What Is Your Purpose?
The other day, I was listening to Dave Rubin interview strategy and entrepreneurship professor, Rajshree Agarwal. All in all, I found Rajshree to be a rather remarkable woman, with some really profound insights into market economics, responsibility, and self-empowerment.
Definitely worth a listen, as are all of Dave's sit-downs.
In their interview Rajshree outlined four key questions she often presented to her students as a framework for determining what they should be doing and how to go about doing it, both in their careers but also in their personal lives as well. They're really quite powerful and are as follows:
What is your purpose?
What does success look like?
What is my value proposition?
With whom should I trade?
As I sat there just meditating on the interview, I began to look inward and ask myself these same basic questions, beginning with, "What is my purpose."
One of the major themes of my urban fantasy series, Thelema, deals with this central question. The humans of that world are all born with a pendant around their necks - a gift from the gods that contains their will and dictates to them their individual life's purpose. If you're one of those people who likes the idea of death of the author and doesn't like spoils - if you'd rather work through the themes and character development yourself - you should probably avoid reading this article.
Just saying ...
Still here? Ok, well don't blame me for hurt feelings. >_>
In the world of Thelema, the humans engage with their pendants primarily by grabbing them with their hands. I outline the rudimentary mechanics of how that works to channel energy and will. As you can well imagine, they do this action quite often, and so I had to write things like "he grabbed his Thelema" or "she clutched her Thelema" or "they clasped their Thelemas" repeatedly. Repetition is an important tool of persuasion and so, without meaning to, In the course of writing, I sort of hypnotized myself at one point, such that, whenever I felt I needed a bit of extra willpower, I'd reflexively clasp at my own chest as though I had a magic pendant around my neck.
Somewhat ironically, just the psychology of that gesture often served as a placebo and either calmed me down or gave me the boost I needed.
As I became more aware of what I was doing, that sort of subsided. I still do it on rare occasion without thinking, but not nearly as often. One thing I haven't stopped doing is wondering how life would be like if our world had such Thelma pendants and whether things would better or worse for it. How much time could be saved in not dating the wrong person; but then, at the same time, how anxiety-inducing would it be to know you're so close to someone who isn't strictly your missing half and wondering whether to go for broke or just settle for what you have?
Is good enough good enough?
Similarly, would you wanna know what your reason was for incarnating into this world? Does that make you more focused, saving time by avoiding the things you're not meant to be doing, or does it make you a slave to your predestined path? How much influence did you personally have in making that decision, whether before incarnating or afterward, versus how much was beyond your control?
I think there are trade-offs either way. It's not strictly good or bad. It's just a different system with different costs and benefits.
Sometimes I catch myself wondering about my own life purpose. What is it? Am I doing what I'm meant to be doing? Is there even such a thing? What would my Thelema pendant look like if I had one? Who would be my twin flame? What life motto would be inscribed therein?
Generally, I think we all enter this world with a divine plan in mind for what we wanna get done and then modify it as we go forward. As we learn more and grow spiritually. Though we all fall out of connection with the universe, I do generally believe that everything happens for a reason and that things occur in our lives - good and bad - exactly as they're meant to, when they're meant to. The only real variable, the only option for free will that's in play at any point, is how we choose to respond to the situation in any given moment. The rest is all decided for us by our environment, by other humans, or by some higher power, such as whatever entities measure out karma.
I believe that humans generally have little choice about anything, but those few choices matter, as they stack up over time to produce disparate outcomes.
This is why I generally don't get hung up existentially about things like privilege or being born into horrible poverty or war-torn environments, because I believe that's the result of choices made in one's lifetime, including prior incarnations. I still have sympathy for people who are in a bad way, and I try to help them when I can as best I can and believe in the idea of giving back or paying it forward; but the only people who should feel guilty about someone's station in life are the people who put them there and the person whose life it is and what they did to land themselves where they are.
It's a false dichotomy to say that either everything is a matter of choice or everything is the result of systemic forces. Realistically, it's a bit of both. How much of each, only God knows, but being successful in life means recognizing that duality and learning to differentiate the one from the other.
To know what you can control and what you can't.
