I've just begun an online AP Psychology course and, like James, recently encountered this quote:
"Why should I live? Why should I do anything? Is there in life any purpose which the inevitable death that awaits me does not undo and destroy?
-Leo Tolstoy (1904)
Jim argues that our actions do matter, because they live on through our legacy and what we leave behind. It's a good point, but I don't think that's ever been my exact school of thought.
Not to be a downer, or a pessimist, or even emo, but I, too, often find myself wondering if anything I do matters, and if there is a reason to do anything at all. While you can certainly "live on" through a legacy, I don't think it's for everyone. Not everyone can invent a unit of measurement, or a theory, or have a street or bridge named after them. Some live simple lives, maybe out in the country, raising a nice family and doing what good they can. Do their lives mean less, because they aren't remembered for the same time span as others? I don't think so. Everyone is forgotten, eventually... except Jesus, and Caesar it seems. Even if you are remembered that long, you probably aren't remembered for who you really were - your image, your life, is distorted. There's nothing wrong with working hard during your life to leave behind something great.. I just don't think that's all you should want. Legacy, in one sense, is hunger for attention, even after death.
So why should we do anything? Why should I go to college and get a job and make a living? Does it matter? Well, I'm not sure yet. However, I think I have a reason to live. Although it may sound strange, I love people. I love meeting people, and connecting with people, if only for a short time. If you know me well, you know that I get very attached to people very quickly. That's probably because that's what I view as most important in life - the connections you make with those around you. If nothing else in the world is real, our interactions with each other are. If you take a piece of everyone you meet with you, and vice versa, then at the end of your life you will have, if not money or power or fame or glory, a piece of everyone you came into contact with, a little bit of their life. That's beautiful.
Ironically, through the people you meet, you create a legacy of sorts. You give them a piece of you, meaning, you change them, if only in the smallest way. They, in turn, meet others, and share that with them, creating the tangled, infinite web that is humanity. Through the people you meet, know, and love, you will live forever, even if your name does not.
Note to Jimmy: I swear I didn't write this for the sake of arguing with you... I seem to be doing that a lot lately.
ramblings of a semester untold, III
5 years ago