Yesterday I left a short anecdote on how sometimes we fight wars that can’t be won. Delaying the inevitable, but never preventing it from happening. That’s how it is with the ending of life, the passing of time, the rotation of this rock we call home as it orbits a fiery ball in space. One day, perhaps life will cease to exist, and thus cease to end as well. Some day, maybe time will end if the Big Crunch (contrary to the Big Bang, where everything condenses after the universe’s expansion slows and then reverses) happens and the universe desists to exist. Maybe the Earth will be hit by asteroids or the Sun will die in a few billion years and even this rotation which to us looks eternal may grind to a halt.
If even things that appear to us indefinite terminate at some point, then what is to say that anything can succeed in the struggle to exist? If one day 5 billion years from now the sun dies, and 99% of life dies except those which thrive near thermal vents, what is to say that our race will continue? If one day the earth’s core runs out of energy, and the vents stop producing heat, what is to say that this life will persist? All living things use energy, and if there is no energy provided then it follows that life cannot exist. At this point, for all we know life in the universe may discontinue forever.
Of course, since there happen to be somewhere around 100 billion habitable planets at the moment, the odds are that somewhere in this vast universe, there is life on other planets. They may be intelligent life forms, they may be single cellular organisms, or something we couldn’t even dream of. The point is, because we can’t discern whether life exists elsewhere, are are incredibly important, the last planet between life and oblivion. However, there is also the certitude that mathematically speaking there is bound to be life that exists elsewhere. We are singular and significant beyond concern, yet also innumerable and the same.
I was reading a book yesterday on the history of cancer The Emperor of All Maladies (recommend it for those interested in biology and the sciences, although there is some tough vocabulary) and it provided not only a thorough perspective on the development of cancer and our medicine throughout the ages, but it also left me with a deep and troubling question. What if the war on cancer is not a fight that can be won because of the vastness and power as well as similarity to ourselves that the disease possesses? With 1500 years since the first recorded instance, cancer has remained a fearsome combatant that adapts to treatment, changes in form, and grows without thought for the host or itself. Even today, many types of cancers have stark odds of survival.
So what is the point, you may ask. The point is that some wars cannot be won. We cannot be immortal as long as our cells die. Time cannot be paused until time itself ceases to exist. Victory cannot be decided until the battle is no longer there.
Because a battle does exist against things such as cancer, sometimes the only way to win is to redefine the meaning of victory. After all, victory is a human construct for an act of defeating an opponent. By choosing to define victory not as the elimination of cancer entirely, but rather making it such that we die of old age before cancer impacts our lives is a reasonable and justifiable idea. At this point in time at least, we as humans are mortal. We are born, we live, and one day we die. The elimination of a fatal disease such as cancer may not even be necessary, as long as we are able to live out the rest of our lives without it impacting us.
This then leads to the question, of how if victory is qualitative in this aspect, would it not be so in others as well?
In our lives, we clash with forces beyond our control, with immense force that we can only imagine. Sometimes, we cannot best them because we are mere mortals in the grand scope of things. To win, we must redefine victory, not as prevailing over that which cannot be defeated, but rather besting ourselves and finding a satisfaction with what we as people have achieved.
We cannot live a lie forever, so live the truth as best as you can.
We cannot cheat death forever, so it is best to live a joyous life.
The only thing we can do is cheat the system in the form of redefining victory.
I guess this answers a part to my question of what the point of life is. It’s to win. Not against others, not against life and death. It’s the journey that we take…and in the end we can decide whether we have won or not.
Thank you for reading (if you got this far haha,) and let me know what you think about this post and the meaning of victory.