On True Purpose
I’ve come to believe that we need to lose ourselves in our true purpose, and if this is not known to us, then lose ourselves in it’s discovery.
I talk to my friend Chris most weeks. We’ve known each other for close to 30 years so our conversations are as open and as honest as any conversation between two men can be. We went to school together, played sport together, have adventured together. He was my best man. There isn’t a lot we don’t know about each other.
We’re both busy people, so when we talk it’s normally on the phone. I’m usually in the car on my way to a meeting and he is usually in the office. Sometimes he works from home. I’ve noticed that when we talk, I never need to ask him where he is – I can always tell. When he is in the office he speaks in hushed tones; his lips and mouth jammed hard against the receiver. The conversation is always hurried and awkward and the subject matter limited. We can’t wait to say goodbye to each other. Whenever he is at home it’s like I’m talking to a different person. He babbles and prattles without a care in the world. He is like an Andalusian stallion prancing sideways across an arena. Life pours down the line. I can hear the smile on his face. He is happy. He is himself.
Whenever I catch him at home we skip through a forest of subjects. Kids, wives, sporting endeavours, holidays, future plans. The lot. There is nothing off limits. Including our jobs. We always talk about our jobs. We hack at them with little hatchets of disdain. Disparaging them in the same way you would give your favourite baseball team a dressing down in casual conversation the day after a loss. There is something liberating about it. It feels conspiratorial, as if he and I are the only ones in the world with the guts to admit it. For me, the frankness and the honesty is cathartic. It feels good to say what I really think because I spend most of my time in a world in which I can’t.
Over time the practise of articulating our dissatisfaction with our jobs has morphed into a series of philosophical discussions about one’s true purpose, and asking the question, apart from rock stars and sports stars, is anyone really happy doing the work they do? Do people convince themselves that they are making a difference, even as they swipe their access ID’s? Do they anaesthetise themselves to the reality of the poorest exchange of them all; brilliant, truthful, creative lives full of light and potential, for a living wage.
Many people simply don’t have a choice and make this exchange out of genuine need. But there are others, and I would lump myself in with this lot, who earn incomes that satisfy their needs easily. Faced with a choice as to what to do with this excess income, they choose to spend it, and the underlying substrate of their lives, in the desperate pursuit of things that they believe will bring them happiness. These things have no substance or real meaning other than to momentarily elevate our sense of ourselves. We feel better about who we are for the next day or so and then we go back to looking for the next emotional score. Why do we do this? Why do we make this unholy exchange? By any practical measure this behaviour is madness.
The conversations with Chris and the questions that we pose to one another have had a profound effect on me, particularly the question of purpose. It has unlocked something deep inside me. A subterranean aquifer of enquiry and self-investigation, the seal of which has been irrevocably broken. I can not staunch the leak, no matter how hard I try. It’s pooling around my feet as I sit here typing. Rather than try to stop it up I decided to let it flow and write about it. This is that account. This blog is a commentary on my own efforts to realise my true purpose. By realise I mean, actually have this become my reality. My work. My job. ‘Well, what is your true purpose?’ I hear you ask. You’re looking at it. I want to arrange words. I want to be a writer.
I should come clean at this point and make an admission. This blog is first and foremost an outlet for me. For my thoughts and for the ancient craft of unveiling meaning with words. To the extent that I think it will be required I will talk about myself. It may be boring. If you make it past this post and manage to stay with me for any length of time, you are bound to encounter material about me. It may be boring. But before you close the browser, press un-subscribe or hit un-like, consider, if you will, the concept of a journey, and the need for someone to go on one. I am that someone.
I’m not oblivious, however, to my responsibilities as an entertainer. You have my word I’ll do my best. But rather than entertain I want to provoke. Provoke a brand of free-flowing, unencumbered thinking about our lives and what we are doing with them. To consider the gifts that we have; those that are apparent and those that lie inside us somewhere, dusty and undernourished. Like detectives in an old fashioned ‘who dun it’, many of us have accumulated a collection of clues about what we really want to do with our lives but have yet to piece them together so as to identify a suspect. This blog is my attempt to remind anyone that cares to read it about the importance of purpose.
True purpose is the thing that we just love doing, or want to be doing, or feel incomplete without doing. It’s core to our being. It is the one and only route to sustainable happiness. I want my words to evoke consideration; to illicit introspection. To destabilise the political regime that currently holds power in your head and that administers your thinking about what your currently doing relative to what you could be doing. I want to be the agent provocateur that the advocates of conformist living are looking to arrest; the one that spray paints slogans calling for change on the streets of your mind. Please note that the words I use have been poisoned. They are designed to aid, not hurt.
