What’s Your Purpose?

If you’ve got a reason To live on and not to die, You are a lucky man
Allen Price (1973)

What was Allen Price’s reason to live on, way back when he wrote that song? Maybe he was seeing his career going nowhere and he hoped creating a soundtrack for a Lindsay Anderson movie (O Lucky Man) would put him on the map again. I don’t know and he ain’t talking.

But actually I want to know if you have a purpose in life and, if so, what is it and why is it? I was reading an old prayer the other day and this phrase struck me as it possibly will you: “in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose…”.

I think the idea is that somehow we’ll be more connected, more in a state of rightness, feel more one with the Force (somebody help me here – I’m floundering) when we let God use us for whatever he has in mind rather than working only to meet our goal of, say, financial independence, a Ferrari, and membership in the exclusive country club on the edge of town by age 40.

When I was a salaryman, I didn’t think about my purpose too much. I knew what it was – to go to my stupid job for one more day, and earn my salary for another month so I could pay the mortgage and insurance and taxes and car payments and the kids’ music lessons. I didn’t feel a bit connected with Eternal Oneness — I was just doing what I had to do. So what else is new?

Now I’m old and rich. I sit in my exclusive award-winning pigsty at the tippy-top of South Hill looking down on my extensive grounds with their graveled paths and fountains and rose gardens and I have to ask myself – now what? What is my purpose in life?

Remember that gods and myths guy who was in vogue in the Eighties, Joseph Campbell? His memorable phrase for the secret to life was “Follow Your Bliss…if you follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

Most folks don’t have that option, but some of us do. I was wondering if ‘following your bliss’ is the same thing as ‘fulfilling Your purpose’ in the prayer I quoted. Is feeling right about what you’re doing a kind of litmus test?

To go a step further, if you love doing something and feel you’re where you’re supposed to be when you’re doing it and just want to do it more – just for the thing itself and not for any kudos or toys that might come of it – is that a sign that you’re not only fulfilling your purpose – but also God’s purpose for you?

In the past, I’ve usually heard explainers say that ‘fulfilling God’s purpose’ meant not thinking about yourself but only about fulfilling God’s plan, which to them meant you should be a missionary or plant a church in the next town or teach Sunday School or something in the religious line. But that doesn’t seem right to me. It’s imposing very severe limits on God’s plan!

If you do all that stuff but don’t enjoy it and aren’t very good at it and wish night would come – maybe it’s because God always thought you’d be perfect for schmoozing with people down at the flea market or fixing their cars for them. Or even playing video games, if you are passionate about it. One thing leads to another you know.

What do you think, gentle reader?

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2 thoughts on “What’s Your Purpose?

  1. I feel part of life’s purpose is for us to learn to live rightly without being tied to God’s apron strings like a puppet. As born-again Christians God gives us a portion of his Spirit to use as our own mind. In the early ages of our maturing spiritually God is there to give us needed direction, like our parents do or should have done when we were kids. And we have the teachings of Jesus as additional guidelines. But with the passing of sufficient time I think God withdraws his divine guidance and sets us on our own (sort of), so we’ll have the heat-of-the-day opportunity to grow up in our personal use of his Spirit (which is now an attribute our own mind) from being his bumbling little kids into being his grownup sons and daughters who can, and do, think rightly on their own.I’m still pondering on these thoughts, though. Maybe someone else will have ideas in this area too. Doing God’s will should become synonymous with following our own (hopefully now more purified) will.I like the quote you attributed to Joseph Campbell: “the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living.” This makes sense from my perspective.

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  2. These questions you bring up nag me when I wake in the morning and as I sleep at night – like a lot of people, of course. Somehow I can’t believe it’s as simple as following our “bliss.” But instead of echoing your ponderings, which are similar to mine – I’ll tell you a little theory I came up with while watching that amazing series on the Discovery Channel, “Planet Earth,” I believe it was called.Sigourney Weaver’s soothing voice-over pointed out that each and every fungus in the rain forest – of which there were, what…like, thousands if not many hundreds? – had a very specific purpose, a reason for being. One attracted and then killed specific bugs, which if not killed off would have killed too many of some other species. Sorry, I don’t remember the details. But the point is, no matter how odd, unique, strange, mundane our talents – we all have a purpose…not that all of us focus are talents in a positive way. But, I mean, if the rain forest fungi can all have a purpose, I believe so do we. Okay, that part’s not original – and, heck, what is ever an original thought? I guess I feel our purpose is to find what it is we can do that makes this world, our towns, our streets, our families better. Heck, my little specialty with my circle of family and friends is making people laugh with my stories. And my neighbor is good at helping people fix cars. My friend Marv brings people together with his amazing vegan feasts. So maybe we’re not all Mother Theresa – or even Angelina Jolie. But each of us little fungi have our purposes… I do believe.But following our bliss? Yes, there’s that, too. But that only seems to be part of the equation. Life, to me, seems to be a formula, a recipe to be measured and balanced. While following my bliss makes life enjoyable, I think it’s more than that. But, then, what do I know? It’s almost midnight and I’m comparing my life to a forest mushroom.Michele (Aprilbaby.typepad.com)

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