The global rat race – questioning our ‘modern’ purpose

by Christian Kurmann

What if you suddenly realise that your whole life is wrong? This is a question we tend to shun because it is simply too deep and too uncomfortable to ask.



Instead, we keep doing what we were taught to do. However, pleasure in its fullness cannot be experienced when one is grasping it forcefully. To have ‘life’ and to enjoy its pleasures, one must learn how to let go. We grasp onto a ‘successful life’ as a particular sensation or event in life, and call it joy or happiness, separating our self by identifying that experience, putting it there, and translating it into joy and happiness.

But sensations are short-lived, never lasting forever; for the moment, then, we tell ourselves that we are joyful or happy, straining to keep up with this demand which is longer than the duration of its ‘life’. But sooner or later, it inevitably falters, So, we keep stretching that feeling of joy and happiness on and on until it turns to the opposite. We become stuck with happiness and pleasure, because we want to be in that state of happiness and joy all the time. But it’s just not possible! Pleasure dissolves into pain, and anger and frustration, because we are not ready to accept that it is only available for a short period of time. The demand for permanence in every area in our existence is the root of human misery, because there is no such thing as permanence.

However, our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding in the things of life that don’t actually matter.

It is perhaps possible that we seek ‘purpose’ in life by mindlessly engaging in a competitive, global rat race each and every day? Living life just for the weekend or just on the weekend. Because the rest of the week belongs to our company, not ourselves. It seems the primary way to get people to ‘like’ their work is to motivate them extrinsically, luring them to strive to get more of what they don’t have. But have you ever asked yourself these questions: What do I truly desire? What makes me excited? What sort of a situation would I most enjoy in life? What would I do if money was no object and had no value? How would I spend my life?

As a result of our global educational society, we have learned to satisfy our economic needs. But, how often we forget what we truly enjoy and avoid doing what we truly like, neglecting to consider the pursuits that encourage us to turn into writers, poets, philosophers, painters, designers and artists of the heart, simply doing something meaningful, something beautiful that we can relate to. Then we would see that great things would really start happening.

If we fail to make a living, what will we do? We must find what we want to do and pursue it and stop putting money first, because if we think money is the most important thing we may end up spending our life in complete and utter waste. We will be doing what we don’t like doing in order to carry on living by continuing to do what we don’t like doing: a meaningless and stupid cycle. And then we ask the same thing from our children, implicitly encouraging them to follow the same track.  We are raising children to follow the same sort of life we live so that they can justify it and bring up their children the same way. That is why it is critically important to find out what we truly desire and what really matters, in our personal lives and in our ‘occupations’.

Better to have a shorter life that is full to the brim with what we like doing than a long life, miserable and repetitive and circular. After all, if you truly like what you are doing – it does not actually matter what it is –you may be an ‘expert’ one day and receive a good fee to dispense advice or a better salary that allows you to live a good, flexible life. So, if you stretch your eyes forward and look at the entire route of our life, you will see how you feel with the prospect of vanishing, with all your efforts, with all your ambitions, with all your achievements and all your accolades turning into dust, into nothingness, into meaninglessness. What is your feeling? What happens within yourself? This is what it all comes to eventually: some find their answers depressing while a special few find the future enriching.

However, the most real state is the state of ‘nothingness’. If our basic reality comes out of nothingness, where does our inner direction come from? Obviously from ‘nothingness’ as well. In other words, ‘nothingness’ is the fundamental basis of our true reality.  The idea of being scared, anxious, worried and fearful is also ‘nothing’, because we continue to look at things such as position, status quo, image, prestige, and reputation with a constant longing for attachment. But with this, we keep ‘feeding the beast’.

The essence of our mind, though, is intrinsically pure: pure means clear, where we feel safe, secure, courageous, inspired, serene and calm. If you think of the ‘nothingness’ as a sort of blindness and you hold tightly to desire for tangibles and attachments, you will constantly swirl around in circles – seeking more, seeking higher and seeking further – which is difficult to bring to a halt.

People must come to grips with why they are working so hard. Oftentimes people make mistakes and get stuck, because their life is some sort of a journey that can be either a grand opportunity or a grand loss. And sometimes we might not be aware that we are taking the wrong path of loss and misery.

In pursuit of our goals, we start our days early, dragging ourselves out of bed, showering and brushing our teeth with quick intensity, so we can get in to work on time – ‘forcing’ ourselves to be motivated and productive.

Countless people commute by public transport, but if you have been striving long enough for the top, you might be able to afford a fancy car. So, every morning we crawl in the traffic with others who are in the same race, to arrive at work for another day of putting up with things we don’t actually enjoy but justify as a necessary pursuit of our goals. Our goal is to get further, higher and faster – in other words, to receive higher pay, to afford a better standard of living, to be above the rest of society, to uphold a higher standard as part of a new circle of friends to show neighbours that we are also part of their circle.

But soon the time will come when this will no longer satisfy and once we hit that point, we seek more image, more reputation, more prestige. As our income increases, so too does our debt. Hence, we must work harder, longer and more efficiently, but the harder we work the more we are sucked into this busy, complex and mechanical world, and time seems go faster, and month’s end comes much sooner, and we find we are part of a machine, a machine that reaps the profit of someone else’s success.

The ‘system’ has us thinking that this kind of life is the norm: we are reminded to be grateful for our jobs and living earned, and we are lured with lucrative retirement benefits and enticed with weeks of holidays, blind to the fact that we have become a ‘system’ slave. This is simply a life of fear, one in which we must constantly increase our pace in order to pay off ever-accumulating debt so that we can maintain our lifestyle and supposedly sustain our ‘happiness’. But the trouble is that most people today do not ‘live’, they simply speed. As they are trying to reach some goals far away from their own, they focus on over-achieving, to the neglect of seeing the beautiful things life presents along the way.

But when we finally awaken from this race, we find that we are old. We realise this only too late: there is simply no difference in whether or not our ultimate goals were achieved. Unless we are able to live fully in the present, the ‘future’ dangles before us like an unattainable carrot.

There is no point whatsoever in making plans and working out solid strategies for a future which we never will be able to enjoy and in which we will never be able to sit back with beautiful full contentment and say, ‘now I finally arrived’.

Those moments of ‘living’ must occur daily, moment by moment.


Edvinas Grisinas