I’ve written my thoughts on purpose in our lives, but I will summarize here by saying for some of us the purpose of life is to provide contrast to the great people of the world, a back drop if you will. Without the common person, people of importance would not stand out. As a common man I am a, somewhat, productive member of society that is to say I work and pay bills, I am a cog that keeps the economic machine working. I understand my purpose, but can I find meaning in my common life beyond being a backdrop for the great and powerful? What is the difference in a purposeful life and a meaningful life? It seems that purpose is what makes one’s life meaningful, the meaning of life being the broader theme while purpose is specific to each person.
So if living our purpose gives us meaning, then should I attempt to be the best common man I can, the perfect worker ant? I have to admit I was hoping for more. When I began writing this I understood my apparent purpose in life, but I hoped there was a way to give my life meaning, a better way.
This brings me back to my original problem, a poor purpose for my life. I wonder if one can change the purpose of their life. How would someone go about that? It seems a grand undertaking. How can a common man do something so big, so momentous? Perhaps, if we are lucky, there are life purposes that fit the common person category. As long as we are asking the tough questions, does one’s purpose make one a great person? Maybe purpose in life is variable and it is just a possible path to greatness or despair depending on one’s choices. If purpose is so liquid, perhaps it changes many times during our lives. I don’t believe we can just choose a purpose (without serious difficulty) otherwise we would all choose a spectacular purpose of greatness, but rather I believe we have to discover our purpose.
In searching out our purpose we need ground rules:
1. It should be a positive purpose (we may explore dark purposes in another article).
2. It must be realistic (I spend far too much time in fantasy as it is).
Now we have some rules so let’s look at some possible purposes in life and see what fits and is feasible.
• I was never a father, but I have been a parent and a dad. I think I did ok with that. My step-son is well on his way to being well educated and having a successful life, but more importantly he is a good man. He treats others with respect, compassion, and he doesn’t seem to need to build himself up by pulling others down.
• While I am still learning I don’t think of myself as a student. On the other end of the pendulum swing I am no scholar, but I may fit the purpose of teacher/educator.
• Some would suggest that I am a protector, that may sound very cool, but truth to tell it is such a small part of my day that I would call it a role more than a purpose.
If we are going by the largest portion of my day it is spent fantasizing, but that would make my purpose daydreaming and that is too good to be true. The next largest expenditure of my time would be direct care of my students and residents. Am I a caregiver? Is that my purpose in life? Care giving as a purpose meets our rules as it is realistic and positive (even if less than manly). It even covers many of the roles I have played in life i.e. educator, parent, protector, friend, and spouse.
So there we have it, my purpose in life is to be a common, garden variety caregiver (whether or not I enjoy it or am good at it) and thereby provide contrast to the great caregivers of the world (like Mother Theresa, Gandhi, or the Dalai Lama). I suppose I can live with that, but did we answer my need for meaning to my life?
I guess I’ll have to keep thinking about it.