Ever since I entered my teenage years one question keeps coming back to haunt me or people around me. It is probably the most asked question regardless of the period we are living. It makes even more sense to think about it nowadays with everything that has been going on around us for the last two decades. At every point of our lives, we try to reflect on the possible solutions to that enigma that has been troubling mankind from the very start of history, and even before then.
What is our purpose in life? Why are we alive?
Several have tried to come up with logical reasons and sound explanations in an attempt to shed some sort of light on this unknown road. Each answer has led to a form of philosophical and/or theological reasoning, resulting in the creation of social groups, political and economic parties, religious cults, and more. Such a phenomenon is quite understandable and even expected given that such a question cannot be answered through any form of quantitative or scientific reasoning or factual explanation. Being a finance guy myself, I prefer to consistently back any opinion or study by facts and evidence in order to support the claim I am making, otherwise it feels as if my argumentation process is void and empty. However, sometimes the lack of numbers can be a good thing, for there are things that a man simply cannot know or understand. This is where things such as faith, philosophy and psychology could step in.
They do not always follow quantitative reasoning in order to explain, compare, and contrast specific topics. As a small digression, I would like to quote my high school philosophy teacher who told me that “philosophy is the mother of all sciences”. As hard as it was to understand back then, it is way clearer today to create a link between those aspects which, in the end, are just the trunk and branches of the one same tree. For example, it is through the combinatory use of maths – mathematical reasoning to be more exact – that we have something today known as Sacred Geometry, which then encouraged Nikola Tesla to develop the 3 6 9 theory (also known as the Key of the Universe).
Back to our subject, there is no one valid answer as to why we exist, as to why we are alive. For some people like Jean Calvin, human beings were placed on this Earth in order to work hard and suffer in order to increase their chances of getting into Heaven when Judgement Day comes. For people like Baden-Powell and Confucius, life is more of a journey. A journey during which we live to identify the positive and negative energies that surround us in order to use them to our advantage in order to make this world – as well as people’s lives around us – better. For existentialists like Friedrich Nietzsche, it becomes a question of trying to figure out whether life is actually worth living for in the first place. Who knows? Maybe at the end of the day, it is not worth it.
In 2021, I have come to realize how much we apply Calvin’s chain of thoughts in our everyday lives.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, the world has gone through four major economic crises (2001, 2008, the 2010s and – currently happening – 2020). With every crisis came new regulations. With every regulation came new demands from customers and third parties. With every new demand came more work. With more work came more working hours. With more working hours came a stronger work-life imbalance.
“More men are killed by overwork than the importance of the world justifies.”
– Rudyard Kipling
I am the first person to label myself as overworked. In order to prove that, I am currently writing this article at 2:30 in the morning. This has become a habit for me in order to keep with all my academic, professional and personal engagements. Being a young adult is no easy task nowadays. It never was. We are expected to work and/or study long hours, cook, clean, workout and sleep all in 24 hours. Note that I have removed the social aspect of life from the equation (that is, having a significant other, hanging out with friends, developing hobbies). While part of the blame is on the hand of cards that we were dealt, the other part is on us. When asked about my hectic lifestyle, I tend to respond jokingly: “I can sleep when I am dead”. We try so hard to do everything right now. We live as if we are never going to die, and finally we die as if we never lived.
Working yourself to death is often used as an over exaggerating expression. Not in Japan, however. In Japan, they use the word Karoshi (overworked death) in order to define the emerging cause of death in the country for the last 50 years. One shocking example about this phenomenon is a female nurse (Miss Yoshida) who died from a heart attack after 34 hours of continuous duty five times a month (Source: Asia Monitor Resource Centre). Here is a small video that will shed more light on the matter.
Now, I am no preacher, guru, philosopher or scientist, but I can easily say that this is not what life is about. Make no mistake, I do not know what the meaning of life is for I am still searching for the purpose of my own life, but I am pretty sure that overworked death is not the answer. I can understand that times are tough, and that most of us were raised with the mentality to work very hard in order to make it into the world (especially when you come from a war-torn-third-world country like mine). We focus so much on making our parents proud and reaching the top that we often neglect our health as well as those who are/will be affected by our energy decline.
Work is important, but so is enjoying life.
Do not pay the price of your hard work with your health.
It is not worth it.
“Medicine, law, business, engineering: these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love: these are what we stay alive for.”
– Dead Poets Society