Saturday, August 23, 2008

Living on Purpose

Social networking sites on the internet are worlds beyond my ken. And yet in the past several weeks I’ve joined three. What’s up with that?

I’m still not participating very much on any of them, having barely gone beyond introductions and posting a suitable photo. I find them a wee bit daunting, and I’m not sure why I’m there. Yet there I am.

Is that not the question of our time -- why we're doing what we do?

Last week on How to Save the World Dave Pollard had a great list of seventeen questions to consider when pondering one’s life purpose. I love this kind of exercise. And over at Steve Pavlina’s site I found a similar tool in the archives. So many of us are looking for answers, for insight, for guidance, all of which suggest still another question: why do we puzzle so much over why we’re here?

Why is our purpose such a mystery?

I once told a friend that you know you’re living on purpose when time disappears. I no longer completely trust that answer. Yes, time disappears when I’m writing, when I’m making art, when I’m wandering in the woods, when I’m engrossed in conversation, whenever I’m fully present and paying attention. Alas, time also disappears when I sit in front of the television and watch episode after episode of the West Wing. Or play yet another round of whatever computer game has captured my fancy.

It could be that Kurt Vonnegut was right when he said we’re here to fart around. Yet for all his farting around he published fourteen novels and nine collections of stories and essays. That sounds to me like a life lived on purpose.

After all the exercises and all the contemplation, I remain a little baffled by the whole subject. And I’m beginning to think that maybe purpose is like happiness. Like love. Maybe my real task is to become fully at home in my skin and porous to my surroundings, staying attentive and curious and open, so that purpose can reveal itself as I go, and so that I might recognize it when it does. Maybe the recognition isn’t even important. I’m here to Be Here. Could it be that simple?

I spend a lot of time pondering. I wonder as much as anyone about the meaning of life, mine in particular. But I also know that too much thinking about life -- the point, the purpose -- interferes with the living of it.

I suspect that discovering our purpose – if indeed we have one, or even many– is less a matter of figuring it out than of letting it find us. And maybe that's why I’m wandering around in three new social networking sites, and saying yes to new work, and to new opportunities. I’m making myself a little more visible, so purpose will at least have an easier time of it.


  1. I'm 65 and still wondering what my purpose is. I keep waiting for lightening to strike.

    Like you I'm thinking perhaps my purpose is just to be here....or....??

    I have lots of excuses for not doing the things I say (in my head) that I would like to do. My biggest excuse now is that my husband isn't interested in those same things. Makes it very convenient for me not to volunteer, travel afar, go back to school. We do what both of us want to do, not what one of us wants to do.

    How does one combat that?

  2. Ah... another question for our time: where does "I" leave off and "we" begin?

    I have no answers, susaw, only more questions. xox, ps

  3. I'm sorry I haven't been reading you more regularly if this is the sort of writing and questioning you're doing! I'll subscribe to your RSS feed today and keep up.

    Susaw - it's hard for me too, and I've tried to work toward a greater balance between "me" and "us." When you love someone, it does become more about compromise and what's best for you both, rather than just one - otherwise why be together? But I've also tried to be clearer with myself and with him about who I am and what I need to do as an individual. If "love one another as you would love yourself" is kind of the general, bottom line so far as "purpose" is concerned, then we have to figure ourselves out and love ourselves too - a lifelong proposition, don't you think?

  4. Thank you for adding to the conversation, Beth, and I'm pleased and delighted to have you as a regular reader.

  5. In unschooling it's said that learning is the byproduct of a joyful life. Perhaps purpose is the byproduct of farting around.

  6. oooo, Marcy, that's perfect! I think even Mr. Vonnegut would like that answer!


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