Questions
by Ryszard Cichy

Why are we born?

What is the purpose of existence - humans, insects, bacteria?

Why are there vast quantities of different species of living creatures in the world?

Why do I exist?

Why do you exist?

We know that long ago there were dinosaurs. They lasted on Earth for many millions of years. They multiplied, devoured each other, died, their place taken by others. For whom and why was their existence necessary?

What is the purpose of the life of the mosquito buzzing around my head, the spider climbing up a wall, the thousands of ants building an anthill outside my window?

For what purpose does grass grow, the trees and flowers?

Earth, after all, could have been as dead as the Moon.

Would anything change in the Universe if not a single flower and not a single tree had grown on Earth, if there was not even a single insect? Or human being?

No doubt each of us is convinced that there is a profound purpose to his or her existence. How could it be otherwise since each of us experiences life, profound emotions and sensations so intensely?

The question about the “profound meaning” of Life for us, rational beings seems unsettling when we observe other beings deprived of intelligence such as ours, be it a wasp which keeps on stubbornly hitting against a window pane in order to fly out when the other half of the window is wide open. What can be the reason for such “stupid” things to exist?

There is an opinion that the purpose of every living person is procreation, that we exist in order to produce descendants and ensure the survival of our species.

Ensuring the means of existence for our own families - especially our offspring - is, for the majority of us, after all, the most important reason for us making an effort, renouncing and sacrificing things.

After all, small “devices” have been built within each of us for procreation which function irrespective of whether we want them to or not, which switch on without the participation of our will. We have no influence over their production which begins in adolescence, or on their quantity. We cannot stop this “production” other than through self-mutilation.

These “devices” are able to “create” new persons.

Is procreation, assuring the survival of their species, truly the purpose of every person’s life?

And why do entire species continue to exist?

Why should Life as a whole continue?

Why, indeed, should any form of life exist on Earth?

What is the purpose?

I hear the priest in church say that the World was created for us. For human beings. All the trees and the fruit they bear, all the animals, beautiful beaches, sunny summers – has all this been created with us in mind?

What a beautiful idea explaining our existence! It removes all doubts. The message announced in the temple is comforting. No doubt that is why there are so many believers.

Has the World really been created for us? Or rather have not we, people, and other beings been created for the World?

The make up of organisms, their structure and the functions they play irrefutably bring to mind the machines we build using elements surrounding us.

It is enough to acquaint ourselves with man’s anatomy, with the structure of his skeleton, muscles or respiratory system in order to make such a comparison.

It is enough, too, to look at the development of each being.

The longest period each of these - men, insects and other living organisms - can exist has been strictly defined. Once reached, self-destruction steps in. Each individual “switches itself off” independently, something we call natural death.

Practically all species of living creatures have been identically programmed. First, each of them increases in size, growing to strictly defined dimensions (in the human being the average height is about 160-200 cm) and then, also after a designated amount of time (in the case of human beings 75-85 years on average), they succumb to self-destruction.

None of them has any influence over their shape, that is their appearance.

None of us, after all, decides about the colour of our eyes, about our height, how fat we are or about the shape of our hands. Each of us takes on a form irrespective of their will.

None of the machines (persons) can decide what sex they are going to be and how strong their sexual drive.

The possibility of making any changes is small although to most of us it probably seems otherwise.

Some people can, at most, darken the colour of their skin a little by sunbathing intensively, but only for a certain length of time. We can model a small part of our “body”, barely a few percent of its surface, according to our desire – and this is the hair on our heads.

With strenuous work and tedious cosmetic treatments we can make but a slight change in our appearance. In truth, none of us will grow taller however hard we try, but fat people can, with hard work and self-denial, acquire a slim figure. By exercising our muscles we can, for a while, increase their size and build them up. For an outside observer, a non-human, these differences are most likely imperceptible.

Our appearance is “bestowed” upon us.

