purposelessness: where are we going, then?

we humans are driven by purpose. in that purpose we face a choice, a question of direction: towards asserting ourselves in a technocratic wonderland or towards finding a balance with the rest of nature. however, john fowles states, ‘i am not one of those supreme optimists who think all the world’s ills, and especially this growing divide between man [sic] and nature, can be cured by a return to a quasi-agricultural, ecologically ‘caring’ society. … the majority … is now urban …. a very significant tilt of balance in human history is expected by the end of the coming decade [1979]: over half of all mankind will by then have moved inside towns and cities. any hope of reversing that trend … is … tiny.’ (‘the green man’, the nature reader, 133)

i grew up in farmland in the 60s but now live in town. two of my kids live in cities. i’m comfortable with both frogspawn and HTML; they with canoes and ipads. they claim too comfort with nature, but what has been lost in fifty years, a hundred? what did i miss in the 60s that anishinaabe had for centuries? what will the future don’t know it’s missing from the past?

growing up in the country was formative, shaping my values, direction, purpose. if most of us live urbanely, however, where are we going, then? or what are we missing? fowles says we purpose-driven apes lack purposelessness, find it hostile and alienating. for nature ‘appears to hide nothing, nothing but a green chaos at the core’ (139). as someone observed, the purpose of life is life. anything more is illusionary striving, leading to frustration and suffering. it seems we still have to learn in our question of direction that wherever you go, there you are.


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