A bicycle really isn’t that useful.
Don’t get me wrong, it is extremely useful for moving a person across the ground quickly. But beyond that one specialized purpose, you could prop open a door with it? Maybe find someone you don’t like, and throw it at their car? Yes, a bike can do these things, but so could a rock.
That one special skill though, is converting human pedal power into forwarding motion. That is where a bike shines like no other. Similarly, humans are also able to do any number of random things. Heck, we can breathe, think, blink, even hold doors open and vandalize cars far better than a bike ever could. But just like a bike has its one specialized use, humans also seem to find that one purpose they fulfill like no other. People seem to be driven to do this in life, and this drive compels us to do an array of awe-inspiring and crazy things.
Now, saying someone has their purpose in life, doesn’t mean they’re the best in the world at it. There are millions of people that have spent years training to be doctors. People that have made it their purpose in life to help the sick and injured. But, if you were to a doctor into the cockpit of a space shuttle, then a bicycle may fly it just as well as that doctor. And that’s because it’s just not their purpose. Doctors aren’t trained to fly a space shuttle. Just as astronauts aren’t trained to maximize the profits of a technology company, and CEOs aren’t trained to effortlessly win arm-wrestling contests. But when someone finds that purpose that move them, then the drive to fulfill that purpose will push them to do truly amazing things like cure diseases, fly into space, create smartphones or even become the world’s greatest arm-wrestler.
But this purpose in life isn’t always a career or competition. You might work a job you dislike, and your arm-wrestling skills might be C-plus at best, but it could be your purpose in life to love with all your heart. That might be the thing that fulfills you, just as someone may be fulfilled by building the coolest model train setup in their basement. As humans, we crave this fulfillment. It’s a reason to get of bed in the morning and it makes life worth living. Which leads me to the darker side of instinct.
Suppose you’re someone that doesn’t really like spicy food. Now imagine you’re forced to eat nothing but bland and tasteless food for a month. By the end of those 30 days, I’m willing to bet you’d be clamouring for a bottle of hot sauce just to spice things up a little (pun extremely intended). Now suppose you take someone who hasn’t had much direction or purpose in life, and you offer them purpose, friends to work towards that purpose with and something in bigger than themselves to belong to and be a part of. You’ll quickly begin to see why cults prey on the young and disenfranchised of the world. We all possess this drive for purpose in life, and unfulfilled it can compel people into finding the craziest of solutions.
It’s the human condition to find meaning and purpose in life. It’s a condition that can compel us to cure disease, create loving families, push the boundaries of science and the human body and even build wicked model train sets. And people have capitalized on it to create the likes of the Nazi Party and Scientology. It’s a powerful and dangerous trait we all share. Yet, if we never pursue it, life is nothing more than a bike you can’t ride and an endless buffet of bland food with no hot sauce in sight.
Kevin Styba-Nelson is a recent graduate from Princess Margaret Secondary School.
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