Presumably it is the same with our feelings. Possibilities for a person to shape their personality are not great. After all, we do not have much influence over the way we react or feel even though by conscious choice we can somewhat curb our emotions or not manifest them. Some of us are calm, others explosive. Some are energetic and courageous, others apathetic and anxious. Many of us would like to be a “different” person, change their character and way of thinking; this proves impossible. No doubt some of us would like – at least for a while – to reason like A.Einstein. These are wishes which cannot be fulfilled.

Each of us has been equipped with a brain which sometimes prompts logical thoughts and sometimes less so, irrespective of how we nourish it or how many hours of sleep we have had. It does what it wants to do. Some people have more logical than illogical thoughts, in others the illogical predominate. The capacity of each person’s memory is also independent of their will. Some people find it easy to learn a large number of languages while others have difficulty remembering even one foreign language. None of us is able voluntarily to form the capacity of their memory, how quickly they think or how they reason; hence the common categorisation of people into “stupid” and “clever”. Although, with exercise it is possible to increase the efficiency of our minds, in actual fact, from the point of view of a representative of a different species, these changes are, in fact, merely “cosmetic”.

It is the same with our aesthetic preferences, the tastes or smells we find pleasing.

Some of us like sweet dishes, others like those which are spicy or salty.

Our tastes are also independent of our will. Even though with the use of our brain we might want to “force” ourselves to find attractive people who disgust us, we will not manage to feel sympathy towards them, to admire or love them. Most women prefer tall to short men. Both men and women associate old age with ugliness and youth with beauty.

Doubtlessly not many people are capable of admiring the face of an 80-year-old.

We have been determined.

Each of us has strictly defined qualities which differentiate us from others.

Of course, we can argue and conduct scientific research into how great an influence hereditary factors have on our likes and dislikes and how many of these preferences have been acquired through experience. This, however, does not alter the fact that none of us are in a position to change, through reason or will, their outward appearance. There are animals, of course, who have the ability to alter their colour but this is a trait which they have inherited along with other traits characteristic of their species. Although I may be convinced that on top of having two hands a third would be useful, in no way can I make this third hand grow. I have been equipped with two and that is that.

Each of us has to perform the same functions over and over again. We have to breath, eat and reproduce. None of us can live any other way – free ourselves from the programme imposed on us.

Like a machine.

Not only do we have no influence over our appearance, the length of our life or our character, we also have no influence over the time and place in which we live – after all, we cannot choose our place or date of birth. Whether we live right now or in the Middle Ages does not depend on us. Whether we were born in Europe or India or into a tribal society living in a jungle with no knowledge of letters, numbers or soap. We cannot choose our parents, grandparents, siblings or children. We are condemned to live with these people.

Since we cannot influence the date or place of our existence, we are subject to events caused by communities surrounding us. A person who lived during the Second World War was forced, in a way, to take part in it (e.g. as a soldier) although they did not have to agree with the way the international conflicts were being resolved at all.

The mechanisms at work which make each individual exist at a certain time and place in space remain a puzzle and a mystery.

Why don’t we have any influence on the time and place of our birth, on our appearance or characteristics?

Is the belief true that we and other beings too, are only a certain kind of machine?

Machines which themselves have to see to it that their “batteries are charged”, that is provide themselves with the energy necessary to function?

Mechanisms invented and built so as to perform actions defined by their creator?

We intentionally subjugate and manipulate other beings merely because we are more intelligent and know how to take advantage of them. We tell animals to obey our instructions. Training them, however, we use rather primitive methods like rewarding them with food which they cannot produce for themselves (sugar). But there are, after all, more refined methods. We can manipulate genes.

But maybe life is a form of slavery?

Have we been constrained on purpose?

Has each of us been “loaded” with genes so that they can control our behaviour?

Do the intellectual “possibilities” of the majority of living beings not confirm their deliberate enslavement?

None of them knows anything about how it was made.

Whereas each of them is an extraordinarily complicated machine. The body of a bird can perform and co-ordinate a large number of complicated actions. But the centre (the brain) which “governs” the system has no knowledge as to how the machine it orders has been created. It has no idea as to how its sense of sight or its muscular system works.

