A squirrel scrambles, tree to tree, frantically gathering winter’s hoard. No mind of its pursuits, it seems, but only that by some urgency such preoccupation overwhelms it. Should it stop to linger on its thoughts, to probe for reasons why, we might find a rodent adventuring to far off places, deviating from familiar habitats and wandering the unknown drawn to no apparent destination – only an inner longing to find a place in the cosmos.
Observe man, seated upon his porcelain throne, defecating yesterday’s indulgence while his mind begins to linger. In the quiet of his chamber, he’s filled with terror as the ominous shadow of existence overtakes him. In desperation he grasps at journals, those distractions strategically placed at arms length: shields against the anxiety of angst.
Yet at this moment, let us suppose that man embraces uncertainty and collapses into the chasm of self-examination. Short of some grandiose mythology, an epic tale about the adventures of the soul and its return to the great paradise of OZ – a tale that can be neither verified nor explained without invoking unknowable, immaterial realities – what good reason does he have to live?
There’s no great plan, no absolute meaning or purpose, only existence and death – all else are self-serving narratives – so far as it seems.
The scientists might say that the purpose is to know, “somewhere out there there’s a mystery waiting to be known.” An inspiring sentiment, indeed, but few are compelled by the quest for knowledge or equipped with the gifts and privilege required to meaningfully engage in such an endeavour. The quest to know is the occupation of some, but not the enterprise of all.
The perpetuation of the species, as per Darwin’s theory, is also proposed as a contender in the race for meaning. There’s little doubt that this is, in fact, how we have come to exist and why we continue to do so, but descriptive it remains. Biology is not in the business of endorsing cosmic grand narratives and inherent designs, such remain the domain of mystics taking great liberties with limited knowledge, and fanciful thinking.
Perhaps, however, our defecating man seated upon his porcelain throne chooses to take as his grand narrative the perpetuation of the species. In doing so, he decides that it is through increasing the bonds of friendship among mankind, and easing the suffering of the lowly that he might best achieve his end.
And he steps out into the world and witnesses its misery, his efforts unrequited; the people, complacent – each advancing their own incoherent agenda in a buzzing hive of meaning-seeking machines busily mucking about, but never quite doing anything.
And while he stands there gazing at this mess we’ve created, he sees a squirrel scrambling by, readying it’s hoard for the winter…and he weeps with envy.