The Basics: Why are we here?

Welcome to the first post in my new blog. It seemed appropriate to start this blog with my current answer to a question that has troubled me since I was very young.

Why are we here? What is there in the human existence that isn’t in the eternal existence? What can we mortals do that an omnipotent, omniscient being cannot do? The first part of the answer has to do with love, and our growth in love.

The life of the human being starts with the love of a child for its mother. This is a very selfish kind of love. A baby loves its mother because she feeds it, protects it, takes care of it, and returns unconditional love. The baby need give nothing, it receives all. This type of love continues throughout childhood. A selfish, self-centered love, but a love nonetheless.

The second stage in love is the love of Eros, romantic love. This is the love motivated at first by the hormones and lust of adolescence. Again, it is a selfish love. The lover is at first motivated by the desires of the body and the fulfillment of these desires. Yet there is something more.

As love grows, it becomes a sharing of everything in life, not just a sharing of bodies. Shared dreams, shared goals, exploring the world together, having a companion, a friend, who can be trusted with your deepest secrets. The growth of this love results in a very deep caring for another, unlike anything experienced in childhood. This love is a willingness to sacrifice, to put someone else’s happiness before one’s own. This love can continue throughout a lifetime.

The third stage in love is having a family. Now love becomes making sacrifices for those who cannot give anything back beyond a child’s love. There are many sacrifices to make, many frightening times, many tragedies. It is a strange time in one’s life. The need to protect and provide for the children is dominant. This probably explains the Buddhist tradition that one cannot achieve enlightenment while one is being a father.

The final stage in love is after the children grow and leave home. Old age sets in. The unfulfilled hopes and dreams of a lifetime are likely to stay unfulfilled. Time is the enemy. The body disappoints. Yet, love remains, and because of the frailty and disappointments, there is more compassion for others

So life teaches us about love. In a brief moment of eternity, love migrates from love for self, to eros, to the love of your children, to the love of humanity. The lessons we learn in love would not be possible for an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent being. Where would the sacrifice come from? Even God had to take human form in order to sacrifice himself.

What else can we do in this mortal form that eternal beings cannot? What about learning to have faith? Faith is simply defined as a belief in that which we cannot know. Again an omniscient being, by definition, would not need faith in anything. And what of hope? Again, the very definition of an omniscient being would make hope impossible. Except perhaps if you gave free will to your creations. Then you could have faith in them and hope for them.

So why are we here? Obviously not for the accumulation of material goods. What if there is a cosmic value system that values the development of certain virtues, and what if those virtues can only be learned as mortal beings? Faith, hope, and love seem to be the lessons we are to learn in this life.
“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
– 1 Corithians 13: 13

(Originally posted March 13, 2004)