The brain of a crocodile, incapable of performing the simple mathematical task of adding numbers, “governs” an organism made up of an enormous number of elements (cells) working together. Even we, human beings, have not been able to examine and entirely understand how this organism works. It affords automatic breathing, digestion, temperature regulation, co-ordination of movement, etc. Furthermore, it consciously resolves questions necessary for survival. The skill to find food and a place with the appropriate temperature.

Why is such a complicated system as is every living being ruled by a centre (brain) whose powers of thought are so small?

Let me express it in another way. Firstly, why can’t any being influence the way its system and parts, such as the heart or liver, which function independently of its conscious mind, works? Secondly, why does such an extraordinarily complicated mechanism as every living being (for example, a spider, tortoise or horse) have such a primitive mind?

I use the word “primitive” since I am comparing what the minds of these beings are capable of to how they are constructed, whose design and rules of functioning are the product of an intellect far greater than our human intelligence. This also applies to man. Our intelligence compared to the products of the World surrounding us is not very brilliant either. People have observed birds or insects in flight for thousands of years but it is only recently, in the XX century, that we have managed to construct an aeroplane.

The brain with which we have been equipped allows us to adapt to the surrounding world. It has not, however, been equipped with knowledge of itself or how the system it governs has been constructed. It is merely of late that we have started to try to decipher the principles of how our body has been built. For thousands of years our ancestors were not interested in this. The dissection of corpses began several hundred years ago.

And how hard it is for us to discover the simple laws by which the world is built.

We are convinced, too, that intelligence is exceptional or “superior” to other characteristics and treat “stupidity” with disdain.

Perhaps this characteristic is simply just another characteristic like all others, like the ability to fly or live underwater or a plant’s ability to live for many hundreds of years?

Maybe development of the brain and the shaping of intelligence are no different to the shaping of wings which make it possible to fly or the shaping of a breathing apparatus which makes it possible to live under water?

Since the majority of living beings have fairly limited intellectual powers are these limitations not intentional?

Are living organisms not meant to be “stupid”?

Automatons and slaves, after all, do not need to know anything apart from what is needed to perform their programmed tasks.

They do not have to be intelligent.

If we indeed are like that then what is the purpose of us being made the way we are?

Everything that takes place on Earth, everything that livings beings do is undertaken to gain something. All our actions are geared towards obtaining food, ensuring sleep, satisfying the need for love or friendship or aesthetic needs.

If this law is universal we should assume that the Builders of the Universe undertook their task expecting it to be useful to them in some way, too, to benefit them in ways unknown to us.

Have the Builders of the Universe created Life because they have something to gain by it?

Perhaps, for the time being, we cannot see or understand what this benefit could be, just like animals reared by us cannot understand why man tells them to draw a heavy plough. They probably do not even think about it because, so we believe, they are not aware of their dependence. Human beings, however, have been equipped with a mind and this allows us to be aware.

What tasks (benefits) could these be?

The World surrounding us is a continuous movement of matter.

New objects, new elements and chemical compounds come into being. Transformation takes place incessantly. New elements are produced at the expense of the old.

The universe “behaves” like a gigantic oven or a conveyor belt. Every star unceasingly transforms matter. From one of its kind it creates another.

Human beings behave in a similar manner.

They too convert matter throughout their entire lives. They transform that part of the Universe which they inhabit.

Could it be that the only task living organisms are to accomplish is to transform matter?

We generally believe that every organism possesses limbs and organs which serve to procure nourishment in order to ensure as long a life as possible.

We can, however, look at this from aside and ask:

Is the compulsion to consume meals caused exclusively by the necessity of providing the organism with energy or is there perhaps another reason?

Is every organism nothing more than a “device” (machine) for absorbing food, processing and eliminating it?

This would mean that living organisms exist only in order to transform matter with the help of their digestive systems.

Such an assumption can appear absurd.

The digestive system would be the primary system? All other remaining limbs and organs are to have been formed only to enable it to procure food which it is to convert? The extremities, therefore, are to help enable it to move as it searches for food and the sensual organs help to locate it? While the mouth serves to grab it and the brain to steer these components?

