WHY ARE YOU HERE?

A neon installation by the artist Jeppe Hein in UChicago’s Charles M. Harper Center asks this question for us: “Why are you here and not somewhere else?”

I am seated here, in our farm at Sergoit Road in Uasin Gishu County, soaking in the sun, in silence, because though I denied it vehemently at first, I do need a break from the crazy bustle of Nairobi City and to slide into the tranquility of the countryside. I spent Christmas isolated from the buzz of holiday cheer, movies and indulgent family lunches, herding our cows and going on long treks to our neighbors’ far-stretched homes in the rolling hills on this plain, because I needed to appreciate the beauty of simplicity. In an alternative universe, I would have been lazing around in Nairobi, meeting up with friends, and attending Christmas carol concerts-all of which are not inherently bad tasks. But if I did, I’d have never known that catching sheep is harder than it seems, that effort is required to keep a hearty conversation with no distraction from devices, that Suzza, our highest-yielding cow, is a fierce kicker when provoked, and that the sunrise is so beautiful over the farm’s horizon.

The age old question of fate kicks in; are our lives predetermined by some golden thread, whose tension depends on factors past our control? Some people work hard, and never see the reward of it-some work minimally, and are continually benefited. Working at the bank, it became obvious that life is grey- the nicest people are not always the most financially successful, nor are the rudest ones the poorest. If it’s possible that one may have their dreams painted out, and strive incessantly to achieve them, then fail at the last minute or succumb to a stroke of bad luck. And if comfort cannot be found in religion, in the belief of a supernatural, eternal relief, then we begin to question the needfulness of life. Why are we here, and not in the grave, if regardless of our effort, we are destined to fail?  The answer is simple- because we are not only a product of our needs.

We are here because we have a responsibility to ensure that neither us, nor those surrounding us, regret being here. We are here because sometimes our minds play tricks on us by convincing us that we are not worthy of true consideration; and that the key to living life is to be able to overcome those thoughts.

As Katie Perry once asked, do you ever feel like you’re a waste of space? I know I do. I have grappled with extremem feelings of worthlessness more than I care to admit.And once that one brooding thought enters your mind, and you allow it to take center-stage, you subconsciously let the rest in. I ceased to see the beauty of life, and pessimism pervaded my everyday activities. Seeing a beggar on the street, instead of wondering how I should help him, I was scared that I might one day end up in the same position. I became insanely envious of my successful friends, instead of being happy for their achievements. When I looked to my future, all I could see was disappointment and failure-and at one point I did not see life as worth living anymore. And that was when I hit my rock-bottom.

Looking back now, I am ashamed and disgusted by that behavior. But that’s the thing with life-it’s so much easier to be negative than to be positive. It actually takes effort to wake up each morning and be excited for what is to come. I used to believe that happy people were simply that way, that it was a character trait and I could only blissfully long for the day when I would also wake up with a light heart. But then I realized that life doesn’t quite work that way-I had to will myself into living my life the way it should be lived. I realized that there is much more joy in giving back to the community than spending money on myself trying to feel better. I realized that in life there will always be someone better than me, so I should suck up my pride and understand that even if I’m not the best, what matters is that I’ve done my level best. I realized that I have no right to a sure, prosperous future, because I am subject to the rules of time, just like everyone else, so I should stop worrying about it so much. I realized that the difference between what you think and feel you need (my Christmas experience) and what you actually do need can be very stark.

So why are we here? There are 2 primary answers to the question: in religion, it is so that we secure a better after-life, in purely scientific terms, it is so that we reproduce, thus perpetuating the human race. Regardless of where your beliefs lie in the theism-atheism spectrum, please always remember, no matter how horrible you feel, that you are here to live your life, and to live it well; and to make sure that on your deathbed, your regrets are manageable. So if you haven’t started living your life, I urge you to begin as soon as possible. I began it only a few months ago. And I don’t plan on stopping for the next 51 years or so.

That’s why I’m here. Why are you here?

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16 comments

  1. Halle · January 19, 2015

    Ungeniandikia Uchicago essay 😦
    Good read as always 🙂

    • thatkenyanchick · January 19, 2015

      Haha, thanks Halle! You’re the best 🙂
      But this is too preachy for a common app essay hahaha

  2. Mochama Nyamwega · January 19, 2015

    I’ve always thought the purpose in life is to find your purpose in life 🙂 anyway it’s a great read. The wait for a new blog post was quite long…

  3. Mochama Nyamwega · January 19, 2015

    My comment is awaiting moderation

  4. rumgeon · January 19, 2015

    I feel you Norah. Thought provoking-smart-intelligent and philosophical.Love it.

