So here’s a quick synopsis of my life, as can only be told by me, because it needs to sound as selfish and whiny as humanly possible. Please be prepared to cry for me while reading and offer your sincere condolences for my lost freedom and teetering sanity next time you see me.
I spend my weekdays teaching math to 82 kids in three class blocks between the hours of 7:10 and 12:35. I spend five and a half hours every day with fifteen year old kids whose educational apathy resembles that of a three-legged, twenty-five pound cat with severe anemia. But then imagine if this cat displayed the respect, self-control, basic manners, and calmness of, say, a rabid mosquito after seven Red Bulls.
It is the most tedious, mind-numbing, hair-pulling five and a half hours I ever would have imagined when I became a teacher (and yes, I chose it and would choose it again tomorrow.) The rest of my work hours are spent with the “fluff” of teaching: grading, figuring out who needs to make up work, attending fourteen different kinds of meetings, planning for the next day or week, etc. And the planning is so pointless most of the time that it’s equivalent to spending four hours on a homemade cake only to throw it straight in the dumpster prior to eating it.
When I get home, I am met with a four month old baby who is either spitting up, crying, or otherwise demanding somebody’s undivided attention. This would be manageable for two parents if it wasn’t for the sometimes whiniest, sometimes coolest two year old ever made who also demands our undivided attention. This means that one of us has at least one kid ALL THE TIME. And this means housework goes unfinished, meals are half-assed, yard work is half-assed, hobbies have become nothing more than dreaming about hobbies, and free time is spent yawning.
On the weekends, unless my wonderful wife takes the kids somewhere to give me some free time (and she does that pretty much every weekend for a couple of hours, god bless her) those kids are my life 24/7. There is no school to break up the monotony of tiny people on the weekends. It’s awful (but yes, I love them and wouldn’t trade it for millions of dollars; it’s still awful.) My life is just not fun right now at all. And did I mention we also have a fourteen year old daughter, too? Yeah, she gets the short end of the proverbial stick when it comes to parental attention.
My wife told me a few weeks ago that she was amazed – though proud – that I had maintained my sobriety through these past few months. My sister-in-law spent a few hours at my house this past Friday night. She said she couldn’t believe I was still sober, too.
So yeah, it’s a f**king madhouse. And this is, of course, after I spend all day in a f**king madhouse.
Welcome to “Why in the hell are we here?” Since that question has repeatedly traveled my inner airwaves the past few months, I figured I’d write about it. It was about time. Even before this infant/toddler/teenager madhouse existence, this question was a regular visitor to my cognitive welcome center very, very often throughout these past 41 years anyway. It wasn’t a surprise visitor.
But anyway, enough with the pity party. Let’s address the question at hand in a general context. Every time I have ever visited this topic – and as we will do in this blog post – the why’s and what if’s that can stampede behind the question are often staggering and overwhelming. To find them, however, you MUST let your mind wander into areas of sheer nuttiness. If you just let your mind ignore its natural constraints and let it dance and run and spin and maybe even attempt to see the intangible, you’ll go to a place of imaginative freedom that is both exhilarating and a tad scary.
Or even, if you’re lucky, spiritual. But then again, if your imagination has gone to a place where you are experiencing something as ethereal as faith, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ve only gone to the same dreamlike utopian space that you envision heaven to be, in which case you have not gone far enough or nutty enough to find the reason we exist. You’re simply shackling your imagination to the pages of a two thousand year old book. Of course, we’re trying to address the age old question, “Why are we here?” so it’s natural to assume faith will be a part of that answer for a lot of people.
But let’s say we let our mind wander and dance and run and spin to only the tangible, and let’s say your question is not the title of this essay, but instead you simply ask, “Why in the hell was all of this stuff around me planned out this way?” You could even start with an example and settle in on something like the human head and come up with some pretty kooky why’s and what if’s.
For instance, why the need for a second nostril? Seems just one big one would have been fine, and then you could more easily pick it; maybe even get it good and clean with a loofah or toothbrush. Seems a simple transition to then ask why the need for all these teeth? I mean, I like having them for chewing and whatnot; the entire mouth assembly makes a lot of sense to me. But flossing is just stupid. One giant parabola of tooth on the bottom and top would have served the intended purposes of food pulverization just fine.
But what about the what if’s of the human head? What if hair was designed to have an actual function, like maybe it was made out of terry cloth and you never had to worry about the cleanliness of bathroom hand-drying devices. You could just rub your hands over your head to dry your hands. And as a bonus, there would be another answer to the age-old riddle, “What gets wetter as it dries?”
Or what if humans were given a defensive venom that shot out of two holes called cherfs that were embedded in the cheekbones every time they were threatened? (And FYI, “cherfs” is just a combination of cheek and Nerf. Because why not.)
If that happened, bullying wouldn’t even be a thing (other than bullies sticking gum in other kid’s cherfs) and teachers would have to wear protective gear. We teachers would have the venom, too, of course, but we’d be too scared of the damn lawsuits every time a kid spit his venom on us, so we’d just sit back and smile in our hazmat suits.
