There is a place, between the front and the back of every shadow, where the shades live. Fleeting and unpredictable, their lives are quick and intense. Lacking arms and legs and really any other way of interacting with our reality, they exist mostly as thought and whim. Completely unlike us, they nevertheless wonder about the same things we do, only more so, since they never know when it might be the last thought they have, and they don’t have the capacity to do much else.
Thus it was that a shade once asked “What is the purpose of existence?”
A second shade answered “This is obvious to me: The purpose of existence is to fulfill your destiny; to be the most productive being one can be. Observe the small arthropod over there. It knows only survival, and it will spend its whole life working toward that goal. It is being the most productive being it can be. Observe this most fundamental of creatures and observe the most fundamental purpose of existence.”
A third shade overheard this and said “I disagree, for this is obvious to me: The purpose of existence is to enjoy existence itself; to be the most content being one can be. Observe the furred mammal asleep over there. It knows only joy, and it will spend its whole life working toward that goal. It is being the most contented being it can be. Observe this further evolved creature and observe the further evolved purpose of existence.”
Yet a fourth shade said “You are both wrong, for this is obvious to me: The purpose of existence is to strike balance between the two; to be both productive and content being one can be. Observe the large primate over there. It knows both survival and joy, and it will spend its whole life oscillating back and forth between the two. It is being the most productive being it can be while also being the most contented being it can be. Observe this most advanced of creatures and observe the most advanced purpose of existence.”
The first shade, by now thoroughly confused, said “But how can there be more than one purpose to existence?”
A fifth shade was passing by and said “You are all wrong, and you are all right, for this is obvious to me: The purpose of existence does not relate to how one exists, but how one’s existence relates to others; to be the most fulfilled being one can be in the eyes of others. Observe the primate this one converses with over its device. It does not appear to care about productivity or contentment. It cares only for this one and both productivity and contentment appear to be secondary concerns. Observe this most enlightened of creatures and observe the most enlightened purpose of existence.”
The first shade, learning to regret having asked such a simple question, repeated again in frustration “What is the purpose of existence?”Without warning, which is usually how these things work, the large primate they were referring to decided it needed more illumination. With the flick of a switch, the shadow disappeared and, as is the nature of such fleeting, unpredictable beings, the shades were extinguished before this most fundamental of questions was answered.