The very idea of a life purpose is cumbersome and weary. It points to people who feel lost as they swim the rivers and their tributaries, and it points also to people who seek to gain personal power through ideas. It smells of unhealthy egos and crippling interdependence.
Life purposes have little to do with life or purposes, and a lot to do with priestcraft and herd mentality. When one advocates any ideal and others subscribe to it, one becomes influential. Every stated life purpose is a prescription for an ideal man, appealing only in the sensibilities of the unstated framework it crops up from.
Even in form, they’re unattractive. Statements of life purpose read like pithy New Year’s resolutions. More often than not, they’re tossed immediately aside and are just a bit of affirmative work from a part of one’s ego trying to push away from another part.
The Purpose of Life Purpose
This is not to say that you should not feel an orientation or a direction in life. But, stripped of its baggage of after-the-fact reinterpretation, that feeling isn’t a purpose. It is an experience of willing, of willpower applied and manifesting. Should you pay attention, that feeling is abundant without some Walmart credo about customer service tacked up to your mental bathroom hallway.
There’s great power in will consistently applied. It’s how habits are formed, lives are transformed, and movements that shake governments and civilizations gain momentum. But, unless we confuse power with morality, there’s also no virtue or vice in it either. Power and transformation indicate movement, but not movement in a particular direction. Willing can be about elevation or decline, but height and depth are the conceptual pinnings of particular moralities.
Life purpose is about methods and modes of travel in whatever direction we have defined as “good”, or whatever direction we have allowed “good” to be defined for us. It’s also about the ego, and how we define ourselves in relation to the ideals that “good” defines for us. When people honestly describe their life purpose, they’re trying to comfort themselves with certainty – the certainty of knowing which way is the best to go in every circumstance.
But life is never about certainty and often enough people go looking for a life purpose as a disguised attempt to build up their egos as a buffer to life. A defining morality prevents the need for constant evaluation, it circumnavigates the responsibility for moral decision by laying it in the hands of someone else (even when that someone else is you as you used to be). Blanket certitudes and predetermined evaluations are things needed by the tired at heart, and they’re amply supplied through static life purposes that presumably define the relationship between one man and the world.
Rather Than Life Purpose, What Do You Will?
Do you will to become more, to possess more and have command over your fellows (Nietzsche)? Do you will to simply get whatever you want in the name of happiness (Kant)? Or do you will to understand (Kierkegaard)? To have pleasure (Freud)? To simply live, if that’s different somehow than one of the above?
How do you define “up” and “down”? What’s progress and what’s decline? If you were to define a life purpose, what is the nature of the mountain you would climb?
Would you memorize your scribbled life purpose and keep it prominently inside, will your choices reflect that life purpose? Do you will into being whatever base expression you desire again, again, and again?
Because if you’re willing to go the distance on such a statement of intent, you don’t need a life purpose at all. Instead, you can look at the paths that you’re surrounded by and qualify them by the morality you’ve chosen. Rather than trying to pave a road through the wilderness, you can intertwine with life at the level that it’s presented to you.
Even better, you can choose your evaluative framework fresh every day. Rather than defining what or how you are once and being done with it, you can re-choose what you value. Again and again, coming from life and doing it consciously against life purpose. Let the scribbles of the past drift into the fire of your continuous burning. Not for the tired at heart.
Rather Than Life Purpose, Who Wills?
Whatever your choice of right and wrong, of health and sickness, and advancement and corruption – who wills? Is it acceptable that you yourself might be responsible for all your success and failure? Or do you feel that you’re incomparable to men who’ve come before or walk by your side, so that you are best served by using their maps and compasses? Or do you think that no living creature could possibly make decisions in your hopelessly complex circumstances, so you lay all larger movements in the hands of God?
If you take your ideals and direction from another human, aren’t you in some sense domesticated? If we talk about the coarseness of the common man in the context of our functional societies, isn’t there some sense of taming? Isn’t resistance to that domestication mandatory if we admit to some pride being worthwhile?
Or if you take your ideals and directions from God above, to what extent have you confused the mutterings of men with the divine word? Or the mutterings of your own ego? Have you sought God in mysticism that you may be guided, or do you rely on the reinterpretations of biased men who practice the most overt priestcraft?
Whether we look to ourselves purely or look to God, inward gazing is the only way to avoid the misinterpretations and guile of other men. If you don’t choose your morality, if you don’t determine for yourself what you find good and pure and true, then… you’ve been corrupted and tamed out of living your very own life. Gift or chance, purpose or purposeless, you’ve let it be stolen away.
Against Life Purpose: An Inner Compass
And that’s exactly where we come back against life purpose. A life purpose, description of an ideal, is the articulation of a set of moral interpretations and valuations. Whether you create it, or you create it out of a set of mental constructs you’ve been “charmed” by, it’s a concreted mental aggregation that implies a predetermined course.
Creating a life purpose is the art of putting some imaginary person’s ego outline over your own, feeling good about it for a while, and then returning to what you truly want (will to power, life, happiness, or whatever). If you’re healthy enough, that is, but men who are very vested into their egos will simply compound on what was already happening for them.
Men of ego will have new strength imagining a life entirely beside their own. All things are reinforced as a secondhand interpretation, life filtered through a giant city of internal definition. A life purpose is an attempt to overwrite the ego with a self-assignment of morality. What man who has thoroughly characterized himself knows the delicate patterns of fallen leaves or the dance of butterflies in the meadows? They’re but the white paper on which he is written, men of egos drift through life without noticing anything.
But the men who simply will towards something instead, they see such things as leaf patterns and butterflies. In entirely different lights, of course, in accordance with the valuations the bent of their spirits have lent them – but they see them. The difference of sight is an emotional difference; men of ego are too busy implementing their proper reactions to see what reactions the sights before them truly cause in themselves. Blindly working on a fictional interpretation of themselves.
The man who sees the leaves and butterflies best of all is he who withdraws from all of his evaluations, from all his purposes. One who can withdraw from all willing to something, who can sustain at least a moment of glorious purposelessness. Against life purpose, against will to power or will to happiness, against will to life even. And when the butterflies don’t exist in any mental framework, you can see them… and the floating, ephemeral bliss of simply being is yours for a timeless moment. An inhalation, a coming-into-focus.
The exhalation, the blurring-into-action, is your ever-recurring decision. Which way is your light? What is your will, what is good today, and where is today’s truth?
Forget what you chose… what do you choose?