Over the weekend I had a fascinating email exchange that I wanted to share and ask others’ opinions on. It started with this posting in the comments section of Sunday Funny #6:
i know this is slightly off subject, but i have a question. what do you live for? what is your purpose? i find that i need some purpose, without that i fear there is no reason for me to continue living…
It was posted by someone called “JRDS” who I do not know or know anything about (other than the fact that he/she has “JesusFreak” in his/her email address). As you can imagine, I thought the question may be somewhat confrontational, but I thought it could also be an honest query. Here is how I responded:
I’m going to make a bold assumption that you are asking me what is my ultimate dream, that is, if I could do anything what would that thing be? …and as trite as it may sound, that thing would be to contribute to world peace. My goal is to help, in some small way, bring about a state of mind where people lessen their in-group/out-group ways of perceiving others based on “faith” in things they really do not know. I believe that near to the root of all the world’s problems is that one simple and flawed perspective — that somehow people can “know truth” based on nothing more than a vague feeling or a passionate desire for it to be so.
Truth may be out there, but our limited ability to glean it is constantly being undermined by those who speak too loudly, too confidently. I believe we need a dose of humility, a little more willingness to be wrong. Truth is whatever it is, and I am driven to understand it, no matter how many layers it hides beneath. You ask about my purpose? My purpose is to understand, I guess… but in that willingness to understand, I have found that so many people who claim to know, really do not. And if we could realize that one important lesson, that no one has a corner on truth, that being “in” or being “out” is not based on skin color, sex, gods, or whatever… I believe the world would finally find a bit more peace.
And here is the surprising reply (which was not posted in the thread but as a private email to me, I have gotten JRDS’s permission to reprint it here):
thank you for replying, i do appreciate it.
well, for years, i had a purpose, a blind faith in an. i have always been a thinker, always causing problems for my Bible teachers, and church leaders. i have had many different reactions to my questions, but the same thread of unity they share, is that none, in itself, was the answer i needed to hear. no one could give me truth with no additives of selfishness, or religion.
i am tired of religion. i have studied thoroughly everything about Christianity, and have found that the religion comes up short. things don’t add up. it is not because of any action or pain that was caused by these people, though the list is dangerously long…it is because i can no longer say that i ever really believed any of it. and i dont believe any of the people who have presented it to me, have ever really believed it too. they, and i say/said “Hell is real”, but they dont believe it. they dont act like it. sure they will throw it at you, but they wont really love you enough for you to be drawn to their message. they dont want you to be drawn to it, because if you are, you might have questions that they cant answer. i cannot give something half of me, i know many people who can. but i cant. i need all of it, or none of it. which is why my confusion leads me away from everything i have ever known, and i find myself on a search for the truth.
so that i feel i am not a complete loss…lol…i do have a small bit of direction, though it is largely frowned upon by my family and some of my friends. i am going to write. i love it, i can feel the freedom it gives me every time i take a pen in hand. i do know a lot of things about who i want to be. the only thing still hanging in the balance seems to be the issue of religion…
and that is why i ask, because, outside of religion, i see myself with no purpose to continue living, an empty life, where it all ends with nothing. i need something to live for…
I was extremely moved by JRDS’s honesty and by his/her struggle. On reflection, I’m not sure what the original question really means. Is purpose something that comes only from outside us, or is it legitimate to say we create our own purpose? In any case, I did respond by email, which I will repost below, but really I want to give you out there the chance to offer up your own advice/perspective/experiences with “purpose” and “meaning” in your lives. I would like JRDS to know how others have delt with their seeking, and where it has led them… Here is a portion of my second response:
Wow, your email really moved me — it is so kind of you to share these things… it is, for me, so meaningful. Let me ask, if after you die it is from your perspective the same as it was before you were born — that is to say, a state of nothingness, no pain, no joy, no anything at all — then doesn’t what you do here, the connections you make, the experiences you share, everything you do or say become more meaningful then ever? I urge you to contemplate that. By opening your mind your mind to that possibility, you gain meaning, not loose it… you live meaning, not head in the direction of it… meaningful is what you are, not something you will be (one day… when you die…)