The Meaning of Life: Two Mottos, their messages, and their significance
By: Rohan Sharma
The traditional Native American saying “Leave the earth as you found it” seems to have a meaning that has more to do with nature and taking care of the Earth’s physical environment rather than a more social and figurative sense like the non-Native American saying “make your mark on the world. Due to the knowledge from learning about the Native American culture, these people likely held Mother Nature in high regard from the days they set foot initially on the lands of North America as well as humans at the dawn of their existence. “Leave the earth as you found it” may not, as a result, mean supporting having a meaningless existence outside of the typical routine, but rather simply be against acts such as the pollution or destruction of the physical makeup of Mother Earth for trivial purposes. The Native Americans were known to think of Earth as having life and as if it were a living being that played an important role as the fundamental shelter of all other forms of life as we know it.
The non-Native American saying “make your mark on the world” by contrast takes a more metaphoric view of the meaning of life as discussed throughout chapter 2. By making a mark, I believe this means to help others in any way possible whether it be doing charitable work and giving back to the less fortunate or making a societal impact on your local community, to name a few examples. This could also be through innovative technology in the fields of math, science, and engineering. The creators of forms of entertainment such as music and sports also demonstrated a great example of making their “mark” on the world. All of these developments and advancements can be perceived as not necessarily disturbing the physical health of the Earth itself but having made a lasting difference for the people that inhabit it.
It would be unusual to me to argue that there is some middle ground, that there should be a way in which these beliefs can simply coexist in the world and even be two main cogs in the societal machine, so to speak. But there is no other perspective that I feel more strongly about. Proponents of the Native American saying would most likely argue that leaving Mother Nature undisturbed is the utmost priority and would align perfectly with the environmentalism philosophy that is at large today. They would feel that this by comparison simply is a bigger concern than any idea of modifying the world whether literal or figurative. The supporters of the latter would respond with the inverse, saying that we as humans were put on this earth for a reason more akin to improving our time here for both us and mankind. In fact, there is an argument to be made that the non-Native American saying can branch out into more of an array of meanings while the Native American one is not particularly enticing outside environmentally. Of course, this is all limited to speculation, and I am sure there are many other meanings that could logically be discovered as more research is done and has been done on the Native American people. However, there were so many forms of “making a mark on the world” that immediately came to mind using just my intuition upon reading the quote. In fact, in relation to being put on this earth, there are so many theories on that subject alone that supposedly made their mark on the world. There are undoubtedly consequences of living in one way or the other, and the driving values behind each were evidently significant enough to last through generations. But I believe that among all these values, and all these ideas that I have conjured up and expounded upon through this topic, the meaning of life can be illustrated as the peaceful coexistence of such values. What I mean by that is the answer to whether we should leave the earth as we found it or make our mark on the world is that we should take care of earth and make sure it does not deteriorate, as well as have a positive impact on our local and international society. In fact, I believe that these two views form somewhat of a paradox within themselves. By making a conscious effort to leave the earth as we found it in the way that Native American people suggest, we are already making a figurative positive “mark” on the world in the sense of impact and improvement as implied by the non-Native American phrase.
I am unsure of the exact dates the quotes were introduced, but assuming that the Native American ideology has been around dating back to the origins of the people, the timing of the development of the world has significance in explaining why nature was one of the main priorities of their time. Technological advancements were not on the rise yet, and while values like family and community were prominent as throughout time, the earth and its nature were such an integral part of their daily life as it pertains to providing resources through agriculture and naturally occurring shelter among other bare necessities. It makes sense to me that as the world advanced, the focus shifted to so many other aspects of the “world” as we progressively know it as they came to fruition. Overall, I feel that the totality of all the values of the earth, whether it is the physical nature, the technology, or the society that humankind makes up is quite important and should forever evolve collectively for the better through our efforts. While reality, purpose, and even existence will always be an intriguingly gray area, one thing for certain to me is that this unity of aspects of ideologies in relation to our planet does give this life a great deal of meaning.