I've been thinking again about what the ultimate purpose of life is.
For example, one purpose could be to maximize the value you contribute to the world. An alternative would be to build deep bonds with your family. Or to savor each moment to the fullest.
Or, if you are into cop-out answers, it could be a blended approach that merges all of the above, because no one metric is the right answer, and you need balance, blah blah.
Last Sunday, at the Wynn Casino buffet with my family, I posed the question to my mother.
Me: "What do you think is the most important quality to strive for?"
My mother: "Integrity. It is not merely the most important. It's the only quality that matters."
Me: "Oh really. So let's say I had failed out of school and couldn't hold down a job, but I have the same level of integrity as I do now. You'd be equally happy with me?"
My mother: "Yes."
Me: [to my dad] "What do you think?"
My dad: [smiling] "That is so not true."
Recently I'm leaning toward using the metric of "doing things which are intrinsically enjoyable".
This goes against my chinese upbringing. When I was young, and my mother wanted me to stop doing enjoyable things (reading sci-fi) and waste the time on unenjoyable things (playing the piano), she quoted the chinese saying "先苦后甜" ("first bitter, then sweet"). The idea is that taking your bitter medicine will help make your future life sweet.
This reminds me that I need to write a blog post about how Chinese mothers need to stop forcing their kids to play the fucking piano/violin.
Anyway, this metric has clear flaws. Putting gas into my car is not intrinstically enjoyable. But I should do it to avoid running out of fuel on the highway and having to walk two miles in the dark to the nearest gas station.
I could amend it to "doing things that are intrinsically enjoyable, or that will save me from much worse things in the future".