Throughout the years, my mates and I have found ourselves in various states of intoxication, contemplating the nuances of this very question: What is life?
It’s not to say one can’t do this sober, only to say that the question becomes relatively depressing with sobriety, as people in sobriety tend to be a fixed point in their perspectives, leaning hard in either the direction of wild optimism, ‘and isn’t life a fucking miracle!’ or fierce depression, ‘in that everything is already dead and there’s nothing that can save us.’ Yes, strangely, sobriety tends to have a very strong binary polarity. It’s a safety mechanism, honestly, for the sober-minded to lean in one direction or another. Contemplating the inbetween requires a certain level of flexibility towards impossibility, and the sober tend to agree that gravity is an absolute fact in just the way that the intoxicated tend to question if gravity is real. The conversation prompt is so large and encompassing that it is a struggle to truly wrap your mind around it, sober or drunk. Just look at Marvin from Hitchhikers Guide the Galaxy. He had a helluva time.
The intoxicated tend not to mind the struggle so much and are often more willing to consider all sides of the dialog, including whether or not the subject matters at all, and subsequently often end up in either a big pile of tears or a song and dance routine. I’m partial to Jump in the Line (Shake Senora) from Beetlejuice. Usually, if it’s a good talk, they end up in both, which really is what life is. Both.
Anywho, the most typical philosophical answers always come back to the same:
What is life? Life is experiencing. Life is loving. Life is living and dying.
What is the purpose of life(?)… which is always the next logical step: To experience ─to be.
Why are we here? Again… to experience shit.
The conversation will usually follow a base format:
It doesn’t matter how religious or scientific you get. We don’t know these answers. If its ‘gods plan and will’, well, he, she, they, didn’t see fit to tell us that plan. If they did, then this shit would make more sense. Seriously, short of some words of wisdom on how not to be dicks to each other, there isn’t a religious text out there that makes a lick of real logical sense – there’s always faith. And, that faith is based on a divine smarter power that ultimately thinks we humans are foolish and has given us some ratchet cliff notes on how to live. Sure, don’t eat shellfish in a desert. Also, if you kill your brother, you’ve got to marry his wife. Seriously, whoever wrote our standing religious texts (and I do mean the Bible, Quran, and Torah) did so with a very narrow view on population control. 8 Billion people on Earth? Those books can’t guide 8 Billion people. They weren’t designed too. And if God or Allah knows all… then surely they saw the coming of 8 Billion…. Yeah. Why hide the truth of how the universe really works if humans could cope?
If it’s science, then we’re just a microorganism ─ a part of a bigger organism, trying to survive a functional purpose, in the circle of life, as is true of all organic matter in nature. In which case art and imagination are complete fabrications ─ preoccupations really, whose service, evolutionary speaking was developed for survival. In which case contemplating philosophy and questioning the known universe is a function of evolutionary dominance, in which case the drunks are right to question whether gravity is real. The fact that ‘scientific fact’ only means an agreed-upon theory – like hey, we all agree about how gravity works. Thus it’s a fact – only means that we aren’t smart enough to think and use gravity differently. Evolutionarily, it’s a coin flip if that’s a good or bad thing, and realistically still does not define whether gravity works the way we think it does.
Lotsa folks will then tend to turn the conversation to our species survival and personalized purpose. This is usually attached to a ‘make a mark,’ ‘save the world,’ ‘accomplish something’ mentality, which is often associated with the concept of being a successful adult. How are you gonna make an impact? What are you gonna be when you grow up? What does life mean for YOU? And then a dive into self-reflection, usually with some long-winded storytelling describing a personal developmental process. Personal stories are often swapped here, back and forth, with specific questions regarding what you really care about and what actually matters, or doesn’t.
The conversation will then typically jackknife back into a debate sided in the direction of either religion or socio-economics, for how can we make choices about ourselves if we don’t take into account the choices others created before us? Most typically this line of thought, either of them really, goes around some hope bends, and some idealism, and tends to end with the depressing truth that mankind is repeating the same horrible atrocities of the past, over and over again, and we as a species on this planet are pretty much totally fucked, usually with a shrug and a chuckle and repeating of the original question: What is life?!
Usually, bedtime or more drinking and a dance party thus ensues.
