Why are we here? What is the purpose of life?
These questions are the most stark in our everyday life. While we leave it to the philosophers to debate why there is something rather than nothing or if the something we experience is ‘real,’ we challenge ourselves to find meaning.
The purpose we propose is almost always for the collective – it is our purpose, God’s plan for us, or all life has no purpose. It is rare that purpose is dissected, instead we assume that there are some people living meaningfully and others that are not.
We question our purpose throughout our whole lives: understanding meaning piques our curiosity in our youth, gains greater impact as we feel the ability to act on our understanding, and can cause regret if we feel like we did not do what we could to achieve our purpose or, alternately we are elated, if we feel like our purpose is achieved in another life.
Humanity’s greatest minds have wrestled with these questions. Philosophers have broken this important question into parts, theologians have studied the ancient texts, and scientists have probed the deepest reaches of the galaxy. We have myriad of ideas that influence our cultures and ultimately, our individual ideas.
Our beliefs bias our purpose. If you believe that your purpose is determined, either by a higher power or by an indifferent universe, you will act in accordance with the principles of religious attainment of God’s favor or skeptical of any purpose to life. Still others will take accountability for their own purpose, designing means and milestones to achieve it.
Unless negated (there is no purpose), the meaning of life is most always nice. The ‘better angels of our nature’ is the benchmark.
Some examples of personal purpose include:
These are exemplary purposes to work toward and in the end, each of us has to determine what speaks to us as a vision for what we want our life to look like. Many can overlap to build a purpose: service in the name of God, a happiness from a loving and loyal family, or study to cure disease in service of humanity are examples.
Typically, only the faithful feel secure in their choice of purpose, the rest of us struggling to feel a connection with something greater. The universe seems a cold and uncaring place that runs according to objective laws uninterested to how we ‘feel’ about them. We select a purpose for our life in our community but have learned to stop seeking, stop hoping, for something beyond.
But the multiverse does have a purpose for us. Not by design, not by chance, but because it couldn’t be any other way, our universe’s purpose for us is transcendence.
Our transcendent purpose can take different forms. These forms can be very roughly divided along the plane of a person’s arbitrary, but helpful, mind-body-spirit.
Through mindfulness, the spirit can transcend to a oneness with the fabric of the universe that is profound and offers science the opportunity to research if a statistically significant change in quantum-mind interaction are taking place during these times of intense awareness of the present.
Our transcendent purpose can be more centered on the knowledgable mind where developing wisdom enables us to feel more “in the zone” and through mastery of a creative or intellectual endeavor we achieving a sense of flow. Similar to the attainment of the object of the quest through mindfulness, gaining wisdom requires practice and perseverance. Issack Perlman famously responded to a fan that had stated that “she would give her life to play violin like he did” by saying, “I did give my whole life.”
Finally, the body can be engaged in pursuing life’s transcendent purpose through love and service. The giving of oneself for a moral good, like charitable work in service of those in need, and motivated not by an external influence but by love of humanity adds perspective to our own place in the world. Giving love across the spectrum of family, community, and humanity both lights the path and becomes our purpose.
Personal Purpose Statements
Each of us should start out with a simple, memorable personal purpose statement. Your purpose statement should motivate you to be the best you can be. It should impact others in a positive way. It doesn’t have to explain how.
It is easiest for me to identify ‘what’ it is that I want. In a word, transcendence. I want to work toward deepening my ‘in-the-zone’ experiences that positively alter my consciousness, that help me to take back a bit of control of my experience, that build my abilities and deepen my practice.
Transcendence is the object of my quest, but unlike the golden fleece or the Ark of the Covenant, it is not something to obtain once and bring home to be stored above the mantel; instead transcendence is an evolving purpose, deepening and lengthening with practice and integration into everyday existence. Happiness, deepening love, and increasing knowledge in an area of study are other purposes that can only ever be optimized but never attained.
I have made an attempt to optimize transcendence in many ways: including meditation and building a metaphysical framework for study of the nature of a Transcendent Universe. But these items are the ‘how’ I achieve my vision and will be covered in my goals, mission, and values.
What is your purpose? What do you have written down?