By Shurooq Amin
We spend our lives searching for that elusive raison d’etre, the meaning of life. “Why are we here? Is there anything more to life than this existence? Is there an afterlife, a God, a Devil, is there anything after we die or is it simply Credits-Roll-Game-Over?” Philosophers across the ages have thought about it, writers and poets have written about it, artists have agonized over it; people have lived depressed lives because of it.
I, like every other human being on the planet, and being of sound mind (well, being of mind, at least), have given it much thought, too. Even a little bit more obsessively than most around me, perhaps due to the deaths I’ve been exposed to in my life (and I feel ashamed saying this knowing that there are people in war-zones experiencing the kind of death I never will, probably), but nevertheless, I’ve been in a position at a young age where the human being I loved most on the planet died in my arms at a very young age himself. This followed with more loved ones dying like dominoes all around me as I grew up. Perhaps I obsess about it because I think too much, write too much, paint too much, listen to too many ballads, drive too much just so I can be alone, sleep too little, eat too little.
A friend told me that most people go towards death quietly, but I’m going kicking and screaming. And I never thought about it that way, but I guess the artwork, the exhibitions, the poetry books, the conferences I attend, the speeches I give, the lecturing and teaching I do, the Tweeting, the Facebooking, the Tumblr-ing …all lead to this point: I will not go quietly. I am going kicking and screaming and leaving a messy, loud, vibrant trail of work behind me.
Which brings me back to the meaning of life: do you want to know something incredible that occurred to me? Life itself IS the miracle. Life itself is enough! The fact that you wake up in the morning and simply are able to breathe, talk and write and see and hear the music, literally…the fact that you can dial a number on your super-shiny-touchscreen just by saying the recipients name and that you can take this contraption with you anywhere you go, that is a miracle of man-made technology (yes, a miracle, because 100 years ago it would’ve been laughed at its absurdity and impossibility). The fact that we can stick our cold food in a little box that radiates energy that heats it up rapidly and then take our warm sandwich to our desk where we have a contraption we call a computer and we communicate with millions of people around the world effortlessly, that is another miracle we take for granted. And then there are the miracles of nature, of leaves growing though concrete, of creatures born in unlikely places, and that incredible sky with its colors at sunset, of mountains rising from the sea and the fluorescent beauty of unusual creatures living in impossible depths under the ocean.
And what about those people that have no clothes, no family, no homes, no money, no peace, those living in war-zones or those who are seriously ill? I’ll tell you. You know in a movie when the protagonist’s son is diagnosed with a terminal illness and said mother devotes her entire life trying to find a cure, or campaigning for other kids in the same situation? Well, don’t wait to be put in a similar position. You’re one of the lucky few. If you’re reading this it means you have a computer or hand-held device, reasonable eyesight, reasonable finances (not starving), and some time on your hands. Use it wisely. That’s the meaning of life.
Some of us can find the meaning of our lives by inventing useful contraptions; or writing masterpieces that the world will read, ponder and learn from for centuries ahead; or creating artworks that affect society; or by campaigning for a good cause; or (for those with money) setting up scholarship funds, building hospitals, universities, etc. But for others, a simpler meaning of life is theirs to own: They’re the people who speak up about injustice. They defend someone’s life or even just their honor. They open doors for people behind them, smile at them and make their day. They’re the ones that let the idiot bully in the car next to them go ahead of them in a traffic jam even though they want to inch their car stubbornly forward. They’re the ones who love so much that their love radiates to their children, friends, and strangers. They’re the ones who know that the meaning of life is simply existing, and to savoring this existence, basking in its miraculous “being”, and sharing that knowledge. By sharing this knowledge, we radiate its positivity to the scrooges out there that are still living dark, depressed, negative lives and causing wars and destruction and evil in the world.