Hummingbirds and the Pointlessness of Life

HummingbirdI currently have the worst headache that I can remember having. I have loaded up on every pill that could possibly help me, which probably means that I will fall asleep shortly because one of them is an antihistamine that puts me to sleep. But there is nothing like pain to make me think of Schopenhauer. The only point to living is to facilitate further living. It is very much like a hamster running on one of those treadmills. And that’s fine as long as you are enjoying the run. But if you are in pain, what is the point? You keep the process going just so that you can continue to suffer?

If humans were really smart, they would have died out long ago. Unfortunately, our will is much greater than our intelligence. This kind of goes along with what I was talking about in, Why I Am Not a New Atheist. This idea that we are rational is undercut by our continued dedication to life. The will is a supremely irrational thing that keeps us going even under the worst of conditions. (Well, maybe not the “worst” but the general levels of suffering that we humans are used to.)

Right out in front of our house, we have a hummingbird feeder. And I get to watch one particular hummingbird that uses it, whenever I’m in the kitchen. It’s a great example of what I’m talking about, because hummingbirds are so small and use so much energy that they must spend most of their time eating. And so this little guy flies up, feeds, flies away. And he continues it over and over again. To be honest, I’m not sure why he even goes away — he’s there that much. And I’m sure that he mates and sleeps too, but pretty much his life is eating.

And what is the point of that?! I know I can justify my life. It is complex. I do a whole lot of things that have nothing to do with continuing my existence. But ultimately, it does all come down to the hummingbird that doesn’t have any point to existing except for its drive to continue existing. And that is an annoying fact of existence. It bothers me. I wish I had some greater insight into the nature of existence that I could use to counter what seems to be the utter pointlessness of life.

Don’t get the idea that I’m depressed. I’m not. My head is killing me and I don’t like that. But otherwise, I’m kind of bullish on life right now. That doesn’t change the fact that I look at life and see its pointlessness. And I’m well aware that as much as I may feel pretty good (except for the headache), this is only temporary. I will fall into a deep depression when such considerations will not be academic. Of course, I won’t kill myself. Because my will is so much stronger than my rational capacity. I’m just like that hummingbird, feeding today so I can feed tomorrow.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “Hummingbirds and the Pointlessness of Life

  1. Why should we expect it to have any point? If life had been designed by some sort of creator, it might have been imbued with a purpose, but it wasn’t. Things whose traits make them good at producing copies of themselves, tend to produce more copies of themselves. Ultimately that’s all that life is. Everything else is just elaboration. Organisms that mate, seek out food, avoid predators, etc. produce copies of themselves, so the world is full of them. Organisms without instincts to do those things would not produce many copies of themselves, therefore there aren’t any of them.

    It doesn’t serve a purpose any more than the fact that iron rusts or water flows downhill serves a purpose. It just is.

    • It isn’t necessary to provide a remedial introduction to natural selection — especially given that natural selection is part of the subtext of the post. And who said anything about purpose? I was writing about meaning — personal meaning for humans and hummingbirds. You seem to have a ax to grind here, but I don’t see what it has to do with me.

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