MEASURING UP

certificateI have been doing some coaching with a woman who is in her sixties who is still trying to discover her ‘purpose in life.’ This is a popular phase that I hear people of all ages talking about in books and workshops and seminars. “What is my purpose in life? What is it I am supposed to do? Where do I belong? What is my place in the universe? What is my destiny? Why am I here?”

When I was younger I used to ask those questions too but I don’t any more. Now I see them as in the same category as questions like “Why is the sky blue? Why do birds fly? Why are there stars?” It’s not that the questions are unanswerable but that they are irrelevant.

In the old Catholic catechism I studied as a child, the answer to the question ‘Why am I here?’ was “to know God, to love Him and to serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him forever in the next.” The answer can be understood on a number of levels but it definitely does not say I am here “to save the world, to be a doctor or philanthropist, to climb Mt. Everest, to be a billionaire or design an interstellar spaceship, to be a mother or feed the hungry.”

In other words, our highest purpose has nothing to do with job descriptions, resumes, responsibilities, or achievements. It has to do with a state of being, a state of consciousness, a state of seeing. When Christ was asked what the two most important commandments were, he did not reply it was to be rich, famous or accomplished. He replied the first commandment was to love God and the second important one was to love our neighbor. Neither requires attendance at a seminar, workshop or university to fulfill. No great search or thinking is required.

Years ago when I was struggling with the ‘why am I here’ question, I had an other-worldly experience in which an inner voice answered, “to experience and enjoy life and to offer that to God.” That still rings very true to me. Notice it did not say to be moral, altruistic, intelligent, hard-working, pure or some other ideal. I did not have any big destiny to achieve, great role to play, or responsibilities to fulfill. I simply had ‘to be.’

That’s why I’m here – as a representative/delegate/probe/child of God. I’ve read that God created the universe in order to experience Itself; to hide within Its creation and have the joy of discovery. The same life force that animates the trees, resides in the mountains, nestles within the stars is the same life force that is within me. We share the same Buddha nature and the same purpose – to be and rediscover our Oneness.

There isn’t anything esoteric or tricky or difficult about discovering our life purpose; we are doing it every day – although we may not realize it. Just being leads to humility because we realize we are just a small but beloved part in the vastness of the cosmos.

But the ego wants to feel important, to be noticed, to excel. It wants to be #1 in a category; it wants to know how its goals can be achieved. It wants to know what steps have to be taken and in what order so that the object of desire can be reached. Even if the desires are altruistic – helping others, saving the world/animals/the environment/peace/love – a part of that drive is to assuage the anxiety and the pride of the ego.

There are billions and billions of stars with possibly gazillions and gazillions of people – and yet our egos want to be different from the common herd. This pride of individuality is the very reason we feel so alone and so isolated. As long as we want to be important, to be different, to be special we will be alone because we have separated ourselves from the whole. As a result we are unhappy and ask what our purpose in life might be.

Just think how easy things might be if we did not have to carry the burden of being important and having a great purpose to achieve. If we could allow ourselves to just be, we wouldn’t have to amount to anything and could then respond to life without an agenda.

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6 thoughts on “MEASURING UP

  1. The ancient Greeks had two important concepts, each related to the other. They were ‘arete’ and ‘ergon’. They defy precise translation, but are often rendered as ‘virtue’ and ‘duty’, which give them an unwarranted Edwardian ring which doesn’t really work too well. ‘Arete’ does mean ‘virtue’, in the sense of true nature, real self, potential, essence; it is allied to the idea that there exists a metaphysical perfect template for anything that exists physically. ‘Arete’ is not limited to humankind – it is part of the arete of a lion to be a carnivore, and of a mountain to be rugged, and of a star to be a nuclear inferno, and so on. ‘Ergon’ does mean duty, but its real sense is something like what one must do in order to travel towards reaching that potential of arete; equally it means what one can’t help doing because of that arete. Arete and ergon are as inseparable as yin and yang, and, as you describe in your version above, better understood as a state of being rather than a subject of enquiry.

    M

    PS. I haven’t forgotten about acquiring one of your pieces of artwork as a prize for ‘the zen space’ – unfortunately stuff is piling up at the moment. Too much bloody ergon! 😦

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    1. Those Greeks! they thought of everything. I love the distinction of the two words. I particularly like ergon; we must act according to our natures. It reminds me also of the doer/non-doer/free will of Advaita Vedanta. On our journey of soul evolution then we can release the onus not meeting ‘our’ responsibilities for something greater is acting through us. Some thoughts to sit with a while. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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  2. I love how you put this whole concept into words. Indeed, in the rush for statute and earthly possessions, people often lose purpose, the real purpose: to be themselves and to accept being themselves.

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    1. Yes, it’s very easy to slide into ‘thinking’ which then complicates things. We have the belief that if it’s easy, it isn’t worth much – so diametrically opposed to the way of nature. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Marie

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