I was just listening to a spiritual CD that said, “When you know who you are, You’ll know what to do.” Huh? What the heck does that all mean? Knowing who I am? I know who I am, blah, blah, blah. I can always look in the mirror if I’m not sure. And, if I’m really not sure, I can ask my kids. They’ll be happy to tell me who I am – much to my dismay.
But, it got me thinking about meaning and purpose in life – in a different way. Viktor Frankel in Man’s Search for Meaning, basically said we need meaning in our lives. We need purpose – that will bring us happiness. To dovetail it with the Constitution, the pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of purpose (Janeen Weiss, 2017).
My work has been helping others. Be it as an attorney and now as a clinician. People come to me with problems, pain, misery and the need for a safe place to pour their souls out to me and, wherever possible, to fix it their pain. (For the record, the thought that I have a magic wand and can fix all their issues is quickly dispelled.)
When we ask people about their purpose, what they want to do with their lives, typically, it has to do with helping others in some way. That means that others have to have problems or difficulties in order for them to have a purpose in life. This means that things need to be bad or wrong to make you okay. Think about that. What does that tell the Universe to do – create problems. For without them, who are you and what do you do?
When people make New Year’s resolutions, it’s often for peace, love, end to war and famine, no sickness, and on and on. But…WHAT IF we lived in world where that truly existed. No war. Everyone was fed and clothed. No gang wars. No warring tribes. No drug wars. No sickness. Acceptance of all. No bullying or harassing. No divisiveness among politicians. No problems between parent and child, or between couples or friends or anyone. No racism or religious wars. No hurts. No mental, physical or emotional illnesses.
If the world was exactly as you pray for, who would you be? What would your purpose in life be? Would you even have one? What would there be for you to do? You wouldn’t need to rescue anyone. You wouldn’t need to proselytize or convert anyone. You wouldn’t hate anyone nor would they hate you for whatever reason. There would be no one to heal, nor feed or clothe. Countries would not try to kill each other or even consider weapons of mass destruction. No guns. The second amendment wouldn’t even be a subject of discussion. It would all be just the way it is – peaceful and loving – all the time. Sort of like a Star Trek episode where they landed on a happy planet (and you know how those ended).
Would we end up walking around like automatons or perhaps like certain religious sects that are regularly made fun of. Where would our humor come from? Just what would John Oliver or Stephen Colbert or SNL do to make us laugh? Sarcasm and insult humor would be out of the question. We would be relegated to slapstick and, of course, that would have to end with people not getting hurt in anyway. TV would be…The Brady Bunch? Leave it to Beaver? Breaking Bad could not even have been conceived. The 24/7 news would not exist, most likely (how wonderful that would be). What would the news be filled with: the weather, sports and maybe a cat up a tree and how it was lovingly rescued. What about music? Rap could become elegant sweet poetry. And, if everyone was happy and loving all the time, where would the songs about unrequited love go? There goes my rock ‘n roll. Guess everything would be symphonic or just ‘Be Happy’, which would be titled “Already Happy.” It might be like John Lennon’s Imagine. (But, there would have been no need to write that to begin with – just imagine that.)
Lawyers might still exist, but perhaps only to smooth the way say for a house sale. Definitely wouldn’t get those high fees. Courts would rarely be used. Police wouldn’t need to carry guns and we probably wouldn’t even need police. We might have ‘monitors’ to help people out should the need arise or to keep order in the event of a really good sale at Best Buy. Armies – what for?
No fighting to get to the top. Politicians would be honest (I’m falling down laughing right now, just thinking of that). Congress would only need to meet if a new law arose. No PACs or lobbyists. Kindness and respect would prevail. Everyone working together. Religions would not need to exist – ah an end to the endless television preachers. Your God would not be better than mine.
I am sure you can think of more. But, what if this were really the scenario. Where would you find your purpose? What would you do? I’m sure I would be out of a job? If no one had any issues and no one really needed therapy as they always felt supported, loved, accepted and there was no illness, I would be out of a job – and a purpose. If no one was judged for the way they looked or felt or thought – a good portion of the world would be out of work – that would include you Tony Robbins. All those self help books – non-existent. No more praying on people’s fears and insufficiencies. No doctors – maybe an occasional injury, but nothing major. Hospitals out of business. Arms dealers, lobbyists out of business. Pharmaceuticals almost totally out of business – unless they made feel good pills (oh, they do). Healthy food – no rallying against chemical companies or meat eaters.
If you didn’t have to feed or clothe anyone, except yourself and your family and the occasional guest, would that work for you? If you didn’t have to rally against a currently unjust corporation or government or ruling body, what would you do? If there were no children starving in Africa, no epidemics in the world, no elderly suffering from Alzheimers or other diseases, what would that mean – no Nobel prizes, no great honors? No concerns about money or medical assistance. Everything was provided and everyone was happy and satisfied all the time.
Our purpose and meaning is too often based upon the suffering of others. In Judaism, there is the concept of Tikkun Olam – which means ‘repair the world.’’ But, if there was no world to repair, what would be the purpose? Who would have thought of the phrase to begin with?
So, instead of looking at all these problems and issues as horrendous (and many are) or trying to rid the world of everything negative, you might want to look at these problems as your road to meaning and finding a fulfilling life. Look at this as what is this doing FOR me instead of why do we have all this suffering in the world. We could discuss the reasons for suffering, but it’s really man’s dualistic nature and society’s influence and maybe just our DNA that has brought us to this place. There are plenty of books and research on that.
But, look at your life without any problems or issues. It’s hard to imagine this as we have so little framework. It might just be a big fat BORE, and, a life totally devoid of meaning or purpose. Then again, it just might be a great retirement.