Read this - and find out how long does the chase, or rather the greed to grow higher continues life - are we forgetting our actual purposes in life due to it?
Today, in a little cottage by the hillside, I am born. For some months now I have heard muffled sounds of the world outside, and I have been curious. Now that I am here, it’s a whole new world outside my mother’s womb. Just outside the window is a beautiful sprinkling of color on the hills, the cool breeze blowing in carries the sweet smell of flowers… and feels good on my face. My mother’s arms around me are reassuring, and as I wake up to these new surroundings, it seems like a really nice place to be in. It’s a good feeling to have a life of my own, to be able to think and experience. The world has existed for an eternity before my birth, and will continue to do so… till long after I am gone. Billions of miles wide, this universe existing for billions of years and I just have this small window of time to experience all its amazing wonders. I want to make the best of this time. I am curious to know what is beyond the hills, I want to see how the world looks from the top of the mountain, and I want to look into the star sprinkled night sky and try to understand why it all exists. I want to experience everything there is. Resting comfortably in my mother’s arms, I can only imagine how it is going to be a wonderful journey. Just then, I notice that the voices, which sounded muffled and distant, are now clear and close. There are people talking around me, and they are talking about what I will ‘become’. Someone is saying that I will study a lot and do everyone proud, and someone else is saying that I ought to become a businessman and earn a lot of money. I have never thought about this before. I didn’t know I will have to ‘become’ something, and I still don’t know why I should. Why can I not just ‘be’?
Seventh Grade. I am fourteen now. The school in my town back home apparently was not good enough, so I was sent here to this big school in the city two years back. I did not want to come, but father said I have to go if I can ever hope to be a ‘big’ man. I did not understand why it is important to become big. I was so happy there, with my mother, with my friends, with people who seemed to be my own. Besides, the mountains were there, always beautiful and enchanting. I loved the mountains and I always dreamed about climbing them, about how I would feel like the king of the universe when I would stand on the top and see how spectacular the earth looks from there. I once asked father if we could go climb, but he said I am too young for something like that. Then I came here. I am not happy here but when I tell mother about this, she says that this is a sacrifice I have to make. She says it’s a preparation for all the happiness I will have later in life. I am confused. I feel that I am in a cage. All of us here wake up and sleep at the same time; we attend the same classes and do the same homework, and we say the same prayers and aspire for the same goals. It’s like I am going through a mass production line, getting molded into the same shape as everyone else, learning and working hard so that the end product that comes out of this system is profitable. I feel my humanity is getting lost, that my identity is being robbed off for the economic cause, that I am turning into yet another diminutive cog in the giant wheel of economics. Everyone around me tries to measure me on the scale of performance. They want to know what I am worth, and my worth is measured not for what I am and what I stand for, but for how well I can outperform others and for how much money I can potentially earn. I am rewarded and everyone loves me when I succeed, and I am punished and abandoned if I don’t. Mean while, I have heard about the serenity of the great Everest, the turbulent beauty of the vast oceans, about ice caps on the poles and so many other wonderful places. My heart is there and sometimes I can’t sleep because I feel so restless that I want to just run and go where I belong. Nevertheless, I am just a little boy who likes to be loved and appreciated. So I am doing what the world wants me to do. The little child in me is dying, to make way for a successful achieving machine. I am falling into the trap.
