Arguably, life is all about experience. When it comes down to it, we live to enjoy the act of living itself – albeit insofar as we don’t interfere with other’s right to do so too. If we’re going to have this fragile, finite, and – as far as we can know for certain – singular existence, we might as well make the most of it and work with what we got.
Our ability to derive pleasure from a wide-range of things is perhaps the greatest asset of our lives. Without our feelings, senses, and higher-brain function, we’d be no better than automatons: existing solely to consume, sleep, and breed; existing only to keep on existing.
Granted, that’s what our role as organisms boils down to. Strip away all of civilization – all the various ideas, belief systems, and inventions with which we embellish our time on this world – and all we’re left with are animals driven by nothing more than the natural instinct to survive long enough to make new life. And so on and so forth.
Therein lays the value of our cognitive abilities. We make our very own purpose in life. We create or embrace the stimuli that make us feel good in any number of ways. We find the conflicts, challenges, and unknowns that drive us to think, explore, and invent. The world is full of things to enjoy – music, dance, cuisine, art, games, friends, books, sleep, etc. We all have different tastes and drivers, but what matters is that we have something, anything, to keep us going, and to give our lives meaning.
In the end, we all just want to validate ourselves. Some do it through transcendental religion, others through secular causes, and still others through the indulgence of sensory pleasure – from casual materialism, to outright hedonism. I don’t think we should be opposed to material wealth or pleasure for its own sake, so long as such things are done in moderation. Otherwise, too much of it can be self-destructive, or cheapen the joy and excitement we encounter when we first feel its effects.
Speaking for myself, I take the middle path in all this. I’m not religious, so I make humanism – a concern for the well-being of other creatures – my transcendent belief system. I want to enrich my experiences, and take in as much of this world as I can. There are few moments as pleasurable as when we first make a new friend, encounter a new love, listen to a good song, explore an unknown place, and savor a new taste or aroma.
Few people in the world have the opportunity to enjoy all these things as I do. I must make the most of my good fortune, and use my time on this Earth to make sure as many other fellow human beings can do the same too.
What about you? What keeps you going in this world? What moments or memories do you have to comfort you? What meaning have you given to your own existence?