"Mihi ego video, mihi ego sapio" Plautus - I see for myself, I think for myself
The 1st turning point in my life was the day I was introduced to the Periodic Table of the elements by my chemistry teacher. That was the day I realized that scientists could answer questions about how nature worked and I wanted to be a chemist because that is the science that is central to all basic understanding of the ‘hard sciences’ at the molecular level.
The 2nd turning point was when I met my future father-in-law, Allan, a university professor and a philosopher. He was interested in young people and had learned how to get to know them very quickly by asking a few simple questions:
- His first for me was: ‘What do you want out of life?’ - At 21, I gave a standard and probably expected answer: ‘Happiness’. - His next was: ‘And what do you think will make you happy?’ - Without thinking I could hear myself saying: ‘Serving others.’
That was the Christian dogma that I had been brought up with and although I had rejected belief in a supernatural personal God at that point, I obviously still had not questioned the basic Christian teachings. The fact that Allan found my answer interesting was a turning point because it started me thinking for myself and began the lifelong search for how we came to evolve on this planet, and if there was some purpose for our being here. I figured that if I could find our purpose, that fulfilling that purpose would be the thing that would make me happy.
It has been an unrelenting preoccupied for much of my life and I have been attracted to science as a source for the answer because scientific investigations are, after all, just honest, collaborative and shared quests to probe the mysteries of the natural world. Yet scientific methods have proved so powerful that science has revealed a whole new body of knowledge that can be relied upon. In recent years the stunning advances in our knowledge of evolution is finally providing some answers that satisfy me.
In my blog on ‘Purpose’ I explain how I have came to the conclusion that spending my time trying to understand and to make the world a better place – in other words ‘serving others’ – has proven to be an overall purpose for all of us.
It turns out that socioloists have also done research examining the lives of those who appear to be happy and fulfilled - and they have come to the same conclusion! People who have worthwhile goals related to improving the lot of all living creatures, are the happiest. So the Christian’s message that I gave my father-in-law so glibly as the answer to ‘what will make me happy’ was the right one!