Could it be, therefore, that the necessity for each of us to consume meals is in no way caused by the necessity of providing the organism with energy?

In observing animals it is not difficult to see that the greater part of their lives is spent looking for and consuming food. The remaining part is spent reproducing and sleeping.

Watching cattle graze in pastures for hours on end or a snake as it devours an entire rabbit, it is easy to think that the aim of Life is to convert matter.

One huge digestive system. Nothing more.

Apparently hungry rats live longer than those which have eaten their fill.

Could it be that there is a “quota” of calories which every statistical living individual of a given species is maximally to “convert” throughout its life?

If the “quota” was fulfilled quickly because the individual ate a great deal, then immediately after fulfilling it he would die. Whereas if he dallied in fulfilling it and consumed little, he would live longer.

Of course, this sort of “meaning of life” of living organisms seems nonsensical.

But maybe it is a matter of transforming matter in a different way?

It is not hard to see that after we die not much of us remains. In fact all the products of our work undergo annihilation. Only pyramids and mummified corpses remain of the inhabitants of ancient Egypt. After years, they too will disintegrate.

Of us, human beings, barely the carbon dioxide exhaled when we breathe will remain in the atmosphere.

Pit-coal, crude oil, natural gas and a few other chemical compounds will also be left after living organisms.

Apparently, in 24 hours one cow converts 3 kg of carbon into carbon dioxide while man converts 200 g in that time. If these calculations are correct then in 24 hours 6 billion people convert 1,200,000 tons of carbon. Simply by breathing. How much carbon then have all the cows converted ever since they appeared on earth? How much of that carbon have humans converted?

Could it be that we are merely devices made to “produce” carbon dioxide, crude oil, pit-coal or methane?

Or maybe it’s a question of something else entirely?

Perhaps the truth is that life on Earth is something like a farm, an experiment conducted by some unknown beings?

Perhaps the Universe is now at some stage in the development of husbandry (the beginning or the end) the aim and ultimate form of which is known only to its Creators?

Could life then be only an experiment similar to those conducted by scientists who, dressed in white coats, breed bacteria in laboratories?

Of course it might all be altogether otherwise.

If we really do exist merely to be of some sort of benefit to our Creators then this could be something entirely different.

A thought that occurred to me many years ago comes to mind when as a thirteen-year-old I pondered over the meaning of Life. At that time, I imagined Life was only a way of passing on information. With time, all information preserved in any way undergoes obliteration. Writing fades while stone and what is written on it wear away. The way to preserve information is to record it in the genes of living beings. It will be passed on from one generation to the next as long as Life exists. Genes as such, therefore, would perform a double function; they would decide the form of every living being and they would contain information which is unknown to us and passed on by the Creators of Life.

Have the Creators of Life - like people shipwrecked who slip a note about their location into a glass bottle - written information which is unknown to us into the genes that passed on to every subsequent generation?

Could the laws of natural selection, therefore, have been created simply so as to ensure that organisms adapt to changing external circumstances and that Life and this coded information exist eternally?

The puzzle, of course, would be to whom and why this information was to be passed.

What information?

Could it be information as to who built the Universe and for what purpose? The Universal “Plan”?

This is quite a fantastical supposition.

And then why is there this mechanism by which individuals are replaced by others? Why is there a necessity to die and be born?

What is the purpose of death?

Is this mechanism only to ensure that species adapt to changing circumstances?

Is the reason for this process really only to ensure the “law” of natural selection functions efficiently?

The law of organisms ageing and dying seems to confirm that they live only in order to perform defined tasks and that after fulfilling their mission they become unnecessary.

It looks as if the fact whether the dead organism is simple and uncomplicated or complex like man and what “loss” this involves, is not important to the Builders of the Universe.

How uneconomical this “law of transience” appears.

