The Purpose of Life
Without much research, I dare to say that when it comes to answering the existential question of the purpose of one’s life, there are four kinds of people:
- Those that don’t care. Or better yet: Don’t think there is one. For them there is only one life, and after that there’s nothing. Therefore, living this life and reaching happiness in the present is the only thing that makes sense to them… My dad, I *think*.
- Those that care deeply, and spend their whole life on a quest trying to find out the truth of all… My mom.
- Those that care, and at several points of their lives think about it, but are so busy trying to live life, that in order to move on, create some vague notion of what they believe, and live on that assumption without dogma… Me.
- And then, there are those who believe exactly what their religion, guru, or spiritual leader tells them to believe.
So, since I care and choose to believe that there is some purpose to my life, I’m usually interested when I hear a new interpretation or theory on existential questions. For instance, almost nine years ago, while reading The Celestine Prophecy, I found an interesting idea in the 6th insight.
The insight discusses the different ways how people struggle for power, and calls them “personal dramas”. They are: intimidator (threatens you to get your energy), interrogator (finds faults and undermines your world), aloof (acts mysterious and secretive to get you to wonder what’s going on with them), and poor me (implies that you might be responsible for what’s happening to them). The insight argues that every person’s drama is shaped during childhood, from the interaction of a child with his/her parents, and the observation of the power struggle in the family. When you understand the dynamics on your family, you can understand why you were born to it: Your existence begins in a position between your parents’ truths. You must discover what each of them taught you and what you think they could have done better… What you would change about each of them. The insight reveals that your whole life is about combining these two approaches. This is your evolutionary question, the problem you must solve, and your quest in this lifetime.
I find this idea interesting. Whether some high force in the universe crafted things so that people’s mission is to become a more perfect version of their ancestors and contribute to a collective evolution of spirits, or not, this theory sounds to me very consistent with psychology. And whether it tells me what I should do with my life, or it simply explains the underlying forces behind my psyche, I took on the challenge and decided to analyze my interpretation of my parent’s truths, and see if mine is somewhat in the middle.
I did this nine years ago, at a time when I was in graduate school pursuing an MBA degree after having worked in the real world for 1.5 years. The risk I run by sharing it with the world is that my parents may read it one day and disagree with my interpretations. And that would be fine. What I’ll say about my parents on this post is not the absolute truth about them. It’s probably not their current truth either (They may have changed during this time). It simply is what I interpreted. Right or wrong, it’s what my inner child learned to reconcile during the time I lived with them.
Approaching life and the cruel world
Dad’s general approach to life is: You have to do what you must. The world is what it is, and you must accept it and deal with it. You must solve the problem… Fulfill your responsibilities.
Dad needs to feel in control, solve problems and have everything moving in perfect order, without insurrection, without questioning. His responsibility is providing for his family. He believes that as long as the material aspect is solved, everything else should be ok. He becomes frustrated when his efforts don’t result in what they were supposed to result: When people around him bring emotional chaos to his life.
Mom’s approach is: You must go beyond the ordinary conscience, find TRUTH, find your personal quest. You must evolve… Must become better.
Mom looses balance when she fears losing her material anchor… When she must face the cruel world. She moves around problems and solves them, but considers them a heavy burden. One that brings her back down to the ground, against her wishes to lift to her spiritual world of inner search… A world she believes is more real and true in the long run.
Taking risk and making things happen
Dad takes risk, and if he loses he’s certain that he can recover the loss. If he loses, well… he loses. “That’s life”. He accepts this and keeps working with twice the effort to get it back.
Mom hates taking risk because she fears she won’t be able to recover any losses. She hates losing in the first place. Whenever something goes wrong, she thinks of all the things that could’ve been done to avoid the problem: “If we would’ve”… “We should’ve”… “We could’ve”…
Dad is a warrior. He takes action in his hands. He doesn’t wait for good things to happen to him. Instead, he goes out and makes them happen. Without paralyzing fear, he lets go of what he has, and brings to his life whatever it is that he wants.
Mom is in continuous search. Dad is hands in work on the material reality. He survives the cruel world. Mom wants to survive the spiritual world. She wants to make it into the world that comes after this life. She needs the material aspect to be solved so she can live, but on her own, she feels incapable to make it work. She wishes she could, and wants me to have such power so I can be free. She wants to liberate me from any burdens, family and even herself, so that I can freely walk my path. So does dad. He wants to arm me with all the tools I need to make the material world work on my own. But if I can’t, he’s there for me. He will always provide for me.
Me (Nine Years Ago)
I share mom’s fundamental fear. However, I don’t want to feel as powerless as she does. I want to have dad’s power to conquer the practical world. I want to feel as capable as him; he is my measure of success. I compare myself with dad and feel that if I’m not as “executive” as he is, I am LESS. I don’t want fear to stop me. That’s why I keep trying to prove myself that I can get into Management Consulting. I want to have the peace of knowing that if I don’t become some big corporate executive it’s not because I couldn’t do it, but because I chose not to after having tried.
And then, I also know that the life of a corporate executive won’t fill me. In reality, I need to feed on something else… Not on practical reality (which in a certain way I disdain). I want to control this reality, only so that I can look for happiness somewhere else. I find happiness in things that don’t have much impact on the material world; instead they simply make me FEEL. I find happiness in things that charge me with energy and give me inner peace, like painting, like music, like creating beautiful things that others may think are a waste of time.
I want to have it all: Fulfilled material needs AND my happiness. And I want MYSELF to be the architect of both. I would like to have a combination of dad’s professional success and domain over the material world, and mom’s peace and time and means to fill herself spiritually and evolve.
I don’t believe I’m a more perfect version of either of my parents: I am less successful and powerful than my dad, and less spiritual and flexible than my mom. Yet, I do have to say that looking back, I can see how my truth lies between both of them. Whether that’s a good thing or not, I don’t know…
After business school, I went far ahead at work that I could’ve gotten into the track to corporate leadership roles. And I chose not to. When I told my parents that I wanted to quit my job and switch careers, mom worried about my economical survival (web designers make less than MBAs). I argued that I couldn’t be happy where I was, and dad warned me that life is hard, and so is work, and some times you just have to suck it up. Despite all my fears, I did it anyway. And although I do make much less money now than I did back then, I make enough to live and BE HAPPY.
In a vague way, I believe that a big part in the purpose of my life has to do with conquering personal fears. I have so many fears!… Some come in my genes, some come from the stars, some come from previous lives and universes, and others from childhood traumas… who knows… Little by little, I try to work on a few of them, to become better… to evolve… So that the spirit leaving my body at the end will be different than the one that came first. And if it all ends there, oh well… I won’t know. But if I go somewhere else, my hope is that I won’t have to deal again with the same personal challenges. I have a few of them down, and now it’s time to work on other much big ones.