You exist only because nature allowed it.
There is no soul, nor divine image from which you were made. There is no greater reason for your presence, but that you are an expedient for your own survival, and by extension that of the human race.
But to this perhaps disheartening message I will return at the end.
Natural selection, remember, is no selection at all. You’d do much better to think of it as a lack of any selection whatsoever. That is, a level playing field. For when no packet of matter -- what may be called an organism -- is overtly selected in favor of or against, simply those that survive, thrive, and reproduce will exist, by virtue of their ability to bring more self-similar matter into existence. Those that do not will perish, and they will prove to be adept at not existing.
Quite literally, those objects of matter that are best at bringing more of themselves into existence,
will exist, and continue on.
So reader: drop all these questions of “who am I?” Or “what is my purpose?”
For science has solved the debate. What you are, is a packet of matter designed to exist. Honed by millions of years of trial and error and constantly adapting to new environments, you represent the intelligence of life itself. Quite literally, that pattern of matter that can and will survive, exist, and go on. Everything you are is fashioned towards this end; it cannot be any other way, for any part of you designed to help you “not exist” could lead only to your demise.
Now the question can be asked: how much of you is yours?
In your body is incredible intelligence. Absolutely and positively unfathomable to you. Every cell constantly operating, dividing, replicating, healing, organizing into structures like bone, organs, and muscle, all firing in precisely the ways needed to keep you alive.
Their enormous complexity notwithstanding, these elements all make perfect sense for achieving survival.
The only real mystery here is you.
Why, exactly, are you needed? Surely the body could go on surviving on its own, like a robot? Observe the plants, fungi, and insects. Are “they” in there?
I am speaking, of course, of self-awareness, for all these sensations of the “I,” all these delineations between the world and between you in particular are what define “you.”
Why is that whole mess needed? The fact is the vast majority of your survival, the processes of the body and many of the mind, takes place completely outside of you and your awareness. No control is necessary, nobody needed to observe and react.
Imagine a simulation with artificial intelligence. Imagine robots replicating, programmed to survive:
“When variable ‘energy level’ drops below x, acquire class ‘food.’”
It seems it could work, no? Even without a “driver” or “subject” or “you” there? This, I might say, is the true question of existence.
This is the true mystery of ourselves.
Not our purpose or identity, but why we are needed for our purpose at all.
I do not seek resolution here towards that question, but only to make two points. It is clear that you, as a self-sensing, self-conscious being, must serve some purpose towards achieving your own existence.
What that purpose is, or what advantages it holds over your non-being remain less than clear.
For now though, find comfort, if you can, in your necessary importance to your own survival. You may have depression, you may feel worthless, you may be happy, you might feel hopeful.
Up or down, it is all working to your benefit.
Ride that wave, brother.
Many years ago, a man was unhappy.
He was not the first to suffer such a condition, and he would not be the last.
He had worked his job as a shoe maker for ten years, and had gained money and success. And yet he realized his life was still incomplete. He felt unfulfilled. He had everything he could desire...on the face of it at least.
But deep down...
there was tension, anxiety, worry, and discomfort.
At first, he suppressed these feelings and continued on in his work and in his life, but soon he found that the more he tried not to think of his condition, the more unhappy he became.
One day, he could not take it anymore. Gaining the resolve to act, he went out to seek a master who might help him. He searched far and wide, going from one city to the next, asking where he might find a master to help him reach his happiness.
Eventually, he came across a village at the foot of a large mountain, where all the the townsfolk seemed so happy, alive, and fulfilled. He asked them how they came to be in such a pleasant state, and they replied that at the top of the mountain lived a guru, a recluse individual in whom was the secret to all happiness. The villagers told him that they all owed their great joy this guru, for as children they sought him out often and he had guided them to their most pleasant situation in which they now resided.
The man decided that this was the guru he had been seeking, and so he set on up the mountain. The climb was very difficult. He slipped many times. He scraped his knees and bruised his hands. Indeed, once or twice he nearly fell off great precipices and had to stop to collect himself and settle his beating heart before going on.
Such an ordeal was the climb, that when he reached the top, where the guru was said to have lived, he was bruised, swollen, sore, bloodied, and exhausted, and fell into a great deep sleep for the night.
When he awoke, he found he was not where he had laid to rest. He found himself in a small hut, with a fire lit, and realized the guru must have found him and taken him in. After a few moments, a very old and wise looking man appeared to him.
The man told him he heard about the guru at the top of the mountain who had made everyone in the village below so happy, and that he had come to find happiness for himself.
He asked the guru for the secret.
The old man said nothing, but merely beckoned the man to come with him. The guru had a flock of goats that he managed and herded, and he indicated that the man should get to work. And so the man obeyed him, understanding that this must be the first step in the path to happiness.
After many months of this, the man began to see himself loosen up. Though the guru was very mysterious and never spoke a word, he felt an unspoken understanding of the master’s will, and very soon he came to consider himself happy at last. Upon finally reaching this state, he thanked the guru, who bid him goodbye, and the man returned to the village to converse with the locals.
Excited to tell of his success, he walked up to the first man he could find and expressed his gratitude for the master living at the top of the mountain. He told him all about his experience tending the goats and how he had become happy.
But now, a very strange look came over the villager’s face.
Embarrassed and afraid to spoil the man’s happy state, he told him that he must be mistaken, for the master did not own goats, and that despite being so close, he had not even see the master, but had merely spent time with the old goat herder.
Shocked and enraged, the man resolved he must return to the mountaintop to get to the bottom of his situation. And so the next day he went up, cursing all the way, to find the master. Sure enough, he found the goat herder, but was too angry even to look at him.
He searched all about the top of the mountain for the master, but could not find him.
The sun was beginning to set.
Feeling dismayed and shattered, he went to the goat herder screaming at him, demanding to know where the master was, and why he had pretended to be the master and taken advantage of him.
The goat herder stopped a while and then looked at him and said:
“You came once looking for the master and you found him. You returned for him a second time and found only a goat herder.”
Hearing this, the man became confused and asked whether the goat herder was the master after all.
The goat herder said,
“No, I am not the master. I merely show travelers where the master resides.”
Now the man was angry again, and asked why then, he had not shown him like the others, and why instead he had taken him to work with the goats.
The goat herder replied a third time,
“It was not I who beckoned you to work with the goats, but the master.”
Upon hearing this, the man became enlightened and was happy for the rest of his days.
For the master had been found,
and had taught him happiness just as was promised.