I have literally had this conversation with hundreds of people around the world over a twenty-year span. It is astounding, honestly, how identical this conversation is every time. The really interesting thing, though, is that, much like reading a favorite book or rewatching a favorite film, each time you have this conversation, despite its redundancy, you always learn something relatively new, even if it’s the same old shit said in a different way. That’s because, since the last time, you’ve become a new version of yourself, seeing things through a new perspective. The conversation not only notes where you are on your own evolutionary path but also allows you to help affect the change your hopeful optimism or depressed pessimism pre-describes in its attitude and outlook about life. Have this conversation again and again. It’s totes worth it. Annnnndd…
Enter a Witch Doctor.
My Witch Doctor is very much like Schroders Cat. He both is and is not what he is. He is not, in fact, a classic Witch Doctor, in the born Native, familially trained in the traditional fashion. He is an American, overly traveled, and overly educated cis-white-male who happens to have a genuinely fantastic grasp on a lot of shit. He has never once, in his life, claimed to be a Witch Doctor, or anything other than an educated cis-white-male. He got the name as a radio handle from working at Burningman, as a joke. That said, I have watched him perform some truly amazing feats of magical eastern medicine. I have watched him guide people through the darkness in a fashion that makes me curious about how he could know the road from only one life. He is a doomsayer and naysayer and one of the greatest fighters for humanity and life I have ever met. He’s a Witch Doctor because, for whatever reason, a Witch Doctor wanted to come back as a White American Freedom Fighter. That’s my belief of him, which he has never claimed, but I think he would be flattered to hear, and which doesn’t matter either which way. He spends his life in service to nonprofits doing relief work from natural disasters, along with Doctors Without Borders. The Witch Doctor is a good man in the service of the people of this world.
Anywho, I’ve known the Witch Doctor for many moons now, and of our discussions, we’ve come to a few worthy notes which help to answer this intriguing question: What is life?
Naturally, one tends to be asking this sort of question when one is in the process of a self transition or an evolutionary state. Sedentary people don’t tend to bother. Subsequently, because you’re considering the bigger picture, you’ll tend to wonder where you are on the scale and flow and things. This idea is synonymous with purpose. What is my purpose in this life? It’s often hard to understand what your purpose is if you don’t understand yourself. And to understand yourself, you have to know where you are in your evolution.
Personal evolution is very much like an age. It follows a format. It’s just that personal evolution does not coincide with number ages 1-100 in years. It numbers in phases closer to 8. Ever see wheels that look like ships wheels with 8 spokes – a compass? That symbol represents personal evolution, which is a concept that is pretty wide spread in spirituality, but honestly, I’ve always found the explanations vague at best, and confusing at most.
Personal evolution describes what you are capable of comprehending and understanding based on what phase of life you are in. Try explaining taxes to a 4 year old. They most likely won’t be able to understand because the subject is outside what they understand about the world. When we consider phases of age we have (relatively speaking):
Right. Trying to explain adult diapers and dentures to a kid in Puberty is useless. They say, ‘kill me when I get that old’ because they can’t imagine a world where they shit in a diaper. Try and explain the same thing to an Adult and they might shrug and go, ‘meh, shit happens’. An Adolescence can’t imagine sex. They have no experience for it. They might think holding hands is sex.
In each phase of age we learn more things, and by the time we’re Advanced or Retired, we know and have been through it all. That’s a state of growth. For us humans, that’s a state of natural growth, and we are likely to learn some specific things at specific ages. At Puberty we will learn about menstruation and ejaculation. At Advancement we will learn about body aches and pains. At Adulthood we will learn about relationships – and whether we can handle them or not.
Ageing is not the same thing a personal evolution, and this is important to understand.
In personal evolution, called by some the Axis Mundi, there are 8 phases. Annoyingly, humans can exist in any of these phases regardless of physical age.
(I like this picture cause it’s easy to follow):
Phase One: New Moon – I.E. Birth – akin to youth – The Child Mind. The mind that wants and considers only it’s desires.
Phase Two: Waxing Crescent – I.E. Child – akin to an apprenticeship – This is the beginning of education, where the mind is taught to learn.
Phase Three: First Quarter Moon – I.E. The Assignment – akin to a challenge – this is where life begins to throw you challenges you need to accept and address. This is reality imposing itself on you.
