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What’s the point?


Ever wonder why you bother to get out of bed in the morning? You'd better have a reason...

In 1996, astronomers at NASA decided to try an experiment using the Hubble Space Telescope.  They chose a patch of the night sky that appeared to be “empty” and focused the telescope on that patch for ten days.  It wasn’t a very big patch of sky – roughly the size of a ten pence coin when viewed from 75 feet away – but what it revealed was astonishing.  Within that patch of sky, Hubble photographed approximately 1,500 galaxies.  Yes, you read that correctly: galaxies.

Our galaxy, which is thought to be average, as these things go, contains approximately 200 billion stars.  When you think of 1,500 galaxies each containing an average of 200 billion stars, the numbers start to add up.  Astronomers calculate that, as the universe is uniform, that tiny, “empty” patch of sky is representative of every other patch of sky in every other direction.  Space, as Douglas Adams wrote, is big.  Really big.

The duration of our lives, the years we spend growing up, on projects, on learning, on building a home and a family for ourselves, doesn’t even register on the cosmic scale.  The nearest galaxy to us is the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy (just a tiny one – only a billion stars) and light from that takes 25,000 years to reach Earth.  The light we see now left Canis when pre-civilisation, primitive mankind still shivered in caves in the grip of an ice age.  In the face of this incomprehensible scale, our actions are meaningless: nothing we do or say can have even the slightest impact on the universe.  So why bother doing what you do?  Why struggle and strive; suffer pain and heartache and sacrifice and the occasional, fleeting, joy or happiness?  Why do you even bother to get out of bed in the morning?  What is the point?

Before you think that I’ve become completely nihilistic, the point I’m making is that we all need a point.  And as the universe clearly doesn’t provide one, we have to create one for ourselves.  We have to create meaning and purpose in what we do – otherwise, we lose touch with it and simply give up.  For some people, it will come from an organised religion; for others, their children; for others, music.  It’s intensely personal and it is essential to living.  Many years ago, I was a Samaritan; I heard plenty of people tell me that their life had no meaning or purpose but nobody was ever happy about it.  Having no meaning or purpose – to anything we do, large or small – robs us of any reason to do it.

It’s an obvious point but so often overlooked.  It applies at the macro level of our lives and it applies at the micro level of every task we do at work.  If there is no meaning and purpose to the job we do – or the job we ask others to do – then we have to seriously question ourselves on what the consequences of that are.  Our lives do matter: the work we do, the actions we take, the time we spend all matter.  But we have to make them matter.

So you tell me: what’s the point?

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