What Is Your Purpose?
What is your purpose on the planet?
“No thing is what it appears to be. Then who are you? You have to find for yourself. Is there really a you? Are you really an individual? Are you separate from a tree, an animal, the world, the universe? Is there any separation? Find out. Do you really exist? Find out. Do you have a purpose in life? Find out. ”
~ Robert Adams, “Put First Things First”, 7th March, 1991
I used to be proud of the fact that my core values had to do with learning, creativity and communication, rather than the acquisition of power and money that most of those around me seemed to value. The people I looked up to were teachers, writers, artists and other creative and intellectual types. More recently I’ve come to see there is an even higher, or deeper perspective. This is a rather subtle point, but can possibly be brought to the fore by asking: is there true peace in creativity? Do all those ideas and projects and activities really add up to peace?
And more fundamentally, why do we need to create anything, if the universal intelligence we are can do anything, know anything, and is everything? It would have no lack, no need, no fear of not producing enough to show others or to prove its worth to itself. It is totally self-sufficient, satisfied and contains all, created and uncreated, instantly and totally.
Did “I” ever actually create anything? In other words, the human being, the personal self, the will-er and decider, the agent that is supposedly in a body – did it really ever originate or do something on it’s own that had a spark of innovation and light in it? Honestly, one has to admit, there is not one iota of intelligence or creativity in the body and the parts that make it up, any more than there is in the parts of the chair this body is sitting on, or the humming components and electrical signals inside the computer it’s being written on. It would be pure imagination and projection, a baseless assumption to think so.
It therefore would be difficult to justify the idea that one’s purpose, one’s ultimate purpose mind you, is to experience a lack of peace, and to learn, create and communicate.
The dictionary definition of purpose is:
purpose | ˈpərpəs |
the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
Breaking it Down
As I see it, purpose can be seen as having three levels:
1. Ultimate Purpose: Highest, Absolute, Universal purpose. The purpose of the universe, the totality, the cosmos, the universal intelligence-consciousness, God, however you want to say it.
2. Embodied Purpose: One’s overall or lifetime purpose on the planet as an embodied being, a bodymind in a world, given that we are ultimately only an appearance within the universal consciousness (never really born so never die).
3. Human Purpose: multifarious, both as a species – each human – and multiple or changing within the human. The infinite creative multiplicity of a seemingly separate individual humans, animals, plants and so forth, living in time and space.
So What are the purposes at these levels?
1. Ultimate: None. There is nothing the totality is relative to for which the word or concept “purpose” would apply. No goal, no reason, no future, no change. What Is, is, and there is no other. For example, when I make art or write, and am in the flow, it is a purposeless purpose that flows through (a joyful one): there is no reason or goal other than itSelf, and the celebration of itSelf (as embodied as beauty, love, truth – see “Embodied”).
Purpose in Time
Looking at it from a temporal perspective, purpose would be relative to a different time when the purpose is fulfilled. But that makes little sense in the cosmic perspective, since to the absolute totality of what Is, a purpose relative to what? Compared to what other totality would the change be seen? There would need to be a comparison, a change from one arrangement to another. However, nothing changes as the complete wholeness of what Is. Time can only be known relative to perceived change. Nothing is happening in Reality. Sounds strange, but it’s true. This can only be known directly, through insight.
2. Embodied: This covers one’s entire lifespan as a bodymind on planet (or wherever) and can vary from being to being. Call it your karmic heritage or “destiny”.
Examples: To be an artist; a scientist; a spiritual teacher; a political leader; a gardener; be interested in mind to discover how to be free from it; be a “sage”: consciously aware of what you are (the Absolute) while in a seeming body (a paradox)…
3. Human: This can obviously potentially vary quite a bit, even within the span of a day. Examples: Get a job, find a husband, buy a house, raise three kids, find the best vanilla latte in town, survive…
99.999999 percent of humanity lives at Level 3, of relative human purposes. A few see #2 at a high level, or have a direct knowing (intuition of what their purpose is) and even fewer #1.
(I had a rare glimpse of #1 when I was 21 years old as a human body – a timeless, causeless experience; #2 was decades later, after much exploration. #3 is obviously the subject of ordinary human chatter everywhere).
The Survival Religion
Many people absorb the notion from society that survival is their purpose, and experience a great deal of stress and conflict, fear and anger (conscious or unconscious), tension and exhaustion, etc. The reason for this is obvious if you think about it, contemplate it honestly: since all bodies die, you are making something impossible your purpose, and knowing that unconsciously, how does that inner conflict make one feel? All things that (seem to) come into existence pass out of existence. Everything that appears is temporary, but you are trying to make it permanent, secure it, hold it down forever. You are afraid of absolute disappearance, which in fact is impossible (since one cannot not exist: Beingness Is, and always is; non-beingness isn’t, never was, and never will be). That’s very frustrating, can make one angry when the world doesn’t cooperate, go your way.
And the world never will go your personal way, for very long. This conflict is at a subconscious level, and is rarely seen for what it is, because the culture supports the assumptions behind it. The society is based on the materialist model of the universe and that we are bodies in a a survival war who must somehow control what’s going on, as humans. Minds are the weapons as it were. It’s how we are trained and schooled, and the programming continues from media, friends, family, even churches (trying to survive as churches). It fuels fears based on what constitutes a religious view of the world, based in belief, that take many forms such as neuroscience, ecological religions, psychological beliefs, survivalism movements, and various conspiracy theories and fears of germs, and so forth. We don’t trust Reality, but we trust the sense of separation. This is the stage for conflict, drama, wars of control, all fear-driven.
