When I walk through the streets, I am greeted by so many faces and so many of these faces tell me the very same story – the story of feeling irrelevant.
People feel so indifferent and apathetic towards the world around them and that is expressed in how we treat our natural environment, other species and of course, ourselves.
Is it because we don’t really belong here on this planet like all the millions of other species? No, of course not. But we seem to feel like we don’t belong here, that we were dropped off on this planet, left to ourselves and no one to guide us in the right direction.
We as human beings are blessed with incredible capabilities of willpower, endurance, and adaptation, but these superhuman powers only become activated when we have a reason for them to function, when life has bestowed us with a sense of purpose, with a challenge that needs to be overcome, circumstances that need to be endured and changes that need to be made. It is when we aspire to grow beyond ourselves, when we have something to fight for, to live for, that we truly become alive – even in the worst of circumstances that we find ourselves in.
Take Victor Frankl for example, a psychiatrist who lived through the horrors of Nazi Germany and its concentration camps. Those in the camp who gave their hopes, their reason to continue their battle in those circumstances were far more likely to die, than those that held on tight to their hopes and reasons to live on.
There are countless other stories such as the one of Viktor Frankl, but what is weaving them together is the golden string of purpose, meaning, and reason.
If we find a reason to live, to continue, to fight, we can overcome any obstacles in our way. Or as Friedrich Nietzsche said:
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
What do people nowadays fight for? What does life consist of for most people?
I think for the most part people’s life is a constant battle of unpaid bills, stressful work weeks and a cocktail of fear, worry, and tense muscles. What a strange way to organize human life, knowing it could be so much more. Of course, people have no energy left to fight for something bigger if the battles they face on a daily basis already drain them of all their vital forces. I think that people in their heart of hearts actually do care about this world and about their fellow men, but in a world that lives by the saying “An eye for an eye”, it’s no wonder that we don’t show that care for each other.
We do so much, all of our lives we do, do and do and at the end of the day, it still isn’t enough. We are so busy, but we produce very little. Indeed, very little of our work shows us fruit we really enjoy. “Work” is something that will never change its nature if the primordial need for labor is to make money to pay bills. For work to become something truly meaningful, to become something more than just a dreadful activity that we devote a big part of our days towards, the system around it needs to change. Work shouldn’t be something we feel dreadful about, it should be that thing we do that contributes something tangible and meaningful towards society.
It’s no wonder that people feel the way they do. We as human beings innately crave meaning, connection and the knowledge that our lives are of some sort of significance and importance towards the whole and you certainly don’t feel that way if what you do for work consists of robotic, mind-numbing tasks that are an insult to the human potential alive in everyone. Of course, you meet the world with some form of resentment and apathy if you’re used as nothing more than a small cog in this broken machine to keep it running.
This doesn’t mean that all positions of work are of that nature. Especially today we have more chances and options than ever before, but there is still an incredible number of people working their fingers to the bone in jobs that turn us into humanlike robots – just to get by.
And as automation progresses, people will be laid off those jobs they hate to do, but desperately need. That will be the moment, were the most toxic feeling a human being could ever feel enters them – the feeling of irrelevance.
One who feels irrelevant is one who sees no meaning in his existence and to see no meaning in your existence is as good as being dead. Truly I feel like being irrelevant might be even worse than being enslaved, because if you’re enslaved, you have something to fight for – your freedom. But what if you’re neither enslaved nor free, but walk in the limbo of irrelevance where your existence is just a piece of an endless meaningless puzzle?
Neither life nor death is present in there, just you and the hazy curse of your own existence.
What we need today, more than ever before, is the reminder that we do matter, that this world has brought us forth to participate in its unfolding. We are part of this world, we belong here and maybe its time that we may really find our place in it. Out of the limbo and into life.