Phase Four: Waxing Gibbous – I.E. The Fight – akin to making choices regarding right and wrong – how you respond to life.
Phase Five: The Full Moon – I.E. Rites of Passage – akin to becoming an adult – this is where you take responsibility for your life.
Phase Six: Waning Gibbous – I.E. The Choice – akin to doing battle with the forces of good and evil – where you are challenged to pick a side.
Phase Seven: The Last Quarter Moon – I.E. The Offering – akin to making an oath – for good or for evil, you will use what you know for that decided purpose.
Phase Eight: Waning Crescent – I.E. The Myth and Legend – akin to telling your own story – in which you reflect on your choices and finish what you will leave behind.
The Final Phase is a return to the New Moon – death, as is birth.
My Witch Doctor gave me a classic Holy Grail analogy for this, which might make more sense. Take King Arthur and his knights and their quest for the Holy Grail. The purpose of the quest was to provide immorality to The Fisher King, who was not Arthur, via the Grail, so that The Fisher King could heal the land (to put it simply). The knights and Arthur had no interest in the Grail for themselves. That was not the point or purpose.
The quest order, in this case:
New Moon: Birth, innocence, being a squire.
New Moon to First-Quarter Moon: becoming a knight.
First-Quarter Moon: The quest for the Holy Grail has been assigned.
The First-Quarter Moon to the Full Moon: Looking for the Grail.
The Full Moon: Achieving the Grail.
The Full Moon to Last-Quarter Moon: Choosing to return the Grail to the Fisher King, or keep the Grail to use for yourself, selfishly.
The Last-Quarter Moon: Giving the Fisher King the Grail, or watching the world fall to ruin.
The Last-Quarter Moon to the New Moon: Living as an honored knight who saved the realm, or as the villain.
New Moon: Honorable death (hopefully from old age), or being smited by the next generation.
That right there is called a story arch and weirdly enough, we humans tend to live our lives in story arches. Meet the characters, fall for the characters, the characters are challenged, something bad happens, everything gets fuck, the characters rise from the ashes, succeed, happily ever after. Story arch. If you think your life isn’t following that format then you are not paying close attention… OR…
Your state of personal evolution is only in phase 1 or 2.
This is what I’m getting at: You may live your whole 80 years on this planet at phase 1 or 2. You may make it through all 8 phases by 80. You may make it through all 8 phases by 40. You may make it through 3 phases by 25 and slip on the sidewalk and die.
Here are some perspective points. The average human will probably make it to phase 5 by their natural death at old age. Phase 5 is the realistic goal of most people, because they are human, and to consider past phase 5 means a whole new set of challenges that are largely spiritual and or metaphysical. Phase 5 is an accomplishable and good goal – it says that you’ve met the world, tried it on, danced with it, and accepted it and yourself for what it is. Contentment with the self. That is AWESOME.
After phase 5 you have a whole new set of challenges because what you touch, think, say, affects literal change at a huge level to the world around you. At phase 6 you are participating in something bigger than yourself and every choice you make, selfish or otherwise, affects a fundamental connection you have now learned how to control.
See, phases 1-5, what you do has affects, but you haven’t learned how to control those affects. What you do matters, but it matters in chaotic ways. With each phase you learn control. At phase 6 you have learned control, and now you have to decide what to do with that control.
Theoretically, the purpose of reincarnation is to continue the path of personal evolution. A child may be born and skip right up to phase 6 by the time they are 12 years old. That’s because the soul inside them left off at phase 6 in a past life. They will spend the rest of this human life working from phase 6-8. That’s just a theory, and we’ll get into the subject of souls and reincarnation at a later time.
In regards to the question: What is my purpose? You have to first understand what phase you are in. With each phase comes it’s own challenge. Once you understand what phase you are in, you can narrow down what subjects to focus on, and then it’s pretty quick math to figure out what tool you are for what machine.
