Okay, so this might not be as famous a question as “Who are you?” or “What do you want?” it’s still an important one. For one thing, it’s one of the questions Lorien asks Sheridan toward the end of the series finale, “Sleeping in Light.” However, he is asked it a few seasons earlier by the Centauri Emperor Turhan. As an emperor, he never had any choice in life, having been born to his position and having every word and action dictated by others or the needs of his people.
Luckily, I’ve never experienced anything quite like that. Nevertheless, as you’ve read from a previous post, I’ve been much better at answering “What am I supposed to do?” than “What do I want?” Likewise, the question of “Why?” is very much intertwined with that of “Who?”
“Why am I here? Why are you here? Why are any of us here?” Talk about existential . . . and multi-faceted. One aspect has to do with how you got here. Why am I here? Well, I was born at a certain place and a certain time. I grew up. Some choices were made for me. Some I made myself, especially from college onward. Most of those choices were also influenced by outside circumstances. For example, I didn’t get into my first choice of college, but going to Emory set me on the path I’m on now. I do seem to have a habit of not getting my first choice, but for a while at least, I seemed to manage to get on a better path each of those times. (Mind you, the jury’s still out on my going to Catholic University for doctoral work.) Whether for good or ill, all of those choices have brought me here.
At the same time, there’s the larger question of purpose. Am I here for some reason? Are the words to the prophet Jeremiah true? “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer. 1:5) Or does existence precede essence as the existentialists suppose? At one time when I was younger, that idea total freedom to create myself really appealed to me. (Gee, not surprising that a late-high school, early college student would like that.) Nowadays, I want to believe there is some sort of purpose, maybe not in the sense of a plan laid out from the beginning. I’m convinced there is some level of choice involved in navigating life. However, as I’ve written before, I want to believe in some sort of call, one intimately tied up with who I am as a child of God, a song that resonates in my being in relation to God and the world. Needless to say, I still haven’t figured that one out over the last few days.
So I guess that the question of “Why am I here?” looks both backwards (“How did I get here? Is there some sort of overarching design?”) and forwards (“If there is a design, am I being guided along somehow to a particular destination?”). So “Why am I here?” then slides into “Where am I going?” That question, however, remains for another day.