Why Was I Born?
( Originally Published 1916 )
THERE is one question upon the answer to which rests the success or failure of life.
It is the question: "Why was I born?"
A strange fact is that nobody knows the answer. The purpose which the Creator had in mind when He made me has never been known, never will be known.
Curious that the most fateful of all problems should be forever unanswerable !
We may BELIEVE this or that to be the reason why we were created; we cannot KNOW.
Notwithstanding this fact, the net result of my life depends upon THE THEORY I form to answer this query.
But how can I tell which theory is best when there is no means of knowing which is true?
There is a way to tell which theory is, if not true, at least approximately true. This way is suggested by what is called PRAGMATISM.
That is to say: That answer to the question is most likely to be true WHICH WILL WORK.
We cannot answer the question "Why was I born?" by investigating CAUSES. The secrets of life are beyond us. The Creator will not be interviewed.
But we can select an answer by noting RESULTS. For instance:
"I was made in order that I might get all the pleasure possible out of life." This solution means wreckage. Its fallacy is proved by insane hospitals, feeble-minded asylums, and by those murders, adulteries, and heart-breaks that constantly attend the end of the pleasure seeker.
"I was made in order that I might escape this evil world and get safely into a better one after death." Such an answer leads logically to the asceticism that marked the dark ages and the hard morbidity that characterized Puritanism.
"I was born to labor for others" means a race of slaves.
"I was born to live and to enjoy myself upon the fruits of others' labor" means a class of snobs.
The most satisfactory answer, in twentieth century terms, is: "I was born to express what forces my Creator planted in me; to develop my instincts and talents under the guidance of reason; to find permanent happiness by fostering the higher, more altruistic, and spirit impulses and by subduing the violence of the more brutal impulses. I was born to find love and my own work, and through these liberty. In one word the purpose of creating me was that I should be as GREAT as possible."
Only by this answer do we get strength without cruelty, virtue without narrowness, beauty without effeminacy, love without contamination, reverence without superstition, joy without excess.
I do not KNOW this answer is correct. I BELIEVE it to be the MOST NEARLY correct for the simple reason that IT WORKS.