The question of life’s purpose is one that most serious minded human beings above the age of 28 have probably asked themselves multiple times. Why was I born? What am I supposed to do with my life? Who made the universe and the marvelous structure behind it? Is there a God? If there is a God, does HE or SHE give a damn about me? What happens to my consciousness when I die? These questions are timeless, yet there seems to be no consensus on an answer. Perhaps we are all here to get married, start families, be good workers, and live happily ever after. Perhaps striving to be fundamentally good angelic people who never lie, cheat, or hurt anyone is the point of it all. Or perhaps more cynically, our purpose is to simply play our minuscule part on the grand scheme of evolution before we die off and get replaced by more competent versions of ourselves (our children). Maybe there is no purpose to it all and this game of life is just one giant cosmic joke which serves as comic relief to the creator who observes our relatively insignificant squabbles and emotional dramas from a cold distance. To be honest, I don’t think anyone unequivocally knows what the purpose of life is but having devoted a lot of thought and research to this topic, I am going to state my case on what I think an essential part of it is. At this point, I’m wondering if you’ll agree with me or freak out but I guess that’s the whole point of having my fingers fly around the keyboard as I type this. OK I’ll stop all the “meta chatter” now… let’s get to work.
Studies in the field of genetics continue to show that each individual is genetically unique with the notable exception of identical twins. It is reasonable to maintain that this uniqueness at birth marks each us for a very specific part to play in the elaborately intricate dance of life. We are born with the raw materials to do something special… to sing (a great ear and vocal chords), to paint (a great eye for details and a steady hand), to play a musical instrument (stupendous hand dexterity, motor control, and a great ear), to science the shit out of things (supreme tenacity and fantastic reasoning faculties) etc. For the record, these special qualities don’t come fully developed right at the moment of birth. It is preposterous to think that anyone comes out of their mother’s womb knowing exactly what a C minor pentatonic scale is… people are only born with the raw materials that enable them to eventually absorb it and intuitively fuse it into a tear jerking guitar solo after years of practice. I would suggest that these natural inclinations or talents that exist inside all of us in one form or the other are parts of the divine force of nature seeking full expression through our human form. It is the divine creator himself that wants to write a beautiful poem, paint a wondrous picture, dance like James Brown, “rip it” on a Fender Stratocaster, write a beautiful song, and shoot like Steph Curry.
Taking the above into account, the next question that becomes immediately apparent is: “Why then do so many of us ignore this primal inclination and end up with spouses we can’t stand, jobs we hate, and end up in a mountain of debt stemming from buying things we don’t need to impress people we don’t like?” Simple answer… there is another powerful force that is diametrically opposed to the one seeking expression from within. This counter force takes many insidious forms… the voices of our well-meaning parents and friends, television ads, social media etc. All these voices constantly work on trying to get us to do the “right thing” which is basically the same as “conforming to the results of other people’s thinking”. This voice can be very powerful. If care is not taken, it can actually extinguish the inner flame which drives each of us to develop and express our unique selves by engaging in a religious devotion to stubborn rigor, and relentless practice. It is important to point out that your parents aren’t out to get you when they advise you to become a lawyer rather than a rock star. They are actually trying to protect you even if it might be misguided. From a strictly mathematical perspective, your parents have a point… If you complete a law or medicine degree in spite of your apathy for the subject matter, you will probably end up earning in excess of $100,000 dollars a year which will make for a comfortable life. On the contrary, if you choose to be a guitar player, singer, and songwriter, the odds of making that kind of money on a consistent yearly basis are considerably worse. It is important to note that in both instances, we are referring to the average case. However, I think we can all agree that the best artists or musicians will make much more money each year than the best surgeons on average. Thus, the solution here is to mindfully and consciously reject being average and strive for greatness. You need to work to make yourself so ultra skilled and unique that people will happily open their wallets and pay you whatever sum of money you choose to charge for your goods and/or services. In short, you must work to make yourself irreplaceable.
Making yourself irreplaceable is imminently possible due to the uniqueness of your genetic code. You and I are inherently unique… no one else in your field will be able to do exactly what you can do because your genetic fingerprint doesn’t exist anywhere else… present, future, or past. Moreover, you’ve had a combination of personal experiences that no one else can match. As an example of this, John Clayton Mayer and James Marshall Hendrix both wield the electric guitar and even though Jimi influenced John as is evident every time John plays, John’s unique personality and soul essence is still readily apparent even when he plays songs originally written by Jimi. Also, even though many of us guitar players mimic John, none of us can quite capture his exact sound partly because we don’t have his genes. This phenomenon brings to mind what I think is a broadly spread fallacy that currently pervades our culture in which we have come to think of equality through many well meaning contemporary movements (feminism, civil rights movement etc) as striving for sameness from individual to individual. I would argue that the true and most virtuous kind of equality is striving to provide equal opportunity for all to express their uniqueness in a way that enriches society. This notion is parallel to what we see in nature where all the diverse plant and animal species contribute to a glorious whole.
In conclusion, find your unique voice and work it till you become a badass. Follow the fire in your soul and trust that it will always lead you to the correct destination. Scoff at the need for external affirmation and praise because they will eventually lead you astray. Follow the masters that came before you and love your subject for its own sake because if you stay loyal to it, it may very well morph into the best and most loyal friend you will ever have. This my friends is the Dao or Way… From all of us here at chubaoyolu.org take care of each other and embrace your inner badass.
Oyolu B.C. Ph.D.
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