I’m interested in exploring how we can discover what our purpose is and once known, how we might re-architect our lives so that they are built on the principal of spending most of the time we have left shamelessly doing what we truly want to be doing. In spite of it all and without asking for anyone’s permission. I’ve come to believe that we need to lose ourselves in our true purpose, and if this is not known to us, then lose ourselves in it’s discovery. Nothing else matters. The degree to which we bring purpose into effect, I mean actually do it in a practical sense, should be the only measure by which we should claim happiness. Sound preachy? I don’t mean it to. It’s coming from a good place. This is meant to be more warning than sermon.
You see there is a tragedy in the making here; one that lies in wait for each of us if we are not careful to avoid it. It is the possibility that we might spend our time here, or what remains of it, in relentless pursuit of things that do not matter. On a mad rampage to acquire an assortment of assets and objects that we believe will give us worth. Things that we believe will make us feel important and loved. Things that will lacquer our egg shell egos. These solitary existences, cultivated in the furnaces of competition and conflict, have deadened out desire to explore our true natures and blinded us to what we give up on a daily basis. Our Freedom.
Great cataracts have grown where once child-like eyes stared in rapture. The sacrifices that we make in the name of elevating our value to others over our value to ourselves have become commonplace. The scar-tissue is so extensive that it now looks like skin. Selling the majority of our waking life as if it were a commodity is as common to us as breathing. Indentured slavery, once characterised by the whip and a thing that was feared and endured, is now an apt description for a corporate job and a 30 year mortgage loan. The fact that this is slavery by any other name does not seem to matter. We seek out these circumstances voluntarily.
We spend the ripest of our years getting degrees that mean nothing to us. Like tickets to a carnival, they allow us to take the best rides. We use them to design careers that will give us the greatest financial yield, oblivious to the real sacrifices we are making. Once a course has been plotted, career choices become a series of carefully orchestrated manoeuvres designed to unlock higher salaries and a greater capacity to service our debt and our egos. We consider further qualifications only to increase the value of our labour. Perhaps a masters to secure that promotion? The promise of advancement and what this might unlock in our lives sits like a sword in a stone in the landscape of our minds. All the while our commitment to our true selves erodes. Our happiness becomes secondary. Each career win unlocks greater riches but casts us further from shore.
Occasionally, over the course of our lives, we wake momentarily from this dystopian slumber and concede that there has to be more to life than this. There has to be more than this maddening pursuit; this obsession with ourselves and our careers and the things we have and what people think of us. Many of us have an awareness that something is not quite right. Like a current that churns unseen below the surface of still water, we perceive there is disharmony in our lives. The truth of this is known to us on some uncharted level of existence. We somehow know that the rush and roar of constantly striving to be someone is at odds with why we are here.
I want to help us both avoid this. I want to help us both lead lives that have meaning for us and not someone else. If there is a dream to be pursued it should be ours. I want this blog and my voice to contribute to this discourse, because there is one. I’m not the first person to feel angst about what I’m doing with my life. People everywhere are recognising that they are not fulfilled in their work and that their hopes and dreams sit unattended like old paint cans on a shelf. Like small groups of survivors after the apocalypse, we need to band together. We need to let each other know that we are out there. That it’s ok to step off the highway and take the back roads. This is where we’ll find others like us. This is where we’ll find community.
However meaningless or magnificent my voice is in this exposition on true purpose, above all else I want it to be a reservoir from which any one that cares to listen can draw courage. It’s why I’m sitting here writing it. Contrary to popular belief, faking it never allows you to truly make it. Putting your own heartfelt desires above all else and actually trying to implement them puts you on a collision course with every socio-economic, familial, and religious structure that has ever been foisted upon us. It takes tremendous courage to be yourself; to know that the journey will be hard but to set off anyway.
So dear friend, if you choose to set out on this journey with me, first and foremost you will be my audience. Writing is my purpose and I need to practise my art; to develop muscle tone. Every post will be a bicep curl. Beyond this, I will try to inform and entertain. I have no degree in true purpose or how to find it. I am not a guidance councillor nor am I healer. I am your co-conspirator in an escape attempt. Think of me as your cell mate; the crazy guy on the bottom bunk who has been tying bed sheets together for years. I’m ready to go over the wall and this is the start of my attempt. I want to prove it can be done so that others might follow.