It’s a great big universe
And we’re all really puny
We’re just tiny little specks
About the size of Mickey Rooney
— Animaniacs, Yakko’s Universe
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably played existential games with yourself before. I often wonder why it is that I am here.
This game is an simple one for religious people to play and win — they are here because God put them here and gave them a unique purpose. (The Westminster Shorter Catechism reads, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”) Furthermore, these people often look forward to some sort of afterlife that they will enjoy but that is not afforded to everyone. They feel a sense of privilege at that.
Some people find meaning in their children…they have a biological drive to love their children and ensure (to the best of their ability) that these children are healthy and successful. I am a son after all, and my parents have expressed their desires about this to me. I realize that not all parents actually have this motivation, and their children often end up as damaged adults. I have met adults like this throughout my life, and I sympathize with them for the difficult road they have traveled.
In my case, I don’t really believe in God and I don’t have any children. And, contrary to what some have suggested, I don’t see the answer as merely changing course on either of these issues. These are important choices I have made for how I wish to live my life, and I hope people will respect that. Some do, some don’t.
So what is left for me to find meaning in? I have always measured myself based on what I have accomplished and contributed to the world in this life. Unfortunately, my level of accomplishment has not reached anything near the heights that I would have hoped. I wanted to be Superman, but I’m not even Clark Kent yet. As I approach yet another birthday, I cannot help but be reminded about how short I have fallen of my goals.
I am told by some expert people that this line of thinking is a trap. I am inclined to believe them since it does not lead to positive feelings. My fulfillment is contingent on measurable external factors, and when I don’t measure up, I cease to be fulfilled.
So it’s time to carve out a new path. I’m not sure what that even looks like. I know it does not look like the paths that most other people have charted. It’s about the relationships that I have with people. It’s about doing good in small ways. It’s about living the best life I can each day, not where I fall on some 10-year plan.
This is not an easy path to take. It requires intense focus. It requires a commitment not to think too far out in front of my headlights. It’s about living life in the present. We’ll see how it works.