I’ve been pondering on the word Purpose. A difficult notion, and one which most of us spend not enough time thinking about. This word purpose is bandied about, far too readily, from pulpits and soapboxes, self-help books and motivational guides, and our leaders, political and religious, incline towards shrink-wrapping the concept into a conveniently labelled package. Our purpose, we’re told, is to do the will of God, or Allah, which will be revealed in due course. Our purpose is to be good Americans, or Britons, or Germans, good corporate citizens, whatever that might mean when the politicians are out getting the votes.
Actually, there is no simple catchword in the Bible, or the Upanishads, or the Conservative Party manifesto, no self help book which will instruct us as to life’s purpose. Life, and purpose, are both of great complexity. But this one thing we can be sure of – our existence was not meant to be arbitrary, purposeless, meaningless, a matter of being born and inhaling oxygen for 28 000 days or so before being deposited in a hole in the ground, while a pastor or rabbi eulogises and black clad friends and relatives shed a tear or two.
There is meaning and purpose to life. The process of discovery is involved, and exciting, and – here’s the significant point – involves other people. We are not intended to live in isolated cocoons, uninfluenced by others and never affecting anyone else’s life. We are part of a community, whether large or small, urban or rural, modern or traditional. We all have the opportunity to uplift our communities. Others surround us, motivate us and play a role in our discovering the purpose we’re meant to be serving down here.
Which brings us back to this concept of giving, of sharing. By doing so, we are helping to discover and fulfil the motivation of our very existence. Think of it in these terms – you are given certain gifts, in order that you may use them. Why do you have the ability, the gift, of earning large sums from your profession or the business deals you structure? Why are you able to so easily research and accumulate valuable knowledge? Why are you possessed of the talent of listening to, uplifitng and comforting those who are distressed and traumatised by grim misfortune?
The answer that comes back, each time, is that you are blessed with these gifts and talents so that you can use a part of them to help bring enlightenment and motivation to someone, somewhere, in the community around you – to an individual, or a group, however small. Giving is permanently and inextricably bound up in the quest to discover the meaning and purpose of life and in turn to help ones self. It’s not a brief overnight journey, a search that you’ll begin today and end tomorrow. Many months will pass, and much water will flow into the sea, while you engage in the process of discovering. As with each journey we end up, every day, in a place different from the previous day, having acquired new teachings and seen things we hadn’t seen before. As with each mountain, the view is different the higher up we ascend – the village in which you slept and ate a few hours ago is smaller, and has a different significance, when viewed from above.