"I wish I were a beaver," I said to the old man. He raised an eyebrow at me but did not respond. His eyes seemed to tell me to continue.
"Think about it. Nobody really does anything with their life anymore. We carry in the groceries while hauling out the trash, but in the end nothing changes. We pay our taxes and do our part so that other people can keep moving and doing their part for us. We're like a bunch of spinning gears without anything attached to the rod. What's the point?"
"And a beaver's life would have more meaning than this to you?"
"Yea," I smiled, "a beaver gets to build something. They can take a river, any old river, and build a dam. And when they build that dam they build a lake. It would be great to be a beaver. Throw a couple logs down, let the river carry driftwood into your branches, ensnaring them. I would make easy work of it. The lake would fill up with food for me, right at my doorstep. I would have a place to swim and play. Most importantly though, I would make a difference. I would create an entire new ecosystem myself. With my bare.. well. I don't know quite what to call a beaver's hands."
"Well what about new scientific breakthroughs. You have medicine we never dreamed of when I was a child. The technology is amazing. You can stand in this room and using a device you keep in your pocket, call somebody half way around the world in real time. You don't think the people who made these inventions. You don't think their life has a purpose?"
"Well... I suppose they do. But that's a lot of work. It'd be much easier to be a beaver. Besides, I'm talking about most people. Most people don't contribute anything to progress, to society."
The old man made a grunting noise and nodded slowly.
"You nod, but I don't think you agree with me."
"Well what about you. You worked your life at blue collar jobs. You never invented anything, cured anything, caused some great paradigm shift. What did you do with your life?"
The old man smiled, with only the smallest hint of sadness in his eyes. "Me?" he paused thoughtfully, "I lived. Isn't that something?"