Discovering a New Way of Life
I was crawling my way through a nine-hundred-and-sixty-nine page Mechanical Systems Modeling textbook, preparing for a final, when in a moment of weakness, I began pondering the college student’s quintessential concern, “is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life?”
The answer came as easy as algebra to an engineer, and was by far the most coherent thought I had all day. “No way man,” was my resounding confession. At the heart of my dissatisfaction was neither the tremendous amount of work that I had to deal with, nor was it my inability to fathom transient second order mechanical systems; rather, it was the prospect of a life consumed by the struggle to keep up with what society had deemed ‘the right path’ – get a job, marry, have kids, and then retire to aching bones, depleting memory and obsolescence. Not that these things are wrong or futile, but what concerns me is that there has to be something more to life. Having watched my parents and many others walk ‘the path’ for the past twenty years, I am convinced that this so-called ‘path’ is not the one to lasting happiness and fulfillment. Even with our horrendously low standards of happiness – which to many people mean simply the cessation of suffering, or in my current case, the end of exams – we’re rarely, consistently happy for more than a couple of days at the max! And if one were to dare suggest raising this shallow bar, such a person might be labeled naive.
At the root of this superstition is that we are brainwashed from the very beginning to believe that the above mentioned ‘path’ is actually indispensable; that hoarding money, family, and material security somehow directly equate to happiness and that no amount of scientific studies or personal experiential proof should convince us otherwise. In this regard, Jerome K. Jerome in his classic novel, Three Men in a Boat, writes, “Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need – a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love….” His words, ‘only what you need’ beg redefinition for each and every one of us at an honest and individual level. And so when I asked myself, “what do I really need?” I inevitably came to the conclusion that the Beatles had arrived at a long time ago, that all you need is love!
Every creature, whether it is cognizant of it or not, is ultimately looking for love. If not for love then why would we bother getting out of bed every single day to slog away at a cramped desk for long, tedious hours, solving abstract equations or writing convoluted papers about things that we couldn’t care less for? Without love, earning money and assimilating fame and power would be meaningless, because if no one would love you for it, then what would be the point of all that effort? My conclusion is that dead matter – anything devoid of a spirit soul – in and of itself cannot satisfy us, unless and until it causes a loving interaction between conscious living beings. And so when we emphasize material pursuits, we are effectively missing the forest for the trees.