At times, the modern wave of individualism swamps me with its egocentricity. Exaltations to ‘find oneself’, identify one’s ‘true calling’ and imbue one’s life with ‘authentic passion and purpose’ are no doubt inspirational, but also strike me as narcissistic. It’s not an evil thing to enshrine one’s self, but is it sensible?
Let’s take a rational look at the world. Homo sapiens have been walking around on this little blue planet for, oh, about 300,000 years. In that time, a heck of a lot of people have lived, done stuff, and bitten the dust. Many died–and still do–in infancy and childhood. Face it. A lot of stuff happened before you existed, and lots more will happen after you die. Against the backdrop of humanity, I’m a blip. Against the backdrop of the universe, humanity is a blip.
My point is not to detract from individual striving for achievement. Indeed, it is such external striving that propels us forward as a species, and internal striving that enables each of us to move according to an inner compass. Also, I do believe that self-reflection and self-awareness are important tools in the navigation of life. What I do hope to point out is the ludicrousness of taking authenticity to its extreme: that we each have a magical path laid out for our lives that is known through getting in touch with our souls. Do we really need to imbue every action with deeper meaning?
Those of us who have the time and money to contemplate such mystical questions are surely the privileged class. As per Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it is only when the basic needs of hunger and security are fulfilled that we can sit around in self-reflection.
And so I say with pomp and verve: let us count ourselves fucking lucky. Isn’t it great to be alive? I love those moments–when the realisation of your own mortality and relative insignificance slaps you in the face, and you grasp the transient nature of your existence–then, for a second, you are fully grounded in your body. A moment of thrumming energy and acute awareness. There is meaning in simply experiencing.
It is great to be alive. Let us make the most of our puny lives. Let us make and do good things, as much as we can, and help those less fortunate. I don’t need to discover my ‘authentic self’ to do that.