Business School. Years ago, I lost my grip on my dreams. I gave up my deepest desires and I hoped that small successes and joys would add up to something like happiness. They haven’t. My life has become just a quest for the next big goal. In high school I always performed better than everyone else. Everyone said I could do better, so I worked hard for months and I beat a hundred thousand people in an admission test to get into the best engineering college. It was not enough yet, so after undergraduate school I outperformed a million people in yet another admission test to get into the best business school. It isn’t ending here either. Now I want the best job, and then I will want the biggest promotion and then something else and then something bigger still. I challenged my limits and I achieved goals bigger than I imagined myself capable of, and yet it seems nothing has been achieved. In the mad race for ever-bigger goals, I have never had the time to stop a while and appreciate and enjoy what I have already achieved. There is beauty all around me, waiting to be appreciated. There are thoughts in my mind that I want to pay attention to. There are people in despair, needing my love and compassion. Sometimes I want to stop chasing that elusive future happiness, and to start really living in the moment. But there’s a performance appraisal coming just around the corner, and my mind tells me I can’t indulge in silly thoughts and lose that big promotion. A part of me resists, but there’s twenty years of brainwashing and the whole world’s conventions pitted against it. I better start running again. So this race is never going to end, and it is making no one happy. My parents are old now and they need me, but they won’t leave the place where they have spent their lives, and my job will not let me be there. The girl I love and say I can give my life for isn’t as happy as I would like her to be because I can’t give her enough time. The dreams of my life are alive in a corner of my mind, and they constantly remind me that I am not happy, not at peace with myself. The ocean roars in its splendid beauty outside my office window, but I am only concerned with how much stature the view adds to my office. There are wonderful people I can be friends with, but I am too busy competing with everyone. There is a little child begging on the street, but as I drive by in my luxury car, my mind is busy making plans to get as much Nigerian oil as possible for my oil company, regardless of entire tribes being eliminated… or how best to lobby with the government so it can make the World Trade Organization stop Brazil from selling cheap AIDS medicines and hurting my company’s bottom line, never mind the millions dying. Yes, I am helping create a lot of shareholder value, but is that all my life means?
What is the meaning of life? The quest for achievement has become the cornerstone of human society. Ever more people are setting their eyes on ever-higher goals, and pushing themselves beyond what were thought to be limits of human intellect and endeavor. Certainly, modern society wouldn’t be what it is if it were not for the efforts of the enterprising, but it is nevertheless ironical that the perpetual pursuit of dominance itself now overbearingly dominates collective human thought. We live our lives as if economic prosperity is a divine cause. Material comforts and consumerism have become noble quests, but what really is humanity heading towards? The most glorious species of all, are we not just parasites destroying the planet and converting the earth into a big heap of unrecoverable waste? The blind pursuit for competitive advantage has created a world in which whole continents are dying of hunger and disease while a tenth of the world’s population consumes twenty five times the world’s average. We live in a world where the weaker nations either quietly accept foreign dominance or try to fight back covertly by using methods like terrorism, and the powerful nations feel secure by the ridiculous notion of mutually assured destruction. Economic prosperity and technological progress may have saved millions of lives from hunger and disease, but the divisions that have been created in the process have taken many more lives in countries, which have been marginalized, and in wars and internal strife. There could have been a better way, a way in which more people could have lived, and could have lived more fulfilling lives… but justified by ‘self interest rationality’ economics and blinded by the intensity of our greedy ambitions, maybe we never spent enough time finding that way at all. I am old now, and I will die soon. I have lived my life for a purpose I did not believe in. I always knew I was doing what I never wanted to, and I made a conscious choice to go with the flow. In retrospect, I think I would have had a more fulfilling life living as a nomad, or maybe just in a cave in the Himalayas. I regret I did not, but the only consolation I have is that the odds were pitted too heavily against me. I ‘learned’ a way of life before I got a chance to make my own, and later I never gathered enough courage to break the rules. The bad thing about life is that one always believes that it’s not ending yet and there will be time to do the things one wants to do, till it’s too late and reality hits home. I am too old to pursue my dreams now. I have more money than I need and all the material comforts money could buy, but still no happiness and peace of mind. I now find refuge in literature and prayer, but I think it is just another pathetic attempt to cheat myself. I never got a chance to truly experience and appreciate anything in the world, and now I am trying to find the beauty in someone else’s description of it. I never took the time to understand myself, to discover my faith and to find my own god… and now I am trying to find salvation in someone else’s idea of god which I do not believe in. Anyway, it’s time for me to go now. My eyes are closing, never to open again. All my achievements, all my successes are of no use anymore. The dream of a one day old is still a dream for the eighty year old. I am finishing my life, but I am leaving it incomplete.