For example: I’m in phase 7 in this life. I will maybe make it to phase 8 in this lifetime. Maybe. I can still feel phase 6 hounding me, asking if I made the right choice. I did. I know I did. I chose to fight for life and good and love. My moto is that my purpose is to experience and my job is to love. In practical terms, that means in this life that my purpose is to support those who affect changes in this world. My job is to care for those who care for others. That’s why my friends are lawyers and doctors and scientists. These people spend their lives focused on a singular subject that makes physical changes that affect our planet for good. Relief work, immigration, federal law, organ innovation, water purification, air purification, therapy, homeless support, etc. They need emotional and physical support to do their jobs, and I am here to support them. That is not a job that pays in dollars, it is a job that pays in lives. They save lives, and I make sure their life is taken care of. That is a purpose. Call me the oil which keeps the machine lubricated.
The reason I was able to figure out that was my purpose, was because once this personal evolution map was explained to me I realized that I had always been in service to others. My parents would say I was a sweet kind child. I was always giving others what I had so they would feel better. I have always put others happiness before my own. I was trained in the service industry. My biggest hobby, really, is helping my friends sort through their shit. I have always been this way. Realizing that I have always been giving, as a person, combined that I am in a ‘phase of offering’, means simply that my purpose, my job in this life, should be focused in the support of others. That narrows down my job search ALOT.
Then it’s just a matter of how I want to spend my time. I’m not a nonprofit person. I’m not an admin. The only other things which really hold my attention are traveling and writing. And here we are today, with a collection of internationally sourced information from people smarter than me, being laid out in a format that is hopefully understandable and applicable to the people of the modern day.
That’s me, and I am an example of a soul who has come back to get on with their personal evolution. My path to information was wildly serendipitous and full of fate. I was literally handed what I needed to know, like cliff notes from a past lives on phases 1-6, and I understood them quickly. Luck, or evolutionary process? It doesn’t really matter, as all of this is just a format for understanding the self and what life is.
But so, how do you figure out what phase you are in?
To figure that out we have to talk about Ego for a second.
The Ego is composed of three parts (says Froid (ass), Jung (less ass) and Yeats (oh hell yes). Probably wouldn’t hurt to look up some Marxism, Joseph Campbell, and Descartes. Solipsism gets interesting too…) ahem…
In the most refined of explanations the Ego is composed of three parts: The ID, the Ego and the Super Ego. Think of it like this:
ID ________________________________EGO___________________________SUPER EGO
The ID represents your wants on a most basic childlike level. I WANT IT NOW. It’s the drunk monkey on your back that tells you to do stupid shit what makes drama. It’s the voice that tells you it’s okay to touch the hot stove. The ID also tells you that you are thirsty and hungry. The ID tells you you need a hug. The ID is not bad, per say, but it is WANT. And not all wants are reasonable or good.
The Super Ego is the opposite, the NO. It is repression. The Super Ego is fear and doubt and second guessing. The Super Ego tells you NOT to touch the hot stove, or walk off a bridge. The Super Ego tells you not to fight. Don’t make waves. The Super Ego is self preservation, and doesn’t want you to eat garbage so you wont get sick. The Super Ego makes you afraid to ask for a raise at work.
I always believed that to be Egotistical meant to be a dick. It meant that I was self-important, selfish and a bit of a sociopath, and only cared about myself. That was the definition of Ego as I understood it. It was bad, in short, to have an Ego. To have an Ego meant that you lacked humility. The Ego is all about me. That’s what I was taught. In retrospect, I was raised around movie stars, so that’s probably how they felt about themselves and justified their actions and thoughts (phase 1).
I was wrong.
The Ego is the balanced place between the ID and the Super Ego. The Ego is you, that person who drinks water and doesn’t touch the stove, and asks for a raise at work, and doesn’t walk off a bridge, and gets what they want, but only if its reasonable, and isn’t overly afraid but reasonably wary, and doesn’t spend a lot of time second guessing themselves and also does not randomly get in fights, but might if they see something inappropriate going down. Most people are balanced. Their Ego, their them, the YOU, lives pretty squarely between the two sides.
When the word ‘Egotistical’ comes up, it’s referring to a person that is overly aligned with ID or Super Ego. A bully is overly aligned with ID. The kid being picked on might be overly aligned with Super Ego. When you look at your life do you find yourself overly afraid? Do you find yourself being out-going? Do you find yourself an introvert or an extrovert? Do you find yourself having never thought this thought before?
