“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” ~Henry David Thoreau
When it all boils down to our deepest longing, our most fervent desires, and our greatest fears, we all seek the answer to one question.
What is my purpose in life?
This isn't something we think about daily, but it's in our daily actions nevertheless. Everything we do, every decision we make is a striving, a hope to have the answer to this unspoken question. Even the most faithful, the most optimistic, the happiest among us has at some point wondered if the bumper sticker, “Life is hard and then we die,” actually proclaims the truth.
We work to survive, but we also work to express our creativity, to find fulfillment, to serve others, to create a lifestyle, to have power, to impress others, to buy more stuff. And thus we seek purpose.
We have relationships to procreate, but we also form bonds for affection, sex, companionship, prestige, intimacy, obligation, stability, love, happiness. And thus we seek purpose.
We embrace religion because our parents guided us, but we also seek it because of longing, comfort, faith, hope, connection, peace, obligation, fear, desperation, love, confusion. And thus we seek purpose.
In all that we do, whether or not we are aware of it, we are trying to carve out a meaningful existence in a world of confusion.
The awareness of the certainty of death, the lack of physical evidence of an afterlife, the reality of human suffering, the contradictions and hypocrisies of world religions, the randomness of life events — these all conspire to pull the rug out from under us and shake our faith in human superiority and divine intelligence. What makes us different from the lowly ant? We are born. We live. We die.
I have been thinking about these things for most of my adult life. I am a seeker. I have had faith, and it has been shaken. I have sought truths, only to learn that my truth isn't The Truth. I have plunged my stake in the ground of certain knowledge, only to watch the earth move and rumble and the stake give way into the abyss.
I now admit, I “know” nothing, but I cannot give up on seeking. I no longer seek for The Answer. I seek for the pleasure of seeking. I have learned to embrace mystery, ambiguity, uncertainty. I accept that it may be, it may not be. It is real, it is an illusion. There are nuggets of truth and beauty even in allegories and fairy tales. I can be happy with that. In fact, I think I like it.
So I come back to the question — what is my purpose in life?
My purpose is to use this very moment, this “right now” —
to sow peace
to simply be
My purpose is to love this moment so much that everything I do is an expression of that love.
If I can do this most of the time, if I can just remember — “this is your moment, this is your purpose right now, so don't let it slip by,” then I will have lived a meaningful life.
What about you? Do you know your purpose?
My friend Peep Laja has dedicated a part of his work life to pondering the one question. He has sought the answer for himself, and now asks the world this question and has created a blog to share his insights and discoveries from others. He has an interesting Life Purpose Assessment on his blog if you'd like to explore your own answers.
Please share your life purpose in the comments section so that we can all learn from one another. If you don't know your purpose, share that too, ask questions, give us your thoughts.