This survival-as-purpose religion is also fueled by an education or culture (in the West) that indoctrinate minds into a Darwinian view based on animals, and that survival, procreation and competition (survival of the fittest) are what life is really, at bottom, all about. It’s a view taken from a narrow biological context where it’s useful for theoretical analysis of certain biological phenomena, but is then overgeneralized in ways that it’s not suited to, in order to fill the vacuum left by other, discredited religions. This mindset is supported in a feedback loop by a competitive culture.
Traditional religions also have a survival philosophy embedded in their worldview, but it is couched in different terms. Instead of survival of a mental model based in philosophical assumptions of material stuff (which is really an abstraction from experience), it’s belief in an essentially outside force, God, that will save the body or soul (separate entity), or family or tribe from death or absolute disappearance. It’s the survival of an idea (our God and our tribe), an abstract or separate God, or a Jesus or Mohammad or Buddha, or whatever the beliefs are. We don’t want our beliefs to die, and are willing to die for it! It sounds crazy when you put it into words, but there it is.
So, ironically, the human survival drive is anti-survival. The animal survival drive serves animals well, as they don’t form psychological resistances against what is. They live as part of their environment, harmoniously. And of course the divine has no need to survive, as What Is is simply What Is, eternal and free.
Humans in contrast sit in a strange halfway point between the animal and the divine, with a mind that can be used either to create suffering, or to be tremendously creative and free, as well as to point towards and open to Consciousness and absolute Freedom.
What is a belief? It’s a decision to hold the false to be true, put simply. It has to be a willful choice, since truth takes no effort and stands on it’s own. So to stand against reality, one has to separate out and “make it happen”, which requires ongoing effort. It’s a stressful life maintaining an illusion. But we can spend apparent lifetimes doing that.
So any overall purpose of one’s life will always be paradoxical to the mind: a purposeless purpose. It is like art: somehow impractical yet absolutely necessary for us as beings, for perceivers of beauty, as play and joy. It is in the nature of the deepest or highest truth that that they seem paradoxical to the mind.
The kind of purpose I want to look at is not the goal-seeking kind, such as “my purpose is to buy a house within the next three years.” but life purpose: it is the answer to the question, what one is doing here on the planet as an apparent bodymind? Or, more succinctly, “Why am I here?”
To bring this question into sharper relief, consider the “existential” question:
On your deathbed, will you feeling you should have spent more time at the office? That you didn’t make enough money, or have enough sex?
Joking aside, will you be feeling regrets, of any kind?
Will you be thinking you wasted your life?
Another way to frame the question is to ask something along the lines of, if you were going to die (as a body) tomorrow, or today, or in the next hour (all of which are possibilities: people drop dead all the time that were considered healthy – brain aneurisms, heart attacks, strange diseases, car accidents etc.), what would you see as important? What is truly alive as real and significant in your heart of hearts?
‘Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure. You’ve got to find the treasure, so that everything you have learned along the way can make sense.’
~Paulo Coelho, excerpt from The Alchemist.
I’ve heard some people near death consider love, such as with loved ones, as most important, or part of the final journey. For example knowing they have a fatal cancer, they will make amends and heal wounds with loved ones and friends. So love is high on the list. But what is “love” beyond mere emotions and attachments, which again are more of the realm of passing and changing experiences, more of the animal aspect of being a human – perfectly respectable, but has nothing to do with the core nature of love, and which doesn’t touch on our noble question.
Yes, that human love is important, but it goes deeper than that. The love we share as human beings is not of people, places or things in reality, but reflective of a love of what we are, a love That we are. After all, it’s not coming from out there, from bodies or objects, it is experienced within. The objects and experiences in consciousness come and go, so love cannot be other than an experience that is reflective of that which we are, which is shared — a glimpse of the boundlessness, or boundary-less-ness — which is always present behind appearances.
Yes, at the human love of bodyminds, there is a kind of give and take, and dance of appearances, things coming and going; however, speed the film up and that is all a blur, merely something happening on the movie screen of life experience, of awareness, of that which is constant and never changes. But what is the screen?
What is felt as love is the screen player itself, which the mind just cannot grasp, put a finger on, or hold onto.
“The word ‘love’ refers to a lived experience. It is a paradoxical experience because even though we have all experienced the reality of it, it appears to escape every attempt to grasp it, to describe it or to repeat it. …
We don’t love the other, we love the love in the other.”
~ Francis Lucille
Some people consider these “ultimate questions” about life purpose, love, what we we doing here, or the meaning and nature of life as unanswerable, or pointless, or even pathological (existential OCD is an actual new category in psychology: asking too many questions as a syndrome – psychology as the worship of the limitations of the status-quo!). And so they brush them aside, or push them under the rug (sometimes in frustration, disgust, or cynicism, or ignorance, disinterest…) and go on with life, chasing and grasping after happiness and peace that is supposed to come in the future. And I would agree with that in the sense that intellectually these are unanswerable: one will go around in circles, or dig down the rabbit holes of philosophy forever, unless it is a timeless experience and not just a concept.