life, how to live it.

(*NOTE purpose, reason, meaning – three words whose meaning i use quite interchangeably when it comes to talking about big, vague concepts like life. they will abbreviated here as p.r.m *)

i’m old enough to stop being naive about the world and choose my life. but first the question of what the p.r.m. of life is?

what does life really boil down to? why do we want to keep breathing to survive? what is the reason for human life? i don’t think there is any reason for life. maybe we’re just part of a larger system, part of a game. But there is really no fundamental reason for life, or for the universe in fact.
there is no reason for life, so (surviving) living becomes the reason. not only to live longer, but also to enhance the process of living. The quality of the human experience comes from exploring the full range of human emotions and going to the extremes of the universe with human knowledge. A profound statement, “the universe essentially only exists as you perceive it through what you know; therefore, if you change your perception of the universe with new knowledge, you have essentially changed the universe itself.”

And that is what life should be, one that will give us choices to explore being human.

what does it mean to live in this world?
the purpose of all living organisms is to survive, the same for humans. How do we survive? Surviving used to mean nutritious food, clean water, safe housing. But in modern society, survival also requires education, housing, healthcare. Because of technological advancement, all of that is now provided by society and we need to pay for those services. The higher the price, the better the quality of the service. That’s why our world has arranged itself economically and disproportionately rewards those who can create the most economic value. This is achieved by creating value through artificial products, explaining our evolution from primary to tertiary industries. This explains why stock traders are high valued because they make money off fictitious financial instruments, options, derivatives. The greatest wealth separator is capital gain, because it’s gain that you need to work for. Average workers end up spending all their earnings by the time they die. The only way to accumulate wealth is to invest into things that will appreciate: property, financial instruments such as stock, bonds. It’s how the world ending up being for good or for bad. This is to say that money itself is not bad because it is only a means to an end, survival; it’s bad only when it becomes the purpose. To explore being human in today’s world, that requires us to delay gratification to maximize choices in the future with money or with knowledge.

what should my life be?
i don’t want to resign to a life of creating noise. what do I mean by creating noise? It’s a frustration that many jobs I am aware of create economic value by navigating this artificial society: accountants, lawyers, bureaucrats. Sure, many of their services are integral for the functioning of our society but none of these are relatable to the human experience.

I want to give.

if you think about it, the p.r.m of science as they say is to describe systematically the natural world. But we ultimately want to apply it to our benefit which will allow the human species flourish and live longer. The same applies to knowledge; knowledge is what we exploit to allow ourselves to live longer. i think the meaningfulness of the work you’re doing ultimately derives from the size of the group whose survivability you’re trying to enhance. Scientists, doctors, aid workers, have careers of giving, don’t you think?

Research is an option I’ve never considered before. I want to help people in some capacity but research seems so far removed from the actual helping sometimes. The other problem is that giving consumes economic value instead of creating it. Ideologies don’t buy bread. It’s a fear because as I said before life is about having choices. And not having money to do certain things is a restriction.

If i end up living a life chasing ideologies, I apologize. I apologize to my unborn son and my unmet wife sine I will not be able to provide them a life as good as the one provided to me by my parents.

And who is to say just living a life is easy in today’s world ideologically or not? finding a job that makes enough money to support your family and your own life. Finding a job doing what you like and also feeds you. How many have that. Scientific discoveries is also exploited to create wealth and cause destruction in some cases, weapons. There is noise regardless of what you do, and you cannot be naive about that.

I grew up having a comfortable life with no dire need to make money to survive, and i guess that gave me the chance to be naively idealistic. it also comes from an internal idealistic compass that my elementary school principal said i had. But even if that were not the case, as a reasonably informed human of our era, how can you not do anything when you see the poor, the famished and the ones in pain?

It’s all about choice. I would like to have the choice to live many human experiences, feel all the human emotions, explore the universe with human knowledge and engage in a life of giving. I discuss the full philosophical, emotional ramifications of living now but all of us have done a fair share of living already. Living starts the moment we are born. Regardless of what our lives end up being, it’s still precious because it’s the only thing we have. Even kids know that


6 thoughts on “life, how to live it.

  1. Dude, I like and agree with much of this. I’ve been toying with a new vision of Ethics and Morality, as being all about flourishing. What is good? That which contributes to the flourishing of humankind. Something like that. Also, totally not my own idea. Taken from Owen Flanagan’s The Problem of the Soul , which I still have checked out actually, but I’d happily hand it over if you remind me.

    Generally, I don’t know if I buy the idea that your life is only as meaningful as the size of the group of people who you help to flourish. That seems too restrictive, though I can’t exactly come up with an argument at the moment.

