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QUESTION OF THE DAY


Today's question of the day: Can you infer a thing's purpose from its conventional use? If you see a hammer pounding a nail into a doorway, we find it reliable to conclude that a hammer is made for such tasks. So, yes, but not always. 

If a madman chases his victim-to-be down the street while wielding an axe, we call him an axe murderer. Because axes were made for chopping down trees, silly; but if used unconventionally, sharp objects can kill people too, or at least do some serious damage, as I discovered just the other day while slicing lemons. Similarly, cars were originally intended to convey a person from point A to point B, and yet they have evolved many additional uses since Ford's Model T, from mobile homes (I used to know a fellow that slept in his car; we worked out together at Gold's Gym; he was homeless and huge; he never asked me for money or else I'd have given it to him, because he was huge) to hot rodding to emblems of status (aka chick magnets) to again, would-be-weapons of mass destruction. 



Thus, observing a man sleeping in his car and then like the driver of that Lexus using it to mow down a group of unsuspecting pedestrians we cannot say "That car is uniquely suited to the task and it served its purpose well." That would be a fallacy. If said motorist had picked up those hoofers instead of making pancakes out of them we'd call him a good Samaritan, in which case the car's true purpose (transportation) would align with the greater good, humanitarianism. Let's hear it for the boy!



I bring this up because I often wonder what the purpose of life on Earth is, at least for us humans. Is it just me, or is it we? And looking around I ask myself if I can deduce this purpose - if indeed there is just one grand aim in life - from the behavior of my fellow men and women of the race. I see people chasing mates, chasing promotions, chasing fame and fortune; at races I see them chasing each other and running as fast as possible to the finish line, which is analogous to death. Because you can rest when you're dead. Call me grim. From my observations I gather that either we are meant to run, or I am merely confused. 



Question: Are we made to chase after things? Is the purpose of life merely to strive? To accumulate wealth, then engender as many children as our bank accounts allow, and amass possessions including fancy cars (which at least some of the time we use to get around)? Or are we forgetting something? Is there something more to life that gets lost or largely ignored in the living of it? What about Socrates' immortal injunction to know yourself?

Thomas Edison once said that the legs serve simply to transport the brain around. A thinking man's perspective. The inventor of the light bulb and movie camera was indeed a walking brain. It has been said that at the beginning of time the primordial race of humans, who incidentally were all men, took no interest in the affairs of Earth and chose instead to plunge into deep meditation, in other words turning within and dwelling on the formless infinitude of the divinity which was (still is) our true nature, "contemplating the Self," and entranced they remained - at least until God created woman. And then the forebears of our race discovered their genitals. And the game of love ensued. How fun! And really all the amassing we do is for this one end: as a KROQ skit used to put it: "To get girls." Guys do the chasing, and girls do the escaping. Women's lib be damned. It's women's limb, baby. Bodies in motion are we.

It may be that humans have many uses. Loins for breeding and excreting, and for scratching when the urge arises. Limbs to chase things and convey our brain and to pump the clutch and run away. Brains to develop technology which will ultimately replace us or render our race largely obsolete, leaving us to wonder what in the hell possessed us to invent computers in the first place. That is if we're still around. (Answer: to get girls.) We have lots of applications, it seems. There is a term for this in medicine. It is called off-label use. Off-label use means prescribing drugs for treatments beyond the officially approved indications; it is a common practice among healthcare providers and in most cases it's legal. For example some physicians prescribe the common anti-depressant Zoloft for the use of premature ejaculation. So these patients can get girls. The opioid painkiller Tramadol is also used to treat restless leg syndrome, presumably so its sufferers can get and keep their mates (because nobody likes a fidgeter). The makers of these drugs didn't foresee the benefit they;d offer in the treatment of these unrelated conditions, but they are effective. And when the anti-seizure medication Gabapentin was found to alleviate migraines, for headaches it is also prescribed. "I can't tonight, honey, I have a headache" is no longer a convincing excuse. Getting girls. Then there's the ADHD med Adderall, which students around the globe use as a study aid. Some kids crush it up and snort it at parties in lieu of cocaine. Off-label use? For you to decide. I tried it once. The rush wasn't all that. I much prefer the runner's high.

One wonders what the creative force, or God, or nature, intended with the formation of a being so complex, diverse and unique as humans. Are we an experiment whose outcome is to-be-determined? Possibly. Surely we are meant to do more than simply eat, breed and sleep like mere beasts. Our reasoning brain tell us this as it carries us away on the relentless race for more. Are all the many things we have found to do, like play video games for hours, solve crossword puzzles, collect stamps, hoard things, drink martinis, text and tweet and (enter your favorite vocation and avocation here, because there is a difference) what we were originally designed to do? Or are we so many hammers running around clobbering each other, and possibly injuring ourselves? Benjamin Franklin called life slow suicide. He was another walking brain.

The answer to life's "true purpose," if there is one, is likely found not in the cause (religion's God) but in the effect. That is, in you and me. And in the platitudes we so patly create. If it feels good, if it makes you happy, then yes, just do it. You are what your Maker intended, simply because you are. Just don't go killing anybody. And that goes for your self too.

From one cliche to another, I thank you for being.

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