A Purpose of Life

by Nic Olson

I know a purpose of life. I found it on the couch yesterday. The purpose was not written on the couch in the form of a hot sauce stain, nor was it lost under the cushions like a clandestine gathering of quarters and dimes. But rather, I was sitting on the couch when I found it. I didn’t have to search very hard considering I was only away from the couch for about three hours the entire day. Purpose is slow. I didn’t have to search very hard at all, the purpose of life was actually mailed to me with a pair of shoes several months back. I’ve been carrying a purpose of life in my backpack around the continent with me and it took me at least six months to sort it all out. It was in a book.

Today, I found the purpose of life to be this:

 “It took us that long to realize that a purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”

-Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan, Epilogue, p313

Detail oriented people will notice the difference between the grammatical articles, definite and indefinite. This quote employs the indefinite article, aThe versus a. It would be neglectful of us to search for purpose as if there was only one to be found. The the. Vonnegut found one purpose and shared it through a novel. I can find one through reading his novel and sharing it with you. Finding a purpose doesn’t mean that it is easy to act out, and the fact that you found it doesn’t mean that you were already good at it. The fact that you aren’t good at it is maybe the way that you found the purpose in the first place, through noticing your own lack of ability in it. Purpose must be found knowing that you will find it again, or find a different one later.

Tomorrow, the purpose of life could be this:

“..all I can do is be friendly and keep calm and try and have a nice time till it’s over.”

-Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan, Chapter 9, p202

I can decide what a purpose of life is as often as I want, and you’ll have no choice but to read it. I can end the world today and start it back up like a gas burning stove. I can defy the laws of physics, I can reinvent how relationships work, I can claim to be the creator of the moon. I can do all this, not because I claim to be a god, but because I have a pen and a paper. Because of fiction. Because I have a blog. Because any asshole with a website has that opportunity. I am not spending time presenting my beliefs as the purposes of life, nor am I debating the legitimacy of those presented by Vonnegut, but I am simply offering the idea that purpose can be discovered, and when it is, it should be shared. But it takes more than a man and his medium to find a purpose, and if he shares that he found the purpose of life, then he is presenting the purpose as incomplete, or he is be doing it for egotistic reasons.

Monday, the purpose of life could be to realize this:

“The worst thing that could possibly happen to anybody,” she said, “Would be to not be used for anything by anybody.”

-Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan, Chapter 9, p202

I have always wanted to have the authority and knowledge to definitively say what the meaning of life is, regardless of whether it were true or not, or whether it would be possible for a human being to know this anyway, or if there is an sort of purpose or meaning at all. I want to be a prophet or a man of great influence with the authority to write even a single purpose of life. If I discover even a single truth in my day and feel able enough to communicate it to even one single person, then I will be comfortable with what I’ve accomplished.

Over the past two years, I have compiled a document of about twenty pages of significant quotes from books I have read. Sorted by author, categorized according to topic, this document is full of truths. It is full of different purposes of life, eloquently laid out by men and women of great ability; sorted and stacked by me. To claim there to be solely one purpose to life would be neglecting the great truths said by the great people of the past. It is impossible to sum up the purpose of human life in a single phrase, or single paragraph, or single book. But we can at least remember the times that we find a single purpose, and keep searching for more.

Next week the purpose of life could be this.

But I hope not.