I suspect it was one of those insanely intelligent Greek pricks who once said something like: ‘man is by nature a social animal’. Firstly, I think it behooves the progressively-minded and disconsolately-single young man to point out that in this particular day and age, we feel obliged to include women in the broad generalisations which diminish us all. So, at risk of offending the gnashing spirits of Greek pricks, let us reconstruct the statement, and say that ‘humans are by nature social animals’. Even still, I feel this does not get to the nub of the matter. In making such a claim, I boldly defy the wrath of every Greek who ever lived. After all, if the silly bastards couldn’t keep their civilisation ticking over until today, they must have been positively incompetent: just look at the misery perpetuated by our own yet-extant culture. If the Greeks were worse than us, their devotion to self-indulgence most have been fanatical. Perhaps we should all take a moment to be thankful we are not Greek, then leave the matter.
It is true enough to say that we humans are social animals, insofar as we feel the need to interact with one another. Yet why should this be? What vital resource is it that we are all so ravenously harvesting from one another? Why can a person not simply arise in the morning, stand naked before an assembled crowd, and shout: ‘I spurn you all! I shall walk this earth alone and be content!’ and then, by God, do so? The intent is one thing – any of us, when in the throes of a casual fit of pique, can reject the human race, but to actually carry out the threat, and to do so without a single regret for the rest of our bedamned lives – well, I think we can all agree that this is impossible. And I also think we all know why. Old Man Hermit can spend a night successfully ignoring those little red or blue demons – the type with pointy ears and forked-tongues – who pop up and cavort about when no one else is around, chanting: ‘Your life means nothing, your life means nothing!’ Old Man Hermit, should he be strong and determined and in possession of a hefty stick, can probably fend off the dancing demons for some time, but ultimately they will prevail: he will go mad; his body will shut down; and he will die lonely and sorrowful. What Old Man Hermit really needs is another Old Man Hermit living in the cave just up the hill, upon whom he can pop in now and then to share a cup of yak’s blood and reassure himself just how right he was to spurn everyone in the first place.
It is, you see, all about overcoming self-doubt: perhaps the most difficult task to confront us all. Imagine standing on the tundra in a ragged wolf-skin cloak, armed with nought but a fishing spear, and confronting the cackling shadow of Self-Doubt in mortal combat: it would eat your lungs and smear your brain into paste.
Clearly, the purpose in life is to strive, to struggle, to thrash about in a fit if need be: anything to distract ourselves from the awful realisation that there is no purpose in life. And, in one of those delightful ironies which punctuate our brief and tragic lives, in doing so we create our own purpose. We will do anything so long as we are not asked to consider the emptiness of our existence. We will associate with anyone so long as we are not asked to walk alone through the fields at night.
So, with due respect to dead Greeks, let us once more rewrite that which they so woefully messed up in the first place, and state: ‘humans are by nature animals so tormented by self-doubt, they will do anything to pass the time until they die, so long as they do not have to do it alone’. Me? I see nothing wrong with such a purpose in life. Who said it has to be profound?
Probably some dead Greek prick.