We all want to believe our species is on this planet for a reason. The religious among us have that reason neatly encapsulated in holy tomes, while the rest of us have to cast about in science or philosophy.
One of the most disturbing hypotheses of human purpose I've ever heard--disturbing because it rings a bit true--is stand-up comic, MMA host and social commentator Joe Rogan's "We Are Here to Eat the Sandwich" analogy, below. Fast-forward to 0:37 to hear his somewhat chilling explanation:
(SFW/NSFW warning: He drops the F-bomb a couple of times.)
This was somewhere in the back of my mind, then came to the front of my mind, as I viewed the portfolio of photographer Christoph Gielen, a shooter who "specializes in conducting photographic aerial studies of infrastructure in its relation to land use, exploring the intersection of art and environmental politics." Check out some of his stuff, shot from airplanes over the United States:
Gielen's photos really must be seen large, so be sure to click over to his website to see 'em. I think his photographs are fantastic. Whether you consider the subject matter itself beautiful or grotesque is, I suppose, largely a function of where you fall on the What-are-we-doing-on-and-to-this-planet scale.
In any case, Gielen's work was also recently featured in a brief slideshow in The Times for some of his more rare shot-from-the-ground photos of Chinese insta-cities. You can check it out here.