Stellar Chariot

By Arun Neelakandan

Life Goals and the Reason for My Existence

(Skip to “Too Long, Didn’t Read (TLDR)” section)

Why am I here? What am I here to do?

Allow me to respond to that with one of my corny lines:

My raison d’être is to use fancy French words.

On a more earnest note, my main goals in life thus far have simply been to be a good person and a good son, not always in this order and sometimes in conflict with one another. My actions in life are directed based on these two aspects. These are the magnets guiding the needles of my life compass.

But why these goals? Why not something more ludicrous and arbitrary? Like inventing real life Pokémon or being the world’s best diaper model?

A good person is more valuable to society and improves the communal well-being which in turn benefits the good person, forming a synergic environment [1]. Similarly, a good son (or daughter) benefits the family (which is again beneficial to the community) and vice versa.

“Oh puh-lease. Spare me the idealistic prose.” you say. You’d be right. The above are not the exact reasons why I chose these two features. Performing “good person” and “good son” deeds fills me contentment and gratification. It simply feels good to be good. Plus it creates a positive feedback cycle.

I am especially driven to be a good son after having heard so many stories of my family’s everyday struggles back in India – my country of origin. Tales of having to walk great distances and play barefoot, battling hunger constantly, not being able to afford medicine to nurse wounds or illnesses. I’m forever grateful to my parents for the great pains taken to raise me. It is most definitely a blessing to now live in comparative luxury, where none of these matters concern me.

Being the only child in my family, I consider it my filial obligation to be the best I can goddamn be, to serve the family. I realise that I am one of the most (if not the most) important, cherished objects in the world to them, and they are the same to me [2]. That essentially means I’ve to lead a happy, fulfilling life. And getting a quality education, career et cetera are considered precursors or at least helpful to the grail.

Funnily though, a deep-rooted and somewhat irrational fear grips me as a result of this. As an example, I don’t consume alcohol or ride motorcycles as I believe something detrimental and irreversible will result (UPDATE 30 Dec 2012: I now occasionally consume alcohol).

But what constitutes being a “good person” or a “good son” anyway?

Here’s a list. People love lists:

A good person:

  • is a person of integrity and humility
  • treats people with respect and kindness (especially “inferiors”)
  • is forgiving
  • tends to duties conscientiously
  • strives to provide equal opportunity
  • is conscious, aware, virtuous
  • helps fellow man in struggle and the environment if possible
  • attempts to accept ideas only with (hopefully rational) reason
  • is responsible for his actions
  • is honest if at all possible
  • makes up list items just to keep you on your toes
  • understands his limitations, imperfections, weaknesses and acknowledges his ignorance
  • continuously strives to improve
  • maintains his health
  • is forgiving

A good son:

  • is a good person
  • puts family first
  • values security and protection as a priority
  • avoids jeopardising the success and happiness of the family
  • contributes to the success and happiness of the family
  • respects family traditions and beliefs
  • is obedient to reasonable orders and requests

But these items are not really surprising. Defining a whole bunch of (likely non-exhaustive) qualities and virtues to uphold is one thing. Actually upholding them and decoding their meaning is another challenge altogether. We need a practical measuring stick.

Measuring Goodness

But how do you go about measuring goodness? Is it even possible? After all, being good is a state and not really a temporal, one-off achievement.

My vain attempts to this end have been to semi-consciously gauge my contributions and failures in recent times. Too many failures or too little contributions become ‘red flags.’

For example, in my commute to work or university, I catch an express train headed to rural parts of New South Wales, where people – some elderly – with heavy luggage and prams get on. My inherent shyness causes me to avoid such positions where I’ll be forced to make a decision to help out. But every time I do this, I feel terrible and this gnaws at me for ages. Happily, now I actively seek to help people board if I’m near the vicinity (or at least not avoid such situations even if I’m feeling particularly passive.)

But this method is limited in effectiveness, especially since it’s underpinned by ‘feel.’

Perhaps more attention should be paid to actually doing good instead of trying to come up with ways to measure it? Or record any karma affecting events and chart it in a Sheldon Cooper kind of way?

What are your thoughts on measuring goodness? Or the meaning of life? Add a comment about these questions, what I’ve written above or anything else related.

Too Long, Didn’t Read

My life goal is to continually be a good person and good son. However, I’m not sure how to properly measure goodness (if it can be measured at all). Add your thoughts in the comments section below.

Footnotes

[1] “Synergic environment” – excuse the buzzwordiness.
[2] It felt peculiar typing this out.

General Notes

I understand a person can be a male or a female, but I’ve used “his” and “him” here for simplicity.

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