As a student, I hear a diverse mixture of commands and advice. On the one hand, I am told, "Speak now or forever hold your peace," and on the other, "It is never to late to start living." Regarding the former, the urgency demanded of me is contradictory and counterproductive to the virtues of patience and caution which are instilled in all of us from an early age, which are in harmony with the latter. But inherent in the understanding of this matter is what actually constitutes "living"? If it is based on what society determines, then "living" would include denying all religion, equality, selflessness, spirituality, thoughtfulness, compassion, reflection, and morality in favor of a lifestyle based on the ideals of collateral damage, greed, selfishness, death, money, etc. Therefore in considering the value of "living" in the context of these commands and mantras, we must turn to alternate method of considering what exactly it means to "live" so that we can establish a meaning which is indicative of our own personality and reflective of our innermost desires.
What is the one characteristic which makes us inherently alive? Is it that we can think? that we can dream? that we can feel? All of these are but unquantifiable measures of our existence by which we merely separate ourselves from other creatures. But that which makes us different is not necessarily that which makes us alive. Because of this discrepancy, philosophers, scientists, and very well the whole of humanity have spent millennia contemplating the reason for this existence we call life. The search for meaning takes on a special sort of haste considering the limited time frame in which we, as but temporary clouds of dust and electrons, have to analyze and understand these things around us. We are thus forced to attempt to comprehend that which may be infinitely complex and intricate inside of a life which is ever so finite and restricted. Yet part of what makes this quest for understanding so extraordinary is that we undertake it in spite of the fact that we have no idea of how long we actually have to live.
Mortality is something which everyone experiences but which the majority of people fail to adequately contemplate or comprehend. It is only in our grasp of the brevity of life that we can ascribe meaning to this brief collection of moments and actions which combines to form our humble existence. In our reflection on mortality, we can definitively see how small and insignificant we truly are. We can neither master time nor the course of events upon which our lives travel. In realizing these facts, we find that we are inextricably drawn to question our subsistence insomuch as we fail to understand the reason we came to be or continue to exist here. In the midst of the unsatisfying milieu of equations, experiments, and answers we try to use to solve the most immediate question of our lives, it is possible that we can discover something more concrete and meaningful than an objective reason for life. Through this chaotic and heart-wrenching journey of a lifetime, perhaps we, like the great scholars and philosophers before us, can even find meaning for ourselves.
"There is not one big cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.” ~Anais Nin