Returning to Rajshree's question, it's something I've asked the Spirit many times throughout my life, and as I sat there reflecting upon it yet again, a voice whispered softly inside my head, telling me I don't have one.
At first, I thought it was a mistake, as it sounded terribly depressing - wandering aimlessly through life without some overarching goal - but the Spirit assured me that this was in fact correct:
What's my life purpose? I don't have one.
In some ways, it felt like a cruel joke. In others, a sad and infuriating betrayal. What does it mean to not have a life purpose? Everyone has to have a life purpose, right? The alternative is nihilism and I'd been down that road long before. It's not a pleasant place to be, which is why I left it years ago. I got out of my nihilistic bent by embracing a wider spiritual continuum that included reincarnation and karma and a belief that our choices matter towards some larger goal.
All that was still correct, so why then was the Spirit telling me I had no life purpose?
Eventually, I was dropped another hint, this time in the form of a passage from the Tao Te Ching. It was the line about the Master residing in the center of the wheel, being formless and able to be anything to anyone as needed. It wasn't that I couldn't have goals and desires, but that I shouldn't get too attached to them, because things change and I need to remain flexible. To be like water, as Bruce Lee put it.
To be able to flow and take on the form of my surroundings.
Upon further reflection, this all started to make sense. At one point, I'd wanted to become a minister living an ascetic life, building my own temple from scratch and eating only bread as I preached the word of God. That turned out to not be my life path as soon as I hit puberty. Then I wanted to become a teacher but that fell through. I thought I wanted to be an artist, but I didn't have the discipline and drive to develop my artistic skills to a marketable level, thus wasting $150,000 on a fine arts degree when I could have just watched a bunch of YouTube videos for free.
It's not totally a waste, since I gained a lot of valuable experience in other ways not related to academics, but career-wise, it did nothing for me.
I'd variously dabbled in starting my own business a number of times, in becoming an inventor, in real estate development - I'd wanted to set up a system that employed homeless people, giving them each a house as pay in exchange for several years of service, while teaching them marketable trade skills, much the way Oscar Schindler paid Jews in the pots and pans they'd made because they weren't allowed to have money, and to keep them from being sent to the concentration camps.
Part of why I went to art school was to get the skills to become a mangaka, but that was a naive and childish dream that was unsustainable. I would not recommend that at all, especially since that dream ultimately fell through. I wanted to drop out of school halfway in, but my parents convinced my to stay to the end and get my degree on the promise that having it was better than not.
I would not recommend listening to your parents either if that's the sort of advice they give you.
In every job I'd held, I contemplated how that particular experience fit into my overall life's purpose that I still didn't yet understand. Most of them ultimately taught me valuable life lessons that I then incorporated into my writing but I left each of them eventually once I'd gotten all I needed from them and it was time to move on. With any luck, my current job will be my last before I can claim sufficiency on my book, though I may have one more still in me before then.
At one point, I really thought I was going to be a game designer and develop my own video games. I had taught myself the basics of Unity Engine and how to do some C# and modeling, but I lacked a capable machine to do all that I needed to and I hit a wall in terms of more advanced programming that I just didn't have the mind for, for whatever reason. No big deal, I thought. I could partner up with people who would do all that stuff for me, except that was hugely expensive and I had no money, nor any angels looking over me, and my credit score was through the floor to the point where I couldn't even take out a loan.
Whatever I planned on doing had to be something I could do by myself with my limited tool set. That's how I came to write novels and this blog.
I soon learned I could self-publish it all, which made things even better, except I had to do all the marketing myself, which meant I still had to work and keep my day job to fund that operation. Things are going well on that end, if not moving as quickly as I'd like, but that's ok.
Briefly, I toyed with the idea of making a board game version of the colony management game Banished to try and bring in side income, but that turned out to not be as much fun as I'd homed.
All those ads you see for how to make quick money doing product testing and filling out surveys? Don't waste your time if money's your aim. You spend hours making pennies unless you happen to fit within a super rare niche audience.
