The human species has inhabited this planet for only 250 000 years or so - roughly .0015 percent of the history of life, the last inch of the cosmic mile. The world fared perfectly well without us for all but the last moment of earthly time - and this fact makes our appearance look more like an accidental afterthought than the culmination of a prefigured plan.
Moreover, and more important, the pathways that have led to our evolution are quirky, improbable, unrepeatable and utterly unpredictable. Human evolution is not random; it makes sense and can be explained after the fact. But wind back life’s tape to the dawn of time and let it play again - and you will never get humans a second time.
We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because comets struck the earth and wiped out dinosaurs, thereby giving mammals a chance not otherwise available (so thank you lucky stars in a literal sense); because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a “higher” answer - but none exists. This explanation, though superficially troubling, if not terrifying, is ultimately liberating and exhilarating. We cannot read the meaning of life passively in the facts of nature. We must construct these answers ourselves - from our own wisdom and ethical sense. There is no other way.
Stephen Jay Gould is a paleontologist, essayist and humanist.
The past is just a story we tell ourselves.
Samantha - Her
The first thing I look at each morning is a picture of Albert Einstein I keep on my the table right beside my bed. The personal inscription reads: “A person first starts to live when he can live outside of himself.” In other words, when he can have as much regard for his fellow man as he does for himself. I believe we are here to do good. It is the responsibility of every human being to aspire to do something worthwhile, to make this world a better place than the one he found. Life is a gift, and if we agree to accept it, we must contribute in return. When we fail to contribute, we fail to adequately answer why we are here.
Armand Hammer, industrialist, physician and self-made diplomat, was chairman of Occidental Petroleum
Money and women. The reasons for making most mistakes in life. Looks like you’ve mixed up both.
Police Inspector - Slumdog Millionaire
If anybody thinks he or she knows why we’re here, more power to him or her. I myself don’t know the answer to the mystery of creation. I never accepted the idea that everybody’s going to go to heaven. It seems to me like a fairy tale, invented because people found it hard to contemplate death. It is a great comfort for some people and that’s fine.
I often think we’re like perennials that bloom. They’re wonderful, they die, they come back the next year. We’re part of a generation; it blooms, it dies, it’s replaced by the next generation - and I find that very, very strengthening. We are part of a whole: plants, animals and humans, each dependent on the others. I believe we as humans have the great challenge of living in harmony with the planet and all its parts. If we achieve that harmony we will have lived up to our fullest potential.
Molly Yard, feminist activist, is the president of the National Organization for Women
I have my belief, and in all its simplicity that is the most powerful thing.
Bobby Sands - Hunger