answers to those questions and a thought recurs; what if I am not supposed to? What if everyday, the actions I do, the interactions I have, the talents I use and the air that I breathe all constitute me fulfilling my so-called purpose? What if the purpose of life is to simply just live it?
Lesedi Mochela is a 17-year-old grade 11 pupil at St Mary’s Waverley. She loves literature and anything that allows her to be artistic.