If you have never considered anything spiritual, thoughtful, or self reflective even once in your life before this moment, or if the world revolves around you because you can only know what you see and experience, you’re probably in phase 1. If you find yourself afraid and second-guessing of everything, and doubtful, you’re probably in phase 2. If you find that life is consistently taking a shit on you no matter what choices you make, you’re probably in phase 3. If you find yourself grappling with each choice you make, with some good choices and some bad, you’re probably in phase 4. And if you find yourself mostly content, accepting of the world and life around you as things are, spiritual, religious, loving, painful or otherwise, then you’re probably at phase 5.
As I mentioned, shit gets different after 5 and most people at 5-8 will figure out their own definitions pretty quickly as they’ve been at this now for awhile. Phase 6 is a grapple with fundamental good or fundamental evil. It’s an internal battle and it’s hard to explain because a person in phase 6 believes in magic. They feel the life plus of exiting. Phase 7 is the wielding of real power. Phase 8 is the reality of your journey, the reflection, the truth. It’s also about fucking with time, enlightenment, memory. It’s not impossible to help guide folks from 6-8, but for the most part they only want minimal guidance because they’ve taken full responsibility for themselves, by that point.
The point being is that in phases 1-5, if you sit down and can reflect on the life you’ve lived so far, you’ll find that you’ve been fighting the same battles, doing the same actions, repeating yourself over and over again. I was always kind. I was always giving. I was always putting others first. Look for those trends in the story of your life. What have you always been doing? What you’ve always been doing will tell you what phase your at, and once you know what phase your at you can figure out what to work on to get to the next phase.
If you’re at phase 2, second guessing, afraid, timid, then you know you are in the phase where the mind needs to learn. That means education is your bailiwick. I almost guarantee that if you are in this phase you probably enjoy some form of puzzle. Hi nerds, a lot of you are living here. And you can learn, even if school education has never been your friend. It’s all about how to relate to the material. If video games are what you love then turn every subject on Earth into a video game. Take Krav Maga – think about it like leveling up. Want a job you don’t hate? Make a quest for yourself. Ya gotta go get the shield and sword and rescue to damsel and beat the skeleton king. Which in this case, the shield is maybe writing a new resume, the sword is taking a tech coding class, the damsel is public speaking class, the skeleton king is asking your present boss for a raise or interviewing at a new place. Right?
Phase 2 is about teaching the mind to think. If you figure out you’re at phase 2 then spend your life learning how to think. Take jobs that teach you how to think. That’s your life challenge. In phase 3 you’ll have to fight back a bit, so you’ll need to some tools to do that. Your purpose, thus, in this life, should be learning to think and teaching others to learn to think. Easiest way to prove what you’ve learned is to teach others.
The thing about the phases is that life, all of life is always happening. All the phases are happening all the time, it’s just that you can’t comprehend a phase higher than the one you are in. An Adolescence can’t understand what an Adult knows. The Adolescence does not have the experience. But everything that is happening to the Adult, is also happening to the Adolescent, they just can’t see it and aren’t being asked to respond to it. The Adult knows rent and power bills and groceries and flu season and politics are going on and affecting life. The Adolescence does NOT know those things are happening, but they are, and are having an effect on Adolescence, whether they know it or not.
This is why there’s no point in hiding in phases. There is always learning, even for the person in phase 8. There is always life challenging you. There is always the choice to do right or wrong. There is always an internal battle with good and evil. There is always action or inaction. There is always the presence of contentment and acceptance. The phases are a guide so that you can focus on one thing at a time, instead of being overwhelmed by the whole of it.
We consider the phases so that we can consider our personal evolution and growth, so that we can find our purpose, what we are doing in this life, so that we can answer the question for ourselves, what is life? Once we answer that question for ourselves, it’s easier to come to terms with the broader question, as a whole.
What is life? This, this is life. All of it, the phases, the knowing, the unknowing, the temporary fragility that is physical life, imagination, questioning, gravity. For humans, things hold value because they are temporary, have a shelf life. Change is the only real thing in this life, and being present and aware and involved and participatory with change is the value of living.
Paulo Cohelo in the Alchemist possessed two fantastic points. The first is that everyone needs something to fight for. We all need purpose. That’s the human condition. Even if purpose is spending life weaving baskets. Or staring at a wall. We all need purpose. The second is that if you’re going to fight for something, you should fight for your dreams. This second one is hard, because it forces you to ask yourself what you are dreaming about.
Most of us are dreaming about a better world.