The Point of Life 

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee  

A friend sent me the above pictures, accompanied by the message below, including the quote from George Bernard Shaw:  


Time takes away everything from us….Be Good And Do Good To Anybody  

And Everybody In The World… 

Because Skin, Face & Personality Will 

Never Stay But Your Work And 

Name Will Always Be There… ‘Progress is impossible without changes, and those who can never change their opinion can neither change the world nor change themselves.’

— George Bernard Shaw   

I think that we should consider ourselves very fortunate indeed if, firstly, we managed to live up to 90 and secondly, if we were able to maintain the sparkle on our face and the grace which are evident when we look at the aged former Miss India. May she live to be a hundred! 

The title of this article is adapted from ‘What’s the Point of Life?’ by C. Gallozi which appeared in this paper’s issue of 27 August, that is two weeks ago. And how many things have happened – changed — in these two weeks, both to me and to the world around. I am sure I have added a few more wrinkles, but I haven’t had the time to count them in! 

On second thoughts, I would not waste my time with such a futile exercise though, because there are so many more important things to do. Like, when I saw the title of Gallozi’s article and started reading it, I came across what I could call a few definitions of life that reminded me of some more technical ones that I had been familiar with when I was studying medicine. Here are some from the article: 

‘Life is nothing more than a sexually transmitted disease, and a terminal one at that.’ Hmm…

‘All life is, is a substance that temporarily prevents our bodies from rotting.’ We start rotting, meaning ageing, from the time we are born, don’t we? In fact, scientists studying the phenomenon have found ageing changes, known as atherosclerosis, in the arteries of young children. Which brings us to the other view of life expressed in that article, as follows:

‘Life is like a taxi. Whether you are an active participant or not, the metre keeps ticking.’ Make that a few more wrinkles, or atherosclerotic plaques… things done to you, kind of, unless you think you are the one doing? Try this next one –

‘Life is something you do when you can’t sleep.’ As we age, we all experience an inversion of the sleep pattern: sleep earlier, and get up earlier too. Or taking time to fall asleep, and then waking up in the dead of the night. How many sheep can you go on counting every night? Some people resort to taking sleeping pills. And sometimes the latter do the exact opposite in elderly people. Dilemma…

I remember a definition that was quoted by Swami Tejomayananda, Spiritual Head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide, when he was here in 2003: ‘Life is what happens to you when you are busy planning other things.’ 

Think about this, and you will be amazed to find out how true it is. One moment you are in a given situation, and next moment tout a basculé. We have an illusion of control, but unless we take a long term perspective, once this illusion is shattered, we can shatter too. Something to ponder upon, and brace ourselves up. 

There are some more definitions. This one was from a biologist: ‘Life is a state of ceaseless activity.’ And this is what physicist Jean Bernal thought: ‘Life is a dynamic equilibrium in a polyphasic system.’ 

I liked best what George Eliot wrote, and which is found in Gallozi’s article: ‘What do you live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?’  

There could, I believe, be no nobler purpose to living than that, and when we take a look around at what’s happening in the world, it seems to be an urgent necessity. But I strongly recommend all readers to go read that article, for there are many more gems that they will discover for themselves. And discovery is joy, which is also a supreme purpose of life. And so enjoy… 

* Published in print edition on 9 September 2010

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