Why is it that some of us, and by that I mean millions, maybe even billions of us spend our whole lives feeling like something is missing? There’s something we need, something we want, that we just can’t find. I think this feeling is a lot more pervasive than many would like to admit. We look for it everywhere we go, and in everything we do. We look for an answer to a question and we don’t even know what the question is. What are we looking for?
Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, poses, what is the answer to the question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. In the story, a super computer is built to answer that question. It takes 10 billion years. The answer when it is finally given is, 42. The people revolt. The answer doesn’t mean anything, they say. The computer argues that it was given the task of finding the answer to the question of Life, the Universe, and Everything but it was never told what the question actually was. If they figure out what the question actually is, the answer will have meaning.
I think Adams has hit on a fundamental truth about humanity which I stated in the previous paragraph. What are we looking for? What is the question we want an answer to? We look for answers to questions that aren’t fully formed in our minds. Something is missing and we don’t really know what it is. We turn to religion, to the worship of God or Gods. We look for satisfaction in relationships. We turn to drugs, food, or entertainment. We delve into work, art, or music. And still, we are unsatisfied. What the hell are we looking for?
It is the question of the ages, isn’t it? What are we doing here? What is our purpose? Is our purpose nothing more than to just exist? Is that all there is? Do we just work and play and then die? Is there nothing more? I don’t mean to be morose, but seriously. Even people who claim to have found satisfaction in a relationship or work or whatever still have this niggling feeling that there must be something more. Something missing that they just can’t quite put their finger on. What is the question to the answer of Life, the Universe, and Everything?
Sometimes I think there isn’t a universal purpose to life. I think individually, we can find purpose. We can find satisfaction in work and play. In relationships. I’ve done this. But as Buddhism teaches, everything is temporary. Everything changes. Even the cells in our bodies change every day. I left a bunch of dead ones on my bed sheet when I got up this morning. So it seems that satisfaction in things, in feelings or beliefs is temporary. People fall out of love, work becomes a drag rather than a joy like it used to be. So what is our purpose here? Is it nothing more than just looking for the next thing to keep us going for a while? That sounds horribly depressing.
I can’t give you any answers. I don’t have them. I too have been looking for that answer and the question to it, all my life. I suppose maybe that’s our fate. To keep looking. And maybe that’s not so bad. To keep looking. Imagine our joy when we finally find it! And maybe that is our purpose in life. To look. To seek. To try to find answers to questions, whatever they may be. Arguably enough, I think there is joy in that. The longer you look, the more you learn. I think I’m going to keep learning. Maybe I’ve answered the question for myself.