For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope . . . Jeremiah 29:11, ESV
I am not sure there is a point, or a purpose to this shit-show we are born in to. I’m over late night tossing & turning wondering why I was born. I’m here and it ain’t over yet. I’ve still got time to do and while the sun still traverses the sky I need shit and have ambitions. There is world peas to attend to and those kids on TV who look so hungry. Oh and those deplorable white folk who treat black folk like range targets. I mean, somebody needs to do something, seriously.
Dumpf got elected. They are going to build a pipeline across Indian land and ruin it. I saw that kid on TV and this time the voice-over is asking me to donate to UNESCO. I don’t have a job, my girlfriend kicked me out, and breakfast this morning happened at the Grace Cathedral on California street. I tried begging and got arrested. I had to pawn my guitar to get a room for the night. I’m out of meds and the voices lately are really hard to ignore. Maybe I should just eat worms and die.
The depths of my angst never got that deep. My troubles are trifling compared to those of many. There was an afternoon at my paternal grandmother’s house where the huge problem was a lack of a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. There is a kid in my life who is twenty-something and followed a familiar narrative arc for an African American youth living in the inner city. He achieved early success as a drug dealer, gained tremendous wealth and notoriety and now, is living in public housing. The devil gaveth and the devil took it all away.
After two twelve-hour shifts driving a cab recently I arrived at Monday morning, back at my desk, with a feeling of futility. All that work and what I had to show for it was a couple Jacksons. I had magnanimous dreams. I was going to make beaucoup benjamins. I had plans for my hard earned cash. What a waste.
Wikipedia’s article on the meaning of life. You have the Dalai Lama saying that we should seek to be happy. I suspect that the full weight of his words isn’t getting through in English. Tibetan Buddhist happiness is a deep conversation. It’s one of many things that seems simple at the surface but can consume a lifetime trying to know it deeply. So, there is that. Wikipedia tries to provide a broad survey of answers. I need to warn you. This space isn’t good for you if you were looking for comfort and safety. The answers I have here are troubling.
On with it. I’d say that life does not have a purpose. Your reason to be doesn’t exist. All this angst over why you were born is neurotic, narcissistic wind and water. You are alive. ’nuff said. So, average life-span being 70-80 years, or 4 generations or so, you have time on your hands. The first couple decades happen because of your parents. After that, with some exceptions, it’s on you. A reason to be and a purpose to pursue. Well, you are here. There really isn’t a reason why you are here. So, that leaves the next 40 years or so and a purpose to pursue.
Why not 60 years?. Our lives are bookended by childhood and old age. As children we have no choice but to rely on the adults in our lives to care for us. Without them, without their support, we are fucked. Argue all you want about the oppressive tradition of a nuclear family, how it traps women into the oppression of patriarchy. I’ll grant you that embedding that oppression in law and policy is a bad idea. Women should have a voice, have agency and the freedom to pursue their chosen purpose. Please, though, if you are pregnant, or you are a Mom, it’s really important that you put your kids first, even though that limits you. Kids need parents that love and care for them.
Moving on. At the other end, at the phase of my life I am growing in to, is increasing loss. We become more dependent on the people around us for basic needs. Starting at around age 60 things escalate. We become more and more feeble until our time comes and we become epitaph. So, our purpose becomes merely breathing until death kindly stops for us. We come full circle and need to be taken care of.
That leaves the years between 20 or so and age 60 where life happens. That’s the window in which our purpose will be fulfilled. That’s the years in which your story is told. Maybe there isn’t a reason why you were born. I’ll leave the answer to that, to why you were born, to better minds than mine. It is enough that you are alive and beyond the first four levels of Maslow’s hierarchy what you do has an impact, though perhaps small. Your impact matters, thus, you matter.
This space is the house of the odd ones, the trolls, the people who generate regrets. It’d be nice if my readership had a comfortable spot on the fat part of the curve. But . . . I’d have to write about something else if that became the case. From what I know of history I’ll never run out of odd stuff to write about. So, yeah, causes to pursue . . . all that Maslow hierarchy stuff helps a lot. Unfulfilled essential needs can become a consuming purpose leaving you without much bandwidth for anything else.
There is also Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanities . . . all is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” Yeah, that’s all warm & fuzzy. Thank you for sharing, Solomon.
Without God, without some sense of identity outside ourselves, life has no meaning. The nihilists are right. Solipsism is epiphany. Death after a meal of earthworms would be mercy. Without God we are supper for Satan and his minions. Things get increasingly morose. Suicide begins to feel like a plan.
God is weird. There is this book that is full of nonsense and ancient myth that some promulgate as the word of God. He leaves behind the words of St. Paul, Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” That’s not crazy, right? Who writes stuff like, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” As if we are twigs. This god that these people believe in is whom I am to find a purpose to my life? I may be crazy but that’s epic.
“Does Life Have a Purpose?” Maybe not. But, I am here and the clock has not run down to zero for me yet. If I live to age 90 there are still over 12,000 sunrises to get through. Might as well do something to pass the time. Of suicide, I believe you freeze yourself in the angst that drove you to take your own life. Because you are then frozen in your misery, death offers no relief. In life there is hope. As long as there are more sunrises there are more chances to break out of a solipsistic mood and leave a legacy of light and salt.
My answer to the troubles is a little more village and a little less delicate snowflake. If we allow a more collectivist view of our identity then it’s harder to point a quivering, accusing finger at some boogeyman who has called us a poopy-head. This is a bottom-up thing, not some dictate handed down by a bloated bureaucracy. This is you making a choice to locate your identity in something greater than yourself. When it comes in the form of a dictate from Caesar it’s not the same. With this more collectivist view our purpose isn’t good self-esteem or the markers of success envied by some. It is the well being of our kin and village.
My pastor says in his sermon on this that we need a reason to be and a cause to pursue. There is no reason for me. I exist. For the next 12,000 days or so I am going to rise each morning needing things and wanting to have some purpose to this shit-show I was born into. Now that I am off the ridge and walking into the Valley of the River Styx my legacy, the story I leave behind, is what worries me.
I hope I have served, have touched some and been a point of light that illuminates hope for the hopeless. I am saved. I was lost but now I am found, was blind but now I see. It’s been 4,380 days since I last confessed my faith to my Christian brethren at St. Giles Church. The trans-formative moment for me was a phone call from Darlene. I was to go to work for God with no hope of return or desired outcome. It’s my cause to pursue.
While your sun’s rise and fall to greet the moon I have a request. While you cower in your safe spaces at us the grownups who want you to do annoying self-care things like clean your room and wash some dishes, do a little more than that. Rather than litter the South Dakota desert with your detritus from protesting capitalist oil pigs, volunteer locally. There is something you can do, some place that would love your angst and youthful energy. Use your phone, google stuff, an NGO out there is looking for some help. Go help.
Of worm eating . . . it’s a metaphor. Just saying.