More recently, I've considered that my book and my blog might be my life's purpose, but in a weird way, if I can't walk away from them now and then - or even forever - I just become a slave to them and to my audience. A dancing monkey in a cage. I should do them because I want to, not because I have to. In a similar sense, I've thought about doing YouTube videos, going on tour giving speeches, and doing weekly livestreams to help #HealTheDivide, and I may ultimately end up doing that ... for a while, though it seems the Dave Rubins and the Styxhexenhammers, and the Scott Adams and Stefan Molyneux and Jordan Petersons of the world have that pretty much covered.
I could drop off the grid tomorrow and the world would heal itself eventually with or without my help.
By and large, almost every endeavor I've ever undertaken, sooner or later, I come across someone who's not only doing it already, but they're doing it far better than I ever could have, and they're further along in it than I am. That scene from Man of Steel with Zod broadcasting to the whole world? I came up with that years ago for a sci-fi story I was writing. I'm not saying they stole it from me, but it being out there now, everyone would just assume I stole it from them at this point, and their execution was a lot better than what I had.
Similarly, I had wanted to craft a young black male hero to serve as a positive role model for those young men who maybe didn't have one apart from what they saw in fiction. Then Black Panther came out and blew whatever I'd come up with away by a lightyear.
Don't get me wrong, I love Black Panther a lot. It's just disappointing whenever you don't get the glory for being the one to change the world in a profound way when you know you were on track towards it.
As I said, that can be depressing. To feel like your life has no meaning, no purpose. That you could drop dead tomorrow and nothing you ever did or ever could do would have mattered in the least. In a very real sense, many more people will feel like that once technology improves past the point of the singularity, in what I call the Great Culling, wherein people give in to nihilism and either off themselves or stop taking care of themselves and stop reproducing, because why bother?
That's one possibility.
The other is that we merge with the machines and use genetic engineering and cybernetics to become gods and explore space - both inner and outer - together forever, as Bill Hicks says.
By not having a purpose in life, I have no direction, but I also have no responsibility either. The world is my oyster. I can go where I want, be who I want, do what I want, when I want, with whom I want, for whatever reason I want. There's nothing that I have to do so badly as to cause myself a great deal of anxiety. Thus, I am at peace, alone in the center of the wheel. Adaptable to whatever comes my way without any stress or attachment but what I choose to take on for myself.
I am free to do whatever I want within the limits of whatever I can.
That's not to say I have zero responsibility. I still have a duty not to harm others. To take care of my family and friends, but I can choose what relationships I have. I can choose to have children or not. If I have them, obviously there are responsibilities with that, but that is baked into the decision and I know that when I make the decision.
Right now, I'm listening to The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris, which dovetails nicely with this as he talks about a lot of the same things. I'll probably do a review of it when I'm finished.
The idea is to structure your life based around what you want. When I say there is no purpose to my life, I mean none that is externally imposed. I can still create goals and systems for myself. One goal I think we should all have is to enjoy life to the best we can. To see life as a game. A series of challenges and opportunities to experiment and have fun, developing our own spiritual growth as we go. To learn something about ourselves and what we can do in this great big old sandbox we call the universe.
If there is one unifying thread throughout my life, it is personal growth. Mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. To always seek to be better than what I was a day ago, a week ago, a year ago, a lifetime ago. To spiral up towards the divine. I know that my ultimate objective is not something that any human can realistically accomplish in a single lifetime, which is why we have reincarnation, but with technology, I may be on the cusp of getting a real boost. I've always felt as though I was born in the wrong time period, but maybe it's the case that I was born at just the right time to see the dawn of a new age in which mankind ends because we evolve into deities. Or maybe I'm a member of the last generation to have been born too soon to see it, in which case that becomes another lesson I'll have to deal with and take with me into the next life where I can spin again and try something new. Something different where maybe I get to be the one who makes a difference in the world in a profound way and be ahead of the curve for once.
Either way, my life's purpose is to transcend myself and become immortal. What's yours?
Since you ignored my spoiler warning and bothered to read all the way to the end, you may as well pick up a copy of my book because by now you're curious what other mysteries and life lessons it contains, right? You can also support me on Patreon if you enjoy articles like this and want to read more. It really helps and I appreciate your generosity.
May you each find love, peace, purpose, happiness, and will in your lives.