Our little tribulations

As I passed by the flat of one of my neighbours, I remembered that someone died alone there a few years ago and took weeks to be found. Months later, a young couple moved in. Now their toddler’s toys were spread in front of their door, illustrating our inevitable cycle of life and death with indifferent simplicity.

It reminded me of the apparent absurdity of our world, as if the certainty of death of the individual would remove the purpose of its existence. But are we in this life to fulfil our individual purposes? Or is it possible that we are here mainly to contribute to the perpetuation of our kind? The tyranny of our collective goal at the sake of our own personal fulfilment.

Millions of years of evolution just to end up allowing individuals to choose their fate freely? How would freedom of choice make the individual fitter for survival and reproduction? I believe that a strong component in our unconscious is there to ensure our survival, not as individuals, but as a species. Our petty tribulations, our dreams, hopes, achievements and deceptions as individuals mean nothing unless they are collective. Our purpose is to serve our god the species, like every other living form on the planet. Bound to an unconscious web we can barely see.

What then would be the purpose of the evolution of our individual conscience, our ego? Our rational minds allow us to abstract, to use the world around us. Not only to just be in it, but to utilise it. We have excelled at it, maybe a little too much. However, this capacity for abstraction has been developed so much at the expense of our unconscious intuitive mind that we feel estranged from this world, sometimes purposeless. We feel that we do not fit as isolated individuals. We are detached. It pains me to say this, being an introvert, but I can’t help but think that we only make sense as a group. Our individual lives are not insignificant, they all contribute to the common good of the species. We may like our lives or not, but it is probable that, like it or not, we are making our small contribution to the good of humankind, even unknowingly.

Near my workplace, there is a small area with wild plants. Last month they were all green. Now they are all yellow. Dead. You can see the seeds hanging from their stems. A little wind and off they will go, to create a new plant next year when the rain comes. We all understand the purpose of that plant, even if it died. Its individual life was irrelevant, maybe, but it did have a collective purpose.

The substance of that wrongness of act and relation which constitutes “sin” is the separation of the individual spirit from the whole; the ridiculous megalomania which makes each man the centre of his universe.

Evelyn Underhill, Practical mysticism: A Little Book for Normal People

What of our individual dreams, then? Our hopes, our expectations, are they mere illusions? Are they, maybe unconsciously, aligned with the aim of our species? Or have we steered the wheel so much towards the individual that we have lost our sense of purpose?

Often, we build our individual dreams on the fulfilled dreams of other individuals before us. Or we repeat them in a continuum. We repeat dreams and patterns, varnishing them with the new wind of the time. If someone is watching from another planet, I wonder if they find us so predictable. A wheel of patterns generated once and again.

Maybe we will not be able to make sense of our individual lives, at least not with the ego in the centre. Maybe we only make sense as pieces of a much bigger puzzle. Small as we might be, we do matter. The question may be individual, but the answer is inevitably collective.