We could quite literally do this all stinking day and not limit it to the human head. Why all the different skin pigments? They are often troublesome. Why this exact amount of gravity? I would personally enjoy floating a little (and weighing less.) What would the wind be like on earth if every piece of land was five feet above sea level? Just totally flat Earth, but still shaped like a cube. And if you didn’t do a double take on that sentence, you should have.
Why is food actually necessary? Couldn’t we have been designed to not need fuel? But since it is, why can’t caffeine and sugar be superfoods? It’s just wacko to me that two things that are so delicious and “fuel-worthy” are actually terrible at fueling our bodies.
What if stars were sound years away instead of light years? And what if during sex, vaginas sang and penises performed percussion? I don’t know how the currently intended purpose and function of the organs would work if that happened, but right now you’re envisioning a vagina singing and watching somebody slam their penis on a table or their partner’s thigh to create percussion, so that question was well worth it to me.
This could clearly go on for pages and pages and I could have a ridiculously good time coming up with absurdities and hypotheticals, but I did all of that for a reason. That reason is based around my assumption that most people have to get to a very unusual place in their own minds to truly fathom the reason(s) for our existence. I also assume that most people typically don’t even try. I assume they’ve already accepted the reason for their existence by now.
And the reason for THAT is because most people will go straight to religion, but I’m not letting you off that easy with this blog post. I can give you a possible reason for disputing and disproving every claim that you make that is faith-based about why we are here.
For instance, somebody will undoubtedly say, “God created us to look after his creation.” Well, that’s certainly what Genesis says, but let us count the many ways this is disputable. The biggie is that everything about the creation story tells us WHAT happened, but it does a pretty poor job of convincingly relaying WHY it happened. We also don’t know what God was thinking at the time, nobody was here when God created everything so how do they know how this place was created, there is nearly a zero percent chance that any one story that traveled through generations as oral history is exactly as it happened when it was finally written in print, and oh yeah, why did He even need a place to put people and animals that he hadn’t yet created or possibly hadn’t even considered creating at that point?
Still others will say that we were created for God’s pleasure. Again, we don’t know what God was thinking way back then. This simply cannot be proven. It also feels a little weird and blasphemous (and perhaps a little prepubescent) to think of what actually makes God feel pleasure. And if I may infer, this means that he had previously not known what pleasure even felt like, right? Before He made Earth and space and trees and people, what do you think he was doing with his life? In what did he receive his pleasure? If there was absolutely nothing here, and He created it all, what in the world did He do with his time prior to creation?
Let’s just get off of any religious aspect of why we are here. It’s unanswerable, and that is NOT okay with me. It might be true, of course, but I’m proof that there are people in this world that live in a sea of cynicism and an inability to trust common methodology and/or popular religious theories. There isn’t a single religious response to the question of why we are here that can’t be completely shot down by saying either “Well how do you know?” or “Why?” Of course, it’s only natural that people will come back and say, “Because the Bible says so,” and I will ask them to prove that the Bible is a verifiable nonfiction book. They will not be able to do so.
In other words, faith is blind, it’s intangible, it can never be proven, and it is so passionately defended by people who refuse to dispute it that it’s just not possible for a person seeking absolute factual truth about our existence to find enough contentment in those “facts” to simply let it go.
And I’m sorry, I just can’t. I have never been able to simply let it go. I have to know why in the hell we are here. But you know what is interesting about that desire? I am absolutely sick of asking myself that question. So I decided to just ramble coherently until I found an answer that satisfied me for the next forty years or so until I can ask God what She was thinking.
A Single Human
Let’s start at the basic foundation of life (and the subject of our topic question:) the formation of a single human being. In fact, let’s run through this pretty quickly. Everybody knows this story.
Sperm meets egg, they become one, fetus starts to grow, baby born. Baby grows, becomes a toddler, learns to talk and walk and clean up their own shit unassisted. Child grows, becomes a teenager, loses their freaking mind, does stuff they’ll regret, knows more than the aforementioned God. Becomes adult, feels stupid, has children, confirms stupid, loses hope in concurrently finding happiness, health, and money, and age til antiquity. Get old, get sick, die, get stuffed with embalming fluid to preserve your youthful appearance for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
Now multiply that scenario times about 8 billion to reach the number of human beings on Earth, but make sure all of those people are realistic enough to know their individual story might not make it past the first stage or two.
But let’s take this simplistic trek through the life of a single human and relate that back to the question. Why in the hell are we here?
Did you notice something right there? I asked the same thing I asked in the title: “Why in the hell are WE here?” I obviously didn’t stress the “WE” in the title, but it might be significant. We just described the journey through life of ONE person, so does our question even apply to an individual? It clearly says “WE,” and every person in the history of time that has ever proposed this question has always asked some variation of “Why are WE here?” Well WE might be onto something there.
Where is “Here?”
