Monday, 8 February 2010

The Purpose of Life

Certainly an audacious title for a blog post. I don't know the purpose of life and I'm not sure that the whole idea of a purpose of life makes any sense at all. But life without purpose is without meaning and probably not worth living.

One: You need a purpose.
Robert Byrne – author and championship billiard player - put it this way: “The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” We as thinking, searching, acting beings need to find a purpose. And whether that purpose is to serve God, to grow our spirits, to end suffering, to teach, to create, beauty, or to inspire – or any of a million other purposes – we need to find purpose in life.

Two: You need a purpose that fits you
Is there one purpose of life or are there many? You know that the purpose that puts fire in your belly is not the same one that works for everyone else. We are all very different and, if my faith - Unitarianism - would have a creed at all, it would have to say ‘thou shalt find and follow the path that fits thyself’. Find a purpose that fits you – the unique and sacred person that you are. 

Three: You need a purpose that will give your life meaning.
My first career was in the business world. Ultimately, it was a cynical, soul-draining experience for me. Truthfully though, it wasn’t always so. In fact, there were times when I was just thrilled about what I was doing – when I could barely sleep because of my excitement – and when I could think of nothing else.

I had found a purpose and it fit me. Two boxes ticked successfully! The problem was that – in the long run – it did not give my life meaning. It took me reaching midlife and getting knocked about a bit to recognize something important – when I looked back at the end of my life on the purpose I had dedicated myself to, I could not find meaning in it. I could not look back with joy and satisfaction and a glow of fulfilment and say ‘yes, I sure did a good job making some rich people richer!’

And that’s the test. Will you be able to look back on your life and pronounce it fulfilling. If not, you need a different purpose.

In the words of George Bernard Shaw:
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

Four: throw yourself into your purpose fully.
A line from a poem by Miguel De Unamuno is the namesake for this blog. I fell in love with this poem after learning about it recently. De Unamuno was a prominent Spanish writer and academic in the first half of the 20th century. He was courageous and insisted on being true to himself – defying fascists and dictators to remain authentic to his convictions. That nobility of character appears in the words of the poem too…
[…]to live is to work, and the only thing which lasts
is the work; start then, turn to the work […]

Throw yourself like seed as you walk, and into your own field[…]
from your work you will be able one day to gather yourself.

Why are we here?

We can not know the answer, but we can find what makes our hearts sing. We can find what gives meaning and purpose to our lives. And having found it, we can become the seed of the tree of love and the eternally growing vine of connection. Throw yourself into the field. Something wonderful will grow of it.

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