This is a continuation of a story begun in the post “Chapter 1. Part 1.” If you enjoy it, please like and share it with others!
The first answer I thought of was conquest. My entire life as a soldier thus far had revolved around military superiority. The domination of other states and keeping Athens the one pure Ionian nation was the purest of intents.
My heart began to race as I considered this thought. Surely conquest was our purpose as people. We were meant to dominate one another, to consume one another, and the successful consumption of another was the fulfillment of our existence. I began to think through the answer and discovered only one slight flaw. Eventually, we will be consumed, if not by another person then by death, and our conquest will have been in vain. Everything we had previously brought under our control would be released and return to being governed by the laws of nature. Conquest was a finite goal, and I needed to find an eternal goal, an infinite purpose.
I searched for another answer. If conquest could be defeated by death, then the legacy of your conquest, the eternal quality of it must be the goal. The purpose of life is to be remembered. We have to carve a mark into the stones of this earth that will in some way outlive death, resist the natural erosion, and live forever. If that is correct then the meaning of life in essence is to simply live, and whoever does that the longest lives the most purposeful life. I considered this for quite some time. This seemed to be the answer. The meaning of life is to be remembered for your life. I was about to deliver my answer when a curious thought popped into my head.
No one has ever answered correctly. I was unsure of how many before me had been caught in this cloud, and how many before me had been forced into this dark challenge, but I had to assume that many before me had given this answer. The desire to be known, to leave a legacy, is the most primal desire of men. How many before me must have said that their purpose was to be remembered, only to be met with the exact opposite fate? This thought, once it had come to full fruition in my mind, convinced me to look for another answer.
Pleasure. Perhaps the purpose of life is to simply enjoy it while you can. I thought about what brought me pleasure: strong drinks, beautiful women, good food, peaceful waters, and consuming anything that allowed me to escape the pain of this world. My heart pounded loudly in my ears. I didn’t think about this too long. I knew from experience that pleasure didn’t last. Either the ever increasing appetite made the pleasure unpalatable, or the cruel forces of life stole them away.
My mind began to wander back to my friends in Sparta. I saw Jutas standing next to his wife, his children running around in front of him. Maybe the purpose of life was family. To love a woman and child and eventually to carry on your family name was as close to eternal as anyone could get. But still it was not enough. Eventually your blood would dilute. Your family name would die and you would be left forgotten.
I thought and thought, pondered and pondered. Every time I arrived at a reasonable answer, I would reasonably defeat that answer. Every idea I had died on the battlefield of my mind. That was when the true answer completely winded me.
Death. Every answer had ended in death: death of ideas, or death of legacy, death of love, or death of life, it made no difference. And finally I came to my conclusion.
The purpose of life is death. Life exists only as a contrast, a precursor, to death. Every life, every idea, every love, and every thought eventually ends in death. My job was to find the purpose of a man, and a man does not exist except to fulfill a purpose, and the only purpose that every man will most assuredly fulfill is death. We live so that we can die, and everything in life is a natural attempt to resist our natural conclusion.
So there it was. I had my answer. An answer no man before me would have given.
I gazed into the being’s eyes, the hopelessness of my reality fully resting on my face. “The purpose of human life is human death.”
He froze. Even the light emanating from his body stopped flickering. His neck slowly twisted so that his eyes were perfectly in line with mine. “Correct,” he whispered. “Correct,” he said aloud. “Correct!” he shouted. Then in a booming voice, deep and constant, he began to speak just loud enough to make me uncomfortable, but not so loud as to make me cover my ears, “Nicholas Alexander, you among all men have correctly gleaned the purpose of your existence. It is in death that the answers to all of your unanswerable questions lie. It is in death that understanding life can be obtained and only once the purpose of death has been fulfilled can the purpose of your life change. Do you understand?” In saying all this the being had not moved, and his eyes were still locked with mine.
“N-not really,” I responded shakily, after my tongue had detached itself from the roof of my mouth.
The lightning man tilted his head, and his eyes narrowed. His voice became quiet, almost a whisper. “Do you want to change your purpose?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Correct,” he whispered again. “Now we are off. You have quite a journey ahead of you, Nicholas. Brace yourself.”
The cloud began to move in around me. Lightning flashed, and my improvised boat disappeared. My feet lifted into the air and the cloud began to swirl. It engulfed me. I couldn’t see anything except dark gray and flashes of lightning.
Just when I thought my body couldn’t handle any more nausea, everything halted and I was standing on the flattest whitest stone I had ever seen. I looked, and everything around me shone brightly, so brightly, in fact, that my eyes snapped shut. I squinted them open enough to see the lightning-man standing in front of me smiling from ear to ear.
Want to keep reading? Go to the next section! >>> “Chapter 2.”