We see many individuals function perfectly in their environment. Nothing threatens their existence. Even so they die, unnecessarily it would seem. A great deal of effort is necessary for another individual to appear in their place and this does not necessarily have to happen. An adult crocodile dies even though, in principle, there are no other animals to endanger it. In order to ensure a “replacement” for itself it ought to lay a vast quantity of eggs. Because of their small size the majority of little crocodiles will not survive. Only a few will reach adulthood, and often none.

And let us look at human beings.

Each of us puts in an enormous effort in order to master a vast range of knowledge and skills which will enable us to function in society. We spend several years learning in primary school, then the next few years in secondary school, while some people spend even more in higher education.

At the moment of death all these acquired skills and knowledge are erased (“deleted”).

They are not inherited and so cannot be passed directly to our offspring. They cannot be “re-recorded” in the way IT specialists transfer recorded information from one data carrier medium to another. The offspring of even the best educated individual has to study everything laboriously from the beginning as once he did, every word, every letter and number, set school books, mathematical formulae, how to tie shoelaces and fasten buttons, and sacrifice nearly a third of their life to learning.

Their grandson, then their great grandson, will probably read the same books.

The law of every individual being replaced by a new one who has not inherited any knowledge or skill from their parents seems a great waste.

If all this could be inherited it would constitute enormous savings on the scale of the species. We would not have to learn how to tie our shoelaces or how to write and count. How many entities would survive. After all, every child would avoid fire and deep water knowing they are dangerous.

On the other hand, however, if the children of madmen were to inherit their knowledge - a warped view of the world construed by their parents’ minds – we ought to be pleased this law holds true to all of us. No doubt none of us would like anyone to have inherited Adolf Hitler’s philosophy of life.

In asking why there is Life we cannot but ask:

And why does all the inanimate matter, atoms, quarks, stones and stars exist?

One can ask not only that but also why do all these “function” so persistently?

Cells are constantly dividing. Electrons orbit the nuclei of atoms and planets the stars. While unceasingly converting hydrogen into helium. Galaxies, on the other hand, move with unimaginable speed across space.

Constant transformation!

Not a moment of respite or peace!

One reads in books that the dot above the letter “i” contains more protons than there are stars in the galaxy. A typical galaxy apparently contains about 100 billion stars. The amount of pure energy trapped in the ordinary objects we use is unimaginable. Galaxies are, on average, 10 million light years away from each other. This is hard to imagine knowing as we do that light needs less than a second to go round the Earth. These expanses and speeds, these quantities of energy and number of particles are beyond our comprehension.

What is the reason for the existence of this vast number of elements and of the space where they are, for their incessant motion?

What benefit can the Builders of the Universe reap from all these transformations? From the existence of matter we call inorganic?

It is hard to believe that all these laws and elements which constitute the Universe have been created with no goal in mind – just like that!

And why are there so many stars, planets and galaxies? Would one not suffice?

Why are there so many atoms?

Why, in the world we live, is the “principle of plurality” binding?

The simplest answer is so that there can be a large number of living individuals. The more there are the greater chance of some of them surviving in a world filled with multitudes of individuals belonging to other species.

But why are there so many species? Would not several be enough?

And why are there as many as billions of people? Would not a few or several hundred be enough?

Again the answer could be so that these species (and people) can adapt more effectively to the incessant changes in environment.

But why do all these elements in the Universe change form and we, living beings, try to keep up with this process?

What is the purpose of the environment changing?

What is the cause of this process?

Where is all this leading?

Could this ultimate result not be achieved immediately?

Why has it been spread out over time?

I look at a map of Wrocław with places which used to be cemeteries marked out on it. A park where adults and children take a walk on sunny afternoons used to be a cemetery a mere hundred years ago. For many years 300 people a year used to be buried there. The street I walk every day also used to be a cemetery. I march across the graves of soldiers buried over 200 years ago.

The place where both you and I will be put to rest may also become a playground where children run.

Is this not strange?

QUESTIONS by Ryszard Cichy, Wrocław 2008 Retro-Art, Warszawa 2008, ISBN 978-83-87992-56-9 translated by Danusia Stok