Do you agree that there is a higher purpose to life?


Reading the question, I recalled a story from my childhood times. The story was about a group of frogs living comfortably and happily in a well. However, one particular frog was unsatisfied with his existence and continually tried to jump out of the well to no avail. Finally, on one stormy day, when the waters were high, the frog mastered all his strength and made his triumphant leap out of the well. Like the frogs, we humans have never been able to see past the confines of our lives. Still, there remains throughout history a minority of mankind who have so fervently held on to their belief in a higher purpose to life. These people held their ground against the tide of common belief, proving their resilience a hundred times over, and even contributed much to mankind. For the purpose of this discussion, I would define ‘higher purpose’ simply as a purpose which a man possesses that is way beyond himself, and may include service to a higher being of for the greater good of mankind.

In today’s globalised, urbanized and materialistic world, it is natural to conclude that man should live for himself. After all, life is short and we should make the best of it for ourselves. We just need to look at the multitude of celebrities such as Tom Cruise or Britney Spears to see that when people serve themselves whole-heartedly their lives would be such a ‘soaring’ success. In other words, we are taught by everything we see around us that we should plot the path of our lives ourselves, and for ourselves. In sharp contrast, religious people who abide by so called ‘higher purposes’ often end up in mundane, or even, worse ruined lives. One such example which continues to perplex the world is why Islam extremists would end their lives in suicide attacks just to fulfill their higher purpose. Hence people often believe that living for themselves is the best way to live.

With the inexorable rise of science and technology, we humans have been led to the perception that we are all powerful, and ‘nothing is impossible’ for us. It is undeniable that science and technology has allowed us to keep Earth under our control and use it to our benefit. Furthermore we are now offered a glimmer of hope in creating life, long considered an act of God, through various techniques such as genetic engineering. This may inevitably lead people to think that we are gods in our own right, and really do not have a higher purpose in life. Frankly speaking, humans do not know everything. For example, Marco Polo travelled from Europe to China and back. Many Europeans believed that China had a very backward civilization, which could not be further from the truth. Hence we cannot discount the existence of God and place ourselves in this position simply because we have made certain advancements. And if God does indeed exist, there would surely be a higher purpose to life. Hence till the day that science and technology disproves the existence of God, we could do well remember that ancient humans once thought the world was flat, and not get ahead of ourselves in thinking.

Throughout history, there have been numerous examples of men who believed in a higher purpose accomplishing great things and making life so much better for the rest of mankind. I believe this sense of a higher purpose does serve us very well and differentiates us from animals. If we were to serve ourselves, as the animals do, the world would become a haven for chaos and mayhem. Rather, people with higher purposes have truly made this world a better place. For example, Mohandas Gandhi, not known to be a religious man, stood for his higher purpose of gaining independence from British control without the use of violence. This was definitely no easy task when the entire nation was on the brink of an uprising against the colonial masters. Yet his deeply rooted higher purpose, and his continual advocacy of non-violence eventually saved millions of lives. Even in ancient Greek times-----great philosophers pondered on the meaning of life, hence implicitly believes that there is indeed a higher purpose to life. Socrates once famously exclaimed that ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ And truly, such an examination of life’s higher purpose during their lives has left us with invaluable knowledge and insights. Some philosophers, such as Archimedes, have even laid down scientific laws, such as the principle of floatation, to benefit all of mankind. Notably, Einstein himself believed that intelligence was a gift to be used for the good of mankind. Hence it can be noted that only people who believed in a higher purpose provided the most significant benefits for the good of mankind.

Last but not least, I attest that there is a higher purpose to life simply because we are built in a certain way. Recent scientific research has shown that men have to search for something greater than themselves, be it a vision or a dream, of God in order to attain fulfillment of their lives and be truly satisfied with their lives. Furthermore, a recent Times article noted that people who believe in religion or the existence of a higher purpose showed increased resilience to mental and physical stresses in their everyday life. This inner calm is especially prevalent in people such as the Dalai Lama who despite facing great political pressure is able to mediate for hours in complete serenity.

In conclusion, I would like to point out that the question of whether a higher purpose to life exists would always remain debatable since it is unforeseeable that science may prove the existence of God or some innate higher characteristic in humans anytime in the near future. However, I do strongly affirm that there is a higher purpose to life as noted in the altruistic accomplishments of people in history who have believed in a higher purpose. Furthermore, science itself has lent weight to the fact that if our minds and bodies function at its optimum when there is a higher purpose truly exists. Finally for all of us who have ample reason to question this higher calling, it would do us great good to remember that even when the waters were high in the well, the frog had to make an effort for his triumphant leap. The frog had to first believe.