Think about all the many ways you have ever described where you are, and I guarantee you that at some point in describing that place, you said some variation of “I’m here” or “When I got here” or “I couldn’t wait to get here” or whatever. You say “here” a lot. You’ll just have to trust me; you do. It’s kind of like when I point out that a high school kid just said “like” and “bruh” fourteen times in the last “sentence.” Just trust me, you say “here” a LOT.
But where is “here?” Let me just describe where I am right now, and think of all the ways you could say “here” if you were with me and describing your location to somebody.
I am in my office, in my house, in my community, in my county, in my state, in my country, in my continent, on Earth, and in the Milky Way Galaxy. Given some interesting circumstances, you could hypothetically say, “I’m here” when describing all of them.
For instance, let’s say I returned on a single man space pod that was a test run for NASA to make sure it wouldn’t burn up on reentry, but the bad news was that they HOPED I would land somewhere in North America. So I make it back to Earth’s atmosphere, survive the flaming reentry, the parachute unfurling at twenty thousand miles per hour only caused a mild neck break and fourteen other barely treatable compound fractures, but I did, in fact, open the pod to find a polar bear with knife and fork ready to eat me. Naturally, I closed up the hatch, and when I called NASA on my satellite phone, they asked, “So are you in North America?”
“Yep, I’m here.” So where in the hell is here?
Or better yet, what if “here” isn’t a physical place at all? What if “here” is a place you are in life, whether a destination, a roadblock, the beginning of something hopeful, the end of a bad chapter, or at that metaphorical yet inevitable fork in the road? Think about it. At some point in your life, you’ve asked yourself, “Okay, I got myself here. Now how do I get myself out?”
So where is “here?”
Who’s Asking the Question?
Just for a moment, take yourself back to that place we were earlier. That place where your mind was dancing and running and spinning. And now go to one of those nutty places. Imagine for a moment that you are a pig, the “Give it to Mikey, he’ll eat anything” of the swine family.
If you were a pig and such cognitive abilities were a reality for you, why might you ask the question, “Why in the hell are we here?” If that were me, my first thoughts would go to what I know about the pig, to sort of get myself into character to think like one. In doing so, it’s almost necessary to think about the mood of the pig, and it occurred to me that if someone is asking “Why in the hell are we here?,” it stands to reason that they are probably upset or hurt or stressed or grieving about something. I just can’t imagine that a perfectly content, modestly handsome pig who has spent the overnight hours sleeping off the buffet of slop he was fed from the food wastes of the local greasy spoon would ask such a question unless they were upset about something.
This is a significant realization because I have never asked that question when I was on top of the world. It’s a depressing sort of question, don’t you think? If we add a little embellishment to it, it essentially sounds like this (read as if crying for best effect:) “Dear God, WHY? Why are we here, Lord? I just can’t take another day. I wish I never existed.”
It is NOT a question that is generally asked by happy, confident, content people, and that is why I don’t want to ask it anymore. But how about that pig? I’ve never seen or heard of a pig being unhappy when it’s eating. I’ve never heard of an unhappy pig at all, unless we include Porky, but he was generally a magnanimous sort of pig. The point is (if there was even a point,) this is a question reserved for humans. But the truly happy humans probably don’t need an answer to it. Would it be cool to know? Sure. I can imagine that even happy, content people have at least an underlying interest in our Earthly purpose.
I just have this feeling, though, that most people don’t think this way. Most people probably see this question and – if they don’t immediately say something about religion – they say something to the effect of, “Who gives a rat’s ass? Just live your best life.”
Sounds easy enough, huh? Ha!!
I honestly have nothing all that groundbreaking to add to this topic. “Why in the hell are we here?” is a question that we can simply file into the massive book called Life’s Little Mysteries. It’s just not a viable question. We have to look at some queries and confusions and frustrations in our lives and simply say, “Well, it’s actually stupider to try to answer it than it is to live in blissful ignorance.” There’s actually millions of these questions that require no answer.
How big is space? How many planets do you think there are out there? What does the middle of the sun look like? Why are women so complicated? Why two nostrils? Why do children sometimes die? Why were we not equipped to breathe underwater? Why does healthy food suck and unhealthy food taste so damn good? Do you think it’s possible that dinosaurs (other than T-Rex) were the first living things to masturbate?
Nobody can answer these questions. You either have to admit that nobody will ever know, or you surrender to the procrastinated acceptance that it’s not meant for us to know. Or maybe it’s a matter of finally believing a creation story that’s just so, so far fetched that it’s REALLY hard to believe but might just be true.
Of course, if I believe that story, I’m still left with no definitive answer about why we’re here. Which means I just did a complete circle back to where we started. But I know this much. I’m not ending the same way I started. I no longer care why everybody else is here. That’s for them to figure out. I’ll no longer ask “Why in the hell are WE here?”
I will now only ask, “Why in the hell am I here?” And trying to answer it will continue to make me feel pretty damn stupid.