The Purpose of Human Life

Feeding, clothing and housing the physical body is incomparably less important than the struggle to express, unfold, create.

It’s one of those questions, isn’t it…  Many have come up with answers of one sort or another.  Here’s one to ponder, penned almost half a century ago:

Why are human beings on this earth?  What must they do to fulfill their destiny?  For our purpose here, lest us assume that the chief end of man’s life on earth is to develop his faculties, to live as far as possible to the pattern of his destiny, and to do everything he can to give an equal chance to his fellows to do so.

Such a perspective, applied to the present development of the arts and sciences, leads to a simple working formula:

1) Feeding, clothing and housing the physical body is incomparably less important than the struggle to express, unfold, create.

2) Therefore, let the community provide the necessities and decencies of life – food, shelter, clothing, education, health services – just as it now provides highways, street lights, libraries and parks – open to all on the basis of need.

3) Let each individual do his daily chore of labor necessary to replace the goods and services which he consumes, and to provide support for the old, the sick and the immature.  Meanwhile, let him concentrate his chief energies on his major task of expression, improvement, creation.

This formula would shift the emphasis of human life from acquisition to creativity and would subordinate the struggle for wealth and power, which is now eating the heart of the western world, to a cooperative effort to live and help live.

Scott Nearing: The Making of a Radical, 1972

Author: Anne

~ In the right order of nature, the flesh is subject to the spirit and not the reverse. ~ The Cloud of Unknowing

4 thoughts on “The Purpose of Human Life”

  1. The habits I learned from Helen & Scott’s daily routines like setting grain to sprout every night and a set morning reading and writing period after chores have been the most durable habits of my life. I’m now closing in on 60 years and I read “Living the Good Life” when I was around 15.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The Nearings are highly inspirational and provided great examples of how a home-based use economy can function and function well, and how one can enjoy the Good Life in an increasingly insane world. I first read Living the Good Life” about 25 years ago and periodically pull it off the shelf for refreshment. I recently did so again, and was stimulated enough to finally acquire a print version of The Making of a Radical to see what further thoughts I could glean.
      There is a small section towards the end of The Making of a Radical that elaborates on their homesteading activities.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Scott’s use of the phrase “the chief end of man” reveals his Christian background. The first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism is “What is the chief end of man?”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The “Early Bird Maintenance” post from last month was inspired by the Nearing’s 4-4-4 division of the work that needs done (
    “It helps to analyse the work you do during the day and divide it into maintenance work (like laundry, dishes or cleaning), bread labor (the things you do that provide what you need without having to go to a store and buy it, like growing your own food, baking your own bread, canning your own produce, making your own tools or sewing your own clothes) and working for cash (the work you get paid for in cash).”

    Oh, and a couple of years ago we substituted our ceramic table wear for wooden trenchers and tumblers. Works out wonderfully. ‘Twas inspired by Scott’s single wooden bowl and spoon he always used, plus I’m not breaking plates in the dishes anymore, haha.


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