The Pursuit of a Sanctified Life
by Ümmünaz Yanık
Embracing death is the biggest tragedy of humankind. The difference between a human and an animal is said to be our consciousness, the fact that we acknowledge death as an end. As Heidegger suggests, the word dasein meaning “being there” or “presence” which can be translated into English as “existence”, is an experience that differentiates humans from other species. Throughout history, many philosophers, as well as ordinary people, think about the controversial ontological topic which is the meaning of life. Absurdists concluded that it is all irrational to seek the purpose of our lives. Mystics considered the existence of humans as something that is not limited by time and space, something has more than three dimensions whereas nihilists deduced that life has no meaning at all. Since one cannot be sure about if death is an actual end, humankind tends to grow hope. All the archetypes, sense of déjà vu and dreams hint the special mental abilities beyond the five senses. If the human brain is not formed within the mechanical boundaries, it could be said that the existence of humans is not restricted to a simple life on earth as well. However, it would be a very simplistic and optimistic deduction, isn’t it? Maybe again our consciousness deludes us to survive with a primitive instinct. In this essay, we would question the purpose of life and analyze the human tendency of finding meaning.
One approach to the problem is explained through religions and beliefs. From the early civilizations in both Mesopotamia and Egypt, humankind built temples, turned their utmost gratitude into a form of art and believed the existence of something which has greater control over the consequences of their actions. The idea of being protected and surveilled by a holy creature relieved the fear, the stress and the burden of loneliness. Since death is a tragedy, we wanted to believe that we are not alone, and this journey on Earth is not the end. Early Egyptians recognized the life-cycle around the Nile river and artificially they constructed their life-cycle. Mummying themselves with their golds and wives, they tried to give meaning to human existence by preparing for the afterlife. All the other major religions as Christianity or Islam integrated the concept of Egyptian afterlife with their doctrine. Variety of questions such as “Who am I? What is the meaning of life? Why do we live?” found their answers within the concept of God. Without a need for explanation to these ontological questions, the concept of a creator and the afterlife cured the existential crisis. Then after believing a God, there is no importance whether these questions are replied or not. Although the tendency of finding meaning through a religion may seem irrational, they created arguments to prove that the whole Cosmos has a superior creator. One simple argument might follow as: “Even if the chair has its carpenter, the whole universe which has full of harmony and life-cycles around must have a creator beyond the conscious of a human.” One can be impressed with the argument through the biological cycles, all the perfect chemistry that builds up the molecules and the physics behind the everyday lives. This point of view might satisfy a group and encourage them to believe more than in three dimensions. By looking at a larger context people are tending to find larger purposes to their lives. As a result, faithfully, they can conclude that our lives matter.
On the contrary, the counter-argument might suggest that the pride of human drives us to wish for permanence. Even though death is the actual end and nothing matters, the pride of having conscious minds leads us to find pseudo meanings in life. That’s why some argue that although humans are in the last step of the evolution of mammals, our existence does not require sanctified reasoning. Meaning that humankind is not created for a greater aim in a broader context thus our existence has no importance at all. Admitting that any of your desires, projects, achievements, and relationships have no meaning is terrorizing for human nature, however, in my opinion, accepting the death as an end is a soothing way that relieves all the concerns and stresses of our simple lives. Embracing death is the point where you start to live to the fullest with no rush and long-term plans. It is the breaking point where your biggest fears lost their meanings, therefore accepting the death is discovering your identity. It is irrational to seek meaning in life since the answer will just satisfy our superegos. “Who am I?” is just a question to find an identity. Trying to give a meaning to the existence and living with an aim is absurd since we will not last long. Of course, we may affect some other people socially and attend various awareness campaigns or we can start initiatives to sustain our environment. However, at the end of the day, I will die someday, thus my initiatives and existence would have no importance. Let’s say, I did a very successful job and inspired the next generations, but again they all will die someday and all our commitments would have no importance. Our endeavors will be forgotten and our existence would vanish. We will be lost in the nothingness. As a result, one might prefer to not seek the absurd meanings but to evanesce.
In my opinion, whether life has a meaning or not has no importance because we as humans just aim to share the burden of existence. Some people do that by praying to their Gods and believing that this is not the only life that they live. They relieve themselves with the idea of permanence and living to eternity. On the other hand, some of us find it absurd to give meaning to life. What is important is right now, therefore, it is unnecessary to seek meaning. Being temporary is soothing and accepting the end is self-fulfillment. For me, the latter group is more likely to be called dasein because they tend to “be there” in present.