Do We Have a Common Purpose Here?
“Life is a promise; fulfill it.”~ Mother Theresa.
I have been thinking about this question for a long time now during my life’s educational classes—my journey through formal schooling, interacting with a wide variety of people, working in several different careers, observing nature closely, learning from “teachers,” listening to different religions’ church sermons, reading many books, and watching lots of movies. The tentative conclusion I have come to is that there are three main possible answers to the question:
· There really is no purpose behind intelligent life and any ‘purpose’ we come up with is just an “invention” to suit our own personal needs to make sense out of our own lives.
· Everybody has a uniquely personal purpose to carry out in life and living is a challenge to find out what this purpose is and how to best carry it out.
· Everybody has the same common purpose in life and the only things that are different are in how we choose to discover this common purpose, whether we ever do discover it or not, then whether or not we carry it out and finally how successful we are in doing either.
What is very odd about these different answers to the purpose question is that not any one is sure to actually bring you a better, more successful and satisfying life. Regardless of this apparent uncertain reality, I do think that a good case can be made that work, play and relationships are all founded on one common purpose. This common purpose is:
To learn, grow and improve into our best selves to pass adversity tests, that prove our making progress at the only thing that can help us to pass those tough tests—good character-building. Character-building seems to be the one thing we do which is rewarding in and by itself, rather than being an intermediate prize bringing something else better, like money. Exercising a good character, especially in difficult times, just feels right and proper without any need for external validation of what else you get from being that way.
There is no doubt that life throws us many tests—slow lobs, fast-balls, curve-balls, sliders, knuckle-balls, under or over-handed throws and wobbly screw-balls. All you have to do is take a hard look at where you are today and what you had to do to get there. And if there is a gap between where you are and where you really want to be, all you have to do is confess failure in not passing these tests you were confronted with (even the ones you couldn’t have possibly passed with who you were at the time). And what the failure was all about was not exercising the best possible character that was called for, because not doing so was easier or more natural, or maybe even what other people told you was best, given the predicament you were in at the time.
Consider the many tests that disappointment is the “punishment” for not walking tall with the solid values that make up a good character needed to pass those tests:
· Devastating heartbreaks in early and later love.
· Failing important tests in school because you didn’t pay attention or study hard enough.
· Not making a sports team or extracurricular club in school.
· Hurting someone else because you didn’t follow the “Golden Rule” or being unfairly bullied yourself.
· Not giving your job your full attention, losing it and not being able to find another one.
· Spending more money than you have coming in, putting more and more on plastic where you can’t feel the debt pain.
· Not being consistent in disciplining your children, getting challenged by their dreadful problems and not knowing what to do.
· Not eating or exercising right, not feeling good or being at your best, and losing out on opportunities because of it.
· Not using time smartly to get the things that matter most done.
· Not knowing how to grow old gracefully.
A large part of successful parenting is the passing on of important basic values in character-building. These values are necessary to pass life’s tests that are sure to come, often when we are least prepared. The relationship between these core values and successful test-taking is not what is in question; but rather how much of these values you have developed and are able to call up when things get tough. The values that are needed most for our kids to pass their tests are:
· Strong perseverance to see things to the finish line before quitting in the middle of the test; unfinished tests seem to come back with more fury and vengeance.
· Optimistic hope that positive beliefs can result in positive outcomes in passing the tests, if you make a good enough effort and don’t quit, while being assured that another opportunity will come if you do fail.
· Patience in delaying the immediate need gratification affliction that comes with the common illusion that you can quickly and easily get something for nothing, until you finally realize life really doesn’t work that way.
· Openness to creatively learning, growing and being adaptable to changing perspectives, in realizing there is a simple solution: if you don’t like what you see, just change locations from where you are doing the looking. Actually this is easier done than said; it is the words that usually get in the way.
· Honesty in dealing with reality exactly the way it is and not the way you think it should be or may want it to be.
· Teamwork in helping others to be successful in their test-taking, by being the good character that applies all these other values when times are toughest.
“Only the man who crosses the river at night knows the value of the light of day” ~Chinese Proverb.