There’s this cynical doctrine I’ve seen put forward with increasing currency, basically declaring that the universe is too big, life is too short, human beings are too foolish, and life is too brutal to justify existence or possess any meaning—so really the whole point is just to create your own meaning by doing whatever makes you happy.
Maybe you’ve heard someone say things like this before. Maybe you’ve said them yourself. I’ll admit I’ve structured my own beliefs along that line of reasoning at times.
But over the years, I started to challenge myself on why that was the case. What makes you so sure that life is meaningless and humans are incompetent? And why is running after happiness the best course of action? One thing the cynics have right is that life is indeed brutal. However, when disaster inevitably strikes, you better have something to live for that’s greater than happiness.
In 1969, mankind’s greatest achievement was set in motion by the decision to strive towards a calling bigger than ourselves. Daring to put everything on the line and venture where no one had ever gone before, the Apollo 11 mission was not about pursuing mere pleasure. It pleases us to know we succeeded, and that’s important, but what the feat itself disclosed about the potential of the human spirit was revolutionary. It blew open our capacity to brave the universe, in an effort to maximize the amount of good we can do within it. Even if many of us weren’t alive to witness that “one small step”, it still grips our very souls. It still proclaims what we’re made of. It still points us to a terrifying, awesome, wondrous totality. To this day, half a century later, the moon landing and every individual that dared to make it possible serves as a testament to the promise of humanity.
So, to the skeptics who’ve lost faith, who doubt the value of our existence, I ask: What makes you so sure? I’m not convinced we human beings—though flawed, small, complicated—are so limited. It’s hard to imagine what challenges we might confront in the next fifty years, and what dark, mysterious corners of the cosmos may be illuminated in our endeavors to explore them.