Xiaoxing's Notes

The Meaning of Life

This is the biggest topic for human. I am not planning to do anything more than just simply express my own thoughts scattered around.

It All Begins with the Death

I was 5 years old. That's the year that made me realise that we, as human, don't live forever. It all begins with the death of my grandfather. The thought of having limited time on Earth bumped me out for a while. Then I forgot about it (5 years old's attention span is not amazing). But the concept of death was planted in my head. "Then what's the point?", Yes, even a five year old kid will ask that question, that's how straightforward that question is to the situation.

Religions? No Can Do

Even for a kid, you hear lots of different versions to the question "what will happen after you die?", And I was not a fan of any of them, simply because they are missing lots of details, like what do we eat? Do we even need to eat on the other side. You can't die twice so I assume you don't have to eat because you won't starve to death. Is there going to be toys, video games, TV? Would I be living with my mom and dad together? But we won't die at the same time (hopefully...), So that means we don't get to go there together. What if I can't find them after I died? My grandpa certainly didn't leave his new address after he died for a year now. So many questions can't be answered, which makes the stories so weak that I don't believe in them.

The Chinese Way

The Chinese versions are even worse. But it makes the most sense, At least in a Idealistic way. Your spirit will be transfer into another new life. But not necessarily being a human, it all depends on whether you are being a good person or not in your current life. So I started thinking (I think a lot for a 5 years old), given the population of living things on Earth, the criteria for being a human must be so cruel, because there's certainly much much more fly babies than human babies. So I was more upset thinking about the it because I was certain that I will be a fly for my next life. And get killed on my 5th day birthday by a human, or eaten by a frog. Then I realised, oh! that make sense, because you die so quickly, then you can quickly get it over with and choose again. Thats why there are so many of them. The good thing is, in that theory, you don't get to keep your memory, so you won't have the mental scars of your previous lives (being swallowed alive by a gigantic toad). Then I thought: well, I probably have been killed in a million ways before, I just forgot about them. This is also why I think this theory is the one that makes the most sense. Because we are back to the starting point: "what's the point then?". I, as a person, is defined by my memory and experiences. If I loose all that, plus i am in a brand new body, why do you still call that me? My ancestors are so sneaky.


Fast forward to today. I am a software engineer that has no religion. Which means I am one of those people that no priest can convert. So along the way that I grew up, I occasionally got bothered by the idea of complete void after my death. But the duration of upsetness is shortened over the years, because I have more things to take care of as I grew older. Also I have a new theory to support my mental strength and the will to go on with life. That is “I am part of my kids, they enable the continuation of my life by carrying the most important information within me that ultimately shapes how I am as a human being, that is my genes.” By new theory I don’t mean that I came up with it, because it’s the foundation of Chinese culture for thousand of years. It’s just new as my believe. I know technically, my mind won’t be carried on by them, but it’s OK. Because that depends on how you define yourself. I think myself, the person who is smashing keyboard pumping words into the computer right now, is just one instance of myself. My kids are not an instance of the same prototype, but they have my features. They inherent some of my feature, and some of my wife’s, mix them up, just like chemical reactions, you get a little bit mutation. Finally they are unique. I, for now, consider that I am part of that. That’s my continuation of life.

We Are Special Because We Are The Same

I recently watched a Neil deGrasse Tyson interview on an Something Late Show (can’t keep up with the names, who watch TV now a days, it’s just a YouTube page to me). His way of thinking of human ourselves strikes me into the bottom of my heart, because it is amazingly aligned with my theory, but much more thorough (that’s why he is much more famous than me). The idea is that we, humans, seems to be so small in the cosmic void, even the earth, the world we are living in, is like a dust in the picture captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, however, we are active participants in the unfolding of the universe because we’re made of the same basic elements comprising everything from sand to solar systems.

People like to think, ‘I’m special because I’m different.’ But there’s a whole other way to look at it. Maybe you’re special because you’re the same.

So good news for folks without kids. Children is not the only way to continue your life forever. Don’t even need to be humans. Human and mouse shares significant amount of genes. But I still prefer to set my emotional support on human children over mice. I am a human after all, I will always have the irrational side after all.

At the End

There are countless attempts, during human history, regardless of the culture differences, people try to explain the meaning of life to themselves. There’s no definitive rule to say one is right and the others are wrong. If it works for you, then it’s right. The mumbling above is a summary of my own struggle over this question. I am pretty sure, the thinking process will keep evolving over the rest of my life, but this is the current state of it, like a snapshot. I will wrap up the story with a quote from my favourite children’s book.

We are the ocean rolling along as Roland the Wave becoming raindrop, river, cloud, and becoming the life throb of ages dancing in us this moment. -- from How Roland Rolls by Jim Carry