“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” There is genius in that sentence of Mark Twain. Is he saying that people’s lives are lit up at some critical moment – by successfully intervening to prevent an accident, a disaster, loss of life, or by contributing to a breakthrough in medical or scientific research, or less spectacularly by reconciling estranged family members and former friends ? Or is he suggesting cynically (“you never will find out why you were born !”) that many people lead pointless lives which serve no apparent purpose whatever ? Is he telling us that we are mere historical, genetic accidents without any existential finality, whether our physical conception was deliberate on the part of our parents or not ? Whatever Twain meant, atheists know that evolution is geared solely to the survival of species – period ! – and that there never was a God who put us here with a purpose.
As I look back on my eight decades to date, I can discern neither a pre-ordained pattern nor purpose in my life. During my studies my objective was to acquire the knowledge, skills and academic recognition I needed for the professions I entered. But at various times I realize now that I was driven, notably in my training of Managers, and gave purpose to the immediate task before me. My purposes depended on my priorities, the most important of which was the welfare of my family, the education of my children and giving them the opportunity to make a success of their own lives. But I pity people who have allowed others to make them believe that their principal purpose on Earth is to prepare them for an imagined after-life, to avoid Hell and to merit Heaven. They still have to learn that this life is all we’ve got. It’s up to each of us to give it meaning and purpose. Offering sustenance, security and survival to our offspring seems noble and worthwhile enough for me.
P.S. I must add that educating people has been the red thread, the central activity and a significant purpose in my life. Since my retirement and for the last several years, this has found modest expression in the Blog you are reading right now.