Purpose of Life
I just wrote a long blog about the purpose of life, at the repeated requests of a friend, and alas, the internet gods have destroyed it…I have no idea where it went.
I was pretty happy with the original, and I have no time to rewrite it completely so this will be the purpose of life to the point blog.
First off, I have a book with many poems that explore themes like this called “Moon & Metaphor.” You can buy it for only $10 on punapress.com or check it out at the downtown San Diego library. One poem called “letter to a christian friend” deals with this specific topic.
That said, new experiences constantly reshape our personal perspective on this topic. Also, having the wisdom and humility to listen to others’ perspectives also change our views. If I was to elaborate my current personal sentiments (in a to the point blog) I would break it down into a few simple points.
1. Fear/Courage is the limiting factor of life. I listened to an audiobook by Po Bronson a few months ago called “What is the purpose of life?” in which fear prevented many people from reaching their ideal lives. In a wonderful film by Mike Ramsdell, initially titled “Anatomy of Hate,” he includes quotes from Ernest Becker who also argues that we are all motivated heavily by our unconscious fear of death.
2. We all have an immortality complex. In that same film that I saw yesterday, I think it was Ernest Becker again who said that the reality of life is harsh (think Buddha’s philosophy on life being suffering). We are extremely unimportant beings. Culture helps solve the problem of our consciousness of death by making us feel important/strong. For others this function is fulfilled through status symbols, or even the legacy of their own children. Ideologies that build a sense of importance are also magnets for people with unmet immortality complex needs. We sometimes fulfull this need by demonizing other groups (in the film they quote Jung’s ideas on the shadow self that is projected onto others). The point is we have deep tendencies to form groups that make us feel more than animal. Groups/identies that give us meaning. Our attachments to groups and ideas are a way to feel less animal, more important.
3. Perspective comes from connection and simultaneous detachment. The detachment part I ripped off of the Buddha, no doubt about it. But there’s something potent about managing to stay connected to the “other” and others while not buying in completely to their ideologies and attaching to their group formations. I discuss this in my poetry often. To be detached is difficult. In fact, I seldom find myself ruminating as much on the purpose of life when I am in passionate love. But when I am alone, oh it’s an endless set of questions about existence, about purpose. Because love is the alternative to hate, to culture, to status….either you make yourself important by belittling others or you acknowledge your relative unimportance together…and that is important. Does that still play into the immortality complex? Perhaps. How do you connect (a survival tactic) and still stay detached? Hell if I know. Chant, meditate, relate, challenge the constructed narrative with your own story?
I am halfway through my own life if I am lucky. If I am lucky I have a good 30 more years to live. Isn’t it enough to breathe deeply? No, we squander the possibility of happy lives, Sam Keen says. Do we “get busy straightening out the karmic wheel?” Shall we kneel and pray? Shall we chant?
As I said in ‘letter to a christian friend,” my Prime Purpose is to be alive. To experience this simple life fully. A full experience of the harsh reality of being, of suffering, and of escaping from time to time into beautiful ideas, or if I’m lucky enough, into feelings of love that are (or aren’t) immortal.
after writing this and reflecting on it, I wanted to elaborate on one point, and that is the we are all unimportant point. It seems like no contradiction to me to make that claim, then say we are all important. I can’t articulate why as of yet. However, I have a strong sense of the worthwhileness of my own self, while realizing that my ego should not lead my life. I have a feeling this is why I am able to detach, why I don’t need to talk shit about others, why I feel secure in my relative unimportance. Perhaps what I am saying is that my own confidence, my own inherent feelings of importance allow me to dismiss the external forces that give importance to my life. They still affect me, when in Rome still applies. But it does not hold my heart or life. So we are all unimportant, and yet we are all important and this is no contradiction. If I believe I am already a worthwhile being, I stop grasping at attachments to things to give me that sense of importance.
©ola hadi 2010