Meaning and Purpose
No-one is suddenly going to find out the meaning of life. It could not be the result of a scientific discovery. We have to work out our own meaning as part of the process of self-discovery. We have to find out our talents and then use them to our best ability to hopefully leave the world a better place than we found it. Sigmund Freud said we find meaning from work and love, and this is what gives our life structure. Certainly, I found myself most content with life and motivated when I had a good job, with challenge and position. It gave me an identity
A simple method of establishing our purpose is to ask the questions; Who am I? What do I do? Who do I do it for? And what changes do I create as a result. For example, I am a marketing consultant and develop marketing plans to help companies promote themselves to be a success. Better that your purpose involves others which makes it more meaningful.
Certainly, we feel most comfortable with life if we belong to a team of people that has a goal and a purpose. Work can give you a sense of dignity, a sense of yourself, a sense of belonging, but is this your true nature?
The spiritual quest involves the search for harmony within one’s self and with the universe. I have sometimes thought that a gap always existed between my spiritual self and business self and I spent a lot of time trying to bridge that gap and compromise is required. In an organisation where we strive for fulfilment, we get the most satisfaction when we are in harmony with the corporate aims and values. When we are not in harmony with them it can be quite stressful.
We sometimes have powerful feelings that we are doing the right thing in our lives but then are proved wrong or misguided. Our aims and ambitions were fruitless. At least lessons can be learnt from experience. Nevertheless, our lives do seem to continually progress and fall into place as if fate has our life mapped out for us. Is there a guiding hand looking after us? Should we ride the Taoist “Way”, trust in life and “bend with the wind like corn”.
Pure happiness cannot be achieved from external causes and conditions. Pure happiness is a state of mind. We cannot know happiness unless we have experienced sadness first (Jung). The search for meaning is self-grasping and we need to let go. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama taught me, we can get the most meaning from helping others to be happy and this comes from achieving peace of mind through meditation and mind training, not by following a prescribed path.
Of course, there is a difference between our purpose in life and the purpose of life. An even more fundamental question is the puzzle of existence. What is the purpose of the universe? Was the universe created, or has it always been there? What was there before the universe? All big questions!
Nietzsche, the philosopher said, “God is dead, the consequence was that we have to fill the void and create a new set of values”. Jean Paul Sartre talked in terms of “life being meaningless, but he said that gives us the opportunity to give it our own meaning”. We are offered a positive opportunity to have choices and create our own lives.
We have to make up our mind; are we trying to give meaning to something that doesn’t have meaning, or do we take the view that life is a privilege and our purpose is to celebrate life and thank God for it?
Life can feel particularly lonely and meaningless without love. Love between two people is itself a spiritual activity, as well as our love for family and friends. Our love of nature and all its amazing beauty also lightens the spirit. If we believe in God or a higher being, then were we given life to enjoy the rising and setting of the sun, the wind and rain etc. Is this not here for us all to enjoy? Every birth is a miracle, every seedling the gift of new life? Yet we are unable to settle with what we have, strive for more and then suffer because we cannot have everything we want.
One thing that helps us focus on the great privilege of life, is death. Without the certainty of our death there can be no life. Everything of significance in life; relationships, achievements and our abilities, are given their poignancy by their impermanence. It is only when things are lost or come to an end that we realise their true value. Our recognition of this reality introduces a new state of anxiety in us, but all this helps us come to terms with ourselves, our Being.
Without death there is no life.
Life is given poignancy by its impermanence
Only by knowing this, can one truly Be