  5. Meshack Kiptoo · January 19, 2015

    Haha, Mochama, I don’t think we have a specific purpose in life because our lives aren’t predestined…We just happen to do whatever we are able to do with what have.

    Anyway, really nice article @thatkenyanchic

  6. Dominic · January 20, 2015

    once again…
    a very thoughtful piece.. haha I totally agree with Halle, this would have made an awesome essay..;-)

    It’s simply awesome, I could go on reading such stuff forever..
    cheers!

  7. Lindah · January 23, 2015

    now ungeniandikia essay darling:)

  8. thatkenyanchick · January 28, 2015

    Thanks Meshack, Dom, and Lindah!

  9. MissMwabe · April 23, 2015

    Thought provoking I must say – you write good!
    However, I think that saying that the purpose of life from a religious perspective is “to secure a place in the afterlife” is a bit of a generalization. From a theistic point of view, and based on my own journey and observations I have made of people who follow different religions, the essence of faith and the purpose of life has too many layers for it to be summarized to just securing space after death. I’ve met people from all walks of life with such diverse approaches to the meaning of life, that I think it would be playing them all short by summarizing religion/faith/believe to just that. Do correct me if I’m wrong.

    I think that philosophical discussions would be far more fruitful without sweeping statements that disregard other ways of viewing religion tbh.

    • thatkenyanchick · April 24, 2015

      Thanks Mwabe!
      Well, I do agree that it is a gross generalization: however, if you strip down religion to the bare bones, in my opinion, and objectively state it’s purpose, you’ll get a couple of things; first, religion is a source of comfort, because it assures believers that there is a Supreme Being watching over us who infinitely cares for our lives. Secondly, it gives us a reassurance that our worry ridden lives are not the end- that these 70 or so years on this blue planet are not everything. So in that sense, it answers the question of the purpose of death, and provides ease during mourning.
      Now , in addition to these 2 core purposes, are what I call ‘Feely reasons’ , such as ‘feeling closer to our Creator’, ‘ feeling joy and peace in our hearts’ and basically most of what the Psalmist writes. But in my opinion, these are by products of having the 2 core problems taken care of. Correct me if I’m wrong?

      • MissMwabe · April 25, 2015

        Hey! Thanks for your reply.

        You are right that religion is inclusive of the feeling of being loved, but I am quite wary about jumping into yet another generalization that that’s the “crux” or “essence” of religion. I agree that people who are religious generally have Someone to trust, and the hope that these 70 years come and go. However, I think that if that was the point, then religion, or rather, religious people, would have the license to be passive and apathetic towards life and the things that come with it.

        Let me give an example. Say, I get into university, and then I accept a certain faith, say Christianity (I can only speak based on what I have experienced). If I know there’s someone who has my back, I am unafraid and I can live life carefree and without some form of discipline. And then say this “Supreme Being” has assured me that the 70 years arent everything, and that if I believe in Him, then once I’m dead then I get to “truly live/be with Him/enjoy free candy”. In that case, everything I have ever worked for loses its meaning. There is no point to life, then. I might as well stop toiling.

        My question to you would then be, if religion gives people the comfort that everything will one day be fine, or that one day they’ll all get to heaven and be happy, what drives them to keep living? And don’t you think that if indeed there exists a “something” that keeps them going, that that “something” is the essence/basis of faith/religion, and not the surface-level “feely reason” – because otherwise the feely reasons would ultimately rob you of the need or desire to strive, or fight against injustices…

  10. Billy · May 20, 2015

    I think life is a matter of choice and chance. Of course some factors lie way beyond reach, but life is to a considerable extent what we make it. The problems is we never know wherther the choices we make are good for us. Life is thus one big gamble. The fallacy that each one of us has a predetermined destiny is, to me, a load of bull.
    The only one true destiny for every human being is most probably death, to replenish the earth that has supported the flesh during its live existence.
    Why are we here? Are we a deliberate act of God or a result of genetic, chemical or biological evolution after the big bang?
    In my humble opinion, the knowledge of why we exist would result to a mediocre human race. Can you imagine a planet where everyone knows exactly what they have to do? No mistakes, no experimentation, no thinking out of the box, no leaping out of the comfort zone? There would be no thrill in living.
    We would be like robots!!
    Therefore life is a blank canvas and each one must paint his or her “why am I here”.
    “Know yourself know your worth” Drake says.
    I also think we all need a higher purpose for living. Religion provides a strong anchor for purpose, like Christianity upholds love, hope and faith. Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars for human occupation. Mine would be to find the ultimate safe and planet friendly energy source and cure our dying planet from environmental degradation, pollution, and global warming.
    Thinking out loud

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