As war again rages at the geographical confluence of several major religions, as bodies lay bloody and decomposing in the streets, as hate seeps from the mouths and pores of demagogues and their doltish followers, as people struggle to find a morsel to eat at the same time as the rich sit ensconced in excess, as a monolithic sadness envelops humankind, the search for purpose, for answers, for meaning seems increasingly fruitless.  Unavoidably aware that our individuality is meaningless in a society run by fools and charlatans, that our singularity is fleeting in an infinite cosmos, a pervasive despair is the logical reaction.  To combat this weight, we understandably seek to identify a reason that we exist, that we awake each day.  It is the eternal human undertaking, one that has preoccupied our species since its inception.

Each spiritual tradition has its own proprietary, allegedly unassailable explanation for what we are doing on this Earth.  In many instances, questioning what is stated as the prevailing wisdom is grounds for excommunication, disdain, and deadly violence.  Yet, each championed deity granted humans the capacity for cogitation, for empathy, for mirth, for the entire spectrum of emotions.  These fundamental personal qualities are abrogated and subsumed by the unnecessary rigidities of dogmatic belief.  Such prohibitive behavior is necessary to sustain the foundations of each particular religion:  too much criticism, too much rational scrutiny and there is fear that the entire figurative or literal cathedral, synagogue, mosque, temple, or other blessed structure will crumble.

In the futile grasping for spiritual dominion, in the drafting of lengthy doctrine, it seems that the point of it all has been missed.  The point is not to kill, to win, to argue, to accumulate wealth, to be better than your neighbor, to subjugate, to whine, to cringe, to pillage, to destroy, or to embody any of the other values that seem to be guiding large swaths of our populace.  While the various gospels and incantations underpinning all religions contain very obvious messages of righteous conduct, these have been transmogrified in practice into pretenses for attack of those that do not believe the same fine points of purportedly virtuous behavior.  Hypocrisy of this magnitude is, to me, the only truly unforgivable sin – or at least one that requires a vicious amount of penance.

I should admit that I do not have any answers: that would be the reasonable, humble approach.  But, I have been on this planet long enough, have dealt with enough of people’s trauma, with their disputes, their fears, their stresses, their motivations to really feel like I have the standing to share my epiphany.  It is a realization that has come at the end of decades of thinking, of years of living with my heart out in the open.  It is also one that came out of longwinded discussions with my daughter at the myriad cafes and dinner tables at which we sat during our Parisian summer.

At the risk of being overly reductionist, one of the two points of this life is to love.  There is no other central purpose for our hearts.  We are meant to love each other, ourselves, our communities, our purported enemies, the music and art created by our peers, the breathtaking beauty of this planet, the sexual pleasure offered by our bodies, the insane levels of intelligence of our thinkers, the silly foibles of our children, the way that food nourishes and excites, the animals that prance, the flowers that bloom, the warmth of a blanket on a snowy day, the wind in our hair, the simple joy of a smile.

At the risk of appearing haughty, the other point of this life is to have fun.  There is no other central purpose for our imaginations.  We are meant to laugh until we cry (or pee), to crack inappropriate jokes, to ride our bikes in hooting gangs, to shred the sides of frozen mountains on various implements, to explore new cities, to learn a foreign language, to occasionally take the party too far, to play a jovial game of cards, to teach a kid a cool skill, to scratch a dog’s belly, to watch a cat get into mischief, to be inspired to our own mischief, to play hooky, to strike up a conversation with a stranger, to set our friends up with their crushes, to give everyone the space to be themselves, to just milk as much of this life as possible as frequently as possible.

The interrelationship between love and fun keeps us from problematic degradation.  One cannot love one’s community and be a degenerate.  One cannot love oneself and drink to the point of death.  Not every second is intended for pure enjoyment, not every moment is going to be ecstasy, but we can adjust our ratios in these regards by many orders of magnitude.  We are currently ruled more by hate than by love, driven more by imposed obligations than by fun.  We need to reset, we need to call the transgressors to account, we need to make some serious changes or we are doomed.

Life is not a bank account, life is not a spreadsheet, life is not a legal brief, life is not a traffic jam, life is not a battle, life is not any of the redundant malarkey with which we are daily assaulted.  Life is so insanely short that making room for any of that junk is missing the point of it all.  In this season of spiritual stress and concomitant confusion, simplify it all to the twin pillars:  love and fun.  One plus of this approach:  there is no text to which you need to refer, you just need to look around.