The Cliché | James Hooks

As humans, we have the ability to recognize our sentience.

In that recognition, we are often faced with trying to answer what the purpose of life is, then proceed to bombard others and ourselves with philosophical noise in the form of unavoidable questions. Is life’s purpose to pray to a silent deity, with the faith that we will be rewarded upon death? Is it to consume as much as possible, and make as much money as possible, in the hopes that people will recognize the wealth of our finances as the wealth of our person? Is it to be respected by many, at the expense of our dignity? Is it merely to reproduce, to be plentiful, like many other species on the planet?

Are any of us, through manifest destiny or some other means, chosen to be greater than others?

I reject all expectations of fate. In the ultimate analysis of life, I am neither favored nor deserted. No one is. There is no fate. There is no destiny. What there is, is us. A collaborative, conscious, creative species that, when we will it, can make beautiful things happen. Our sentience may be fleeting and our mortality inevitable, yet we have the ability to make a difference should we not like the direction of our lives, and the responsibility as intelligent beings to empower ourselves by gaining knowledge of the universe, understanding of our planet, and compassion for our fellow human beings.

For an infinitesimally short period of time, each one of us acts as the universe’s eyes, ears, hands, and mind. We each contribute to the ever-changing, ever-creative wonder of existence itself. Even when our lives end without inherent purpose or meaning, at least while we are here, we can show the universe a little bit of itself.

Our ability to think should not be given for others to tell us the type of thinking that is acceptable to them.

Our capacity for good should not be limited to history’s definition of who or what is considered worthy.

Our sentience should not be wasted on superstition.

We should be rewarding in as many moments as possible, by sharing, empowering, and enriching the lives of people around us. A single compliment, a word of advice, a kind ear that is willing to listen can mean the difference between someone making an unfortunate regrettable irreversible decision, and someone gaining the strength they did not know was within to lift themselves up.

With the memory of how we made others feel all we have left when we pass, it astonishes me–it saddens me–how often we as a species do not choose compassion or understanding or knowledge. Instead, we are quick to hate and to harm. Were we to let go of judgment, were we to let go of the egotistical impulse to consume rather than to give, we would leave behind a much healthier world, and develop a much more grateful culture.

If there is one final flashback through life before taking one final breath, the last thing I want on my mind is regret that I didn’t live my life just because I got older or just because I was afraid of random people judging me.

My intent has never been to put down those who are comfortable with the safe, the well-traveled, the less-challenging. There are many of us who don’t believe in risk, who don’t want to take that leap of faith in the event they crash, and I have my absolute respect for those. I use my words merely to inspire, to express hope, to give some weight to the life we have been fortunate enough to share together, especially for those who are afraid to leap but can’t help but put that parachute on and look over the edge.

I know that one day, perhaps at a moment’s notice, I will be silent forever. It is the ultimate and unavoidable inevitability of our brief sentience. In my silence, I hope that my conquering my old fears of taking that unknown and unexpected step will have left memories worth smiling about, words worth thinking about, and ideals worth sharing. If this were my final moment, I would ask that you remember to let bad blood and old grudges go. To not waste years, months or even moments on negativity. To not be afraid to tell those close to you, even people you’ve long parted with, how you feel; they are likely as anxious to talk as you are. To give back to our planet, to be compassionate to those less fortunate, to go on that trip you promised yourself, and to not work so hard that you forget to have some fun.

I would look at myself in the mirror, and then to my friends and loved ones surrounding me. I would tell them to hit me with the cliché. To ask me that inevitable question that haunts us all. What is the purpose in life? And I would answer. I would say that, despite my testimonial, despite all that I say to try to inspire, to build up, to create hope, the only honest answer I have is:

I don’t know.

No one has the answer.

But it is okay. We must take comfort in the unknown. The best I can do, that any of us can do, is request the best of each other in each moment. Be inspiring in all we do. Never lose sight of the weight that a kind word can carry, for we never know what lives we will change by their bearing witness to our good deeds.

Most of all, I would ask you not to be afraid to be you. Be purposeful in your heart, in your mind, and in your actions. For tomorrow is never promised, and today is the only opportunity to be our absolute best.

It’s your life. No one else can live in this world as wonderfully and extraordinarily as you can.

This world is beautiful, if we allow ourselves the opportunity to fully embrace it.