No, this is not some existential issue I’m having. There have been enough of those, all without epiphanies. No, I’m writing about our species.
If, by some chance, I were to encounter a life form from another planet – or even a life form from this planet – I’m hard pressed to think of anything we do, as a whole, that is worth mentioning in a meeting where first impressions matter. Sure, we have technology, science, spirituality… the list goes on, but that’s all self-referential. If we actually look at what we do from outside of our species, it would make a very thin blog post. A colony of bees has a use. A planet of humans – we change everything to our own benefit even while changing things against our benefit. It’s wonky.
What is our purpose? Ask anyone and you’ll get a different answer. We’re convinced that our species is immortal when generations of us live and die under the light of dead stars. In a way we are immortal, somehow managing procreate faster than we die to the point where we’ve pretty much run out of space on a planet because of our own constructs. Governments pay farmers not to grow food in some countries while others starve. We have weapons in our arsenals that no one on the planet can run away from unless they have a ticket to get into space, and we haven’t quite figured out where we would want to go other than, ‘not here’.
It’s easy to imagine how our species got scattered around the planet. There was a lot of ‘not here’ involved. In fact, every country I have been to – those socioeconomic geopolitical divides cartographers note – has a fair number of people who want to go somewhere else simply because it’s ‘not here’. As a species, maybe that means we’re nomadic.
As individuals, we are defined and usually define ourselves by our role and status in society, but we would never admit to being drones serving queens in a hive. Or would we? And should we? I think so. We haven’t figured out a system that isn’t like indentureship – people work for a company, pay other companies, but really we work in a system and pay the system to live in the system simply because we were… born in the system. That’s pretty unimaginative.
We all agree to some extent on what life is. Our shared illusion, perhaps. We all know that death is a certainty and joke that taxes are too, when death is not of our creation and taxes are. We could, if we wanted, abolish taxes – but instead we fight to abolish death. And we’re getting better at that since in that way, the drones can pay more taxes before their deaths. That’s peculiar.
Let’s say that we abolish death. Does that mean we get to play life longer? How is that a benefit? I’m hard pressed to explain how that is a benefit.
Technology, science? Pretty self-referential so far. A bunch of primates staring at small screens while bumping into each other at varying speeds hardly seems like progress, particularly when meaningful conversation is lost amid the noise. It’s brownian motion. We’re as entertaining as a cup of tea.
Religion? Self-referential as well, and while Pascal’s Wager is worth exploring, people get indoctrinated into religion before they are allowed to make big decisions in society. It’s a child marriage of sorts. But beyond that, religion doesn’t say too much about what our species is supposed to do, just about how people should behave. Again, self-referential. Imagine the leaps the space programs of the world would have if religions dictated that prayers had to be made in space to be effective.
The very idea that we don’t matter eats at us. It devours us because we desperately, from within our place as cogs of society and the weight that comes with, want to think that all of this means something. That despite our species own demonstrated self-destruction while proliferating at a greater rate, that despite what we feel during those dark parts of our lives that we hide from, we matter.
Is not mattering such a problem?
So, here’s the fun part. If we don’t matter, it doesn’t matter if we think we do. We have a blank slate if we don’t matter, where we can define as a species who we really are… or we have the fingerpainted hieroglyphics of our past to define ourselves by.
Are we really defined by what we have done instead of what we could do? That’s how they measure the value of person in HR and in society – or more would be done for children in society.
Speaking for myself, I like the idea of defining ourselves by what we could do.
But then, I don’t matter.