    I guess I think meaning is something created, that doesn’t exist outside of the ability of people to conceive of it, and so there is no inherent meaning in anything. Whatever meaning you find, you’ve created. (Maybe I would just talk about value or something instead of meaning. Dunno…)


    1. you’re right, and the person who commented below you is also right, meaning is created. as you as you like it, it’s fine.

      ethics and morality. i’m not so sure about that. i learnt, then tried to disprove but have eventually come to terms that life is many shaded. good, bad, what does it all mean? good now may not be good forever. bad locally may not be bad globally. sometimes separating the world into neat blocks doesn’t work. if life is not discrete, why go through the pain of coming up with a theory to make it discrete just to have it all crumble? my ethics and morality is simple: “do to others as you would want them to do unto you” (which apparently is the Golden Rule, i did not know that.)

  2. ha. It has hit you.

    Let us adopt the materialist’s view, ie. that there is nothing but the physical presence of the world. Once you die, you cease to exist.

    What is the purpose of life? To enjoy the process, the materialist says. So go ahead and enjoy life. Do whatever you want. Why waste time helping people and trying to change the world for the better? What are all those going to mean when, in a century, you cease to exist?

    Get rich, drain even more money from the poor (who cares about them? nothing’s going to matter to them or you in 100 years), shoot people in your school (that sounds like an exciting way to finish an otherwise mundane life); whatever you like, that’s the only thing that matters.

    For the unfortunate mass, same thing applies. Commit suicide if things get too adverse to make life enjoyable. It won’t matter.

    I like how almost everyone criticizes people who commit suicide as irresponsible. Suicide is to the materialist what baptism is to the religious. It is the proclamation of one’s willingness to act on his believes. What is the meaning of life? To enjoy the process. The process isn’t fun? Bail out of it.

    Of course, I am not saying you have to be that radical. Bottom line is, do what you want. Research, helping the the underprivileged; these are all fine things to do. Just don’t do it because it impacts other people. Do it because it makes you feel good. That is all that matters.

    Not sure if that was coherent. Main point: there is no purpose to life. Just do what you want.

    Unless, of course, you aren’t a materialist.

  3. Dear Jason,

    (I have written too much, I apologize in advance!)

    Allow me to begin firstly by telling you how much I enjoy and appreciate your blog. My friend has recently shared this blog with me and I have only recently begun reading.

    In high school, we race to get the top marks, and we race to claim all the leadership positions so we could get into that top university. In university, we start the process all over again, chasing after a piece of paper to secure salaries and future. We will later graduate, and then begin a similar process. It is a continuous cycle of competition out of fear of not being able to survive. That’s not what I want, but what can be done?

    The meaning of life- it is a question I have been constantly struggling and thinking about ever since the beginning of middle school. I often fear the thought of not being able to achieve what I want to in this short period of time we call life. Yet I am unsure what it is that I want to achieve. Is it to bring happiness or some sort of “betterment” to this world full of problematic, dangerous and dirty issues? Or is this goal way too naïve, idealistic and perhaps impossible to achieve?

    “… our world has arranged itself economically and disproportionately rewards those who can create the most economic value.”

    Is capitalism the best system? If not, is there a better one!?

    These are all questions I have been struggling with.

    Similar to your purpose of life, I want to give. I’d like to make a contribution to this world before my time is up. As the actress who portrays Margaret Thatcher in the new movie, the “Iron Lady” says, “one’s life must matter”. But yes, this desire is often in conflict with the actual circumstances in life, because as you pointed out, finding a job you like and also feeds you is not always possible.

    “And not having money to do certain things is a restriction.”

    I have recently decided to pursue/ enter the field of investment management/ investment banking because it is perhaps the quickest way (and more suitable to my interests) I can think of to gather up resources in order to 1) become financially independent of my parents, 2) help fulfill the dreams of my parents for all they have sacrificed in getting me a proper education to take my place in this society, and 3) be financially capable to do “more” to help solve some of the issues in this world.

    In fact, I even have the thought of giving up the choice of having a future family of my own in the pursuit of these dreams.

    But the trouble with all this “planning” is that, things do not always go according to plan. And what would I do then? I certainly do not want to devote my whole life chasing after pieces of paper and numbers.

    I have been listening to a Cantonese song made popular by a recent TVB drama. These lyrics got me thinking- “如果命運能選擇 十字街口 你我踏出的每步更瀟灑”. If we did get to choose our destiny beforehand, would our choices in life be different?

  4. words are always welcomed in this part of the cyberspace.
    let me say these words:
    i understand your dilemma because i am there myself but consider these few words.
    There’s a book called “what should i do with my life” by Po Bronson. the title says it all.
    (i’m not telling you to buy the book because from previous experience and reading amazon reviews, these type of books only have a few major points. as long as you understand these major points, which you can by reading this magazine adaptation:

    one thing he says there is very important
    “It turns out that having the financial independence to walk away rarely triggers people to do just that. The reality is, making money is such hard work that it changes you. It takes twice as long as anyone plans for. It requires more sacrifices than anyone expects. You become so emotionally invested in that world — and psychologically adapted to it — that you don’t really want to ditch it.”

    i understand investment banking, its rewards, its pay. but rmb you’re committing not to a job, but a life, a culture, a fate. my next post is exactly going to be about money and life.

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