Still in late teens, it was indeed a reason to be happy to spend time with as learned and accomplished an individual as him. I was rightly excited. Moreover, I was hopeful to get answer to my puzzle!
We were enjoying steak. He was logically driving others’ opinions to his conclusions. I mustered myself up to ask a question, hitherto my favorite and futile in others’ view: What is your aim in life?
“What do you mean…?”
“I mean to ask what your aim in life is?” It served him no purpose.
Silence prevailed which made me feel slightly impudent. He kept on chewing for a while. “What sort of a foolish question is this.” He raised his shoulders and eyebrows.
What is slight impudence? I thought. Let it be substantial, if at all.
“That’s immaterial. A foolish doesn’t answer wise questions but a wise should answer foolish ones.”
“We achieve our aim in life by setting smaller aims at relatively closer milestones. That’s how we achieve something big in our lives.”
“And what’s that ‘big thing’ in your life, which unknowingly happens to be your actual aim.”
Now, in heart of my hearts, I was cursing the moment when during my childhood I read about single difference in human and other animal life; a purpose. What’s the purpose of my life? I only found a single way out of this labyrinth; asking others with intent to secretly choose the best answer for myself.
Suddenly light went off and that was remarkable opportunity to end it. It normally doesn’t happen in Texas Steak House but that night it did happen. It was total dark in front of my eyes. I thus decided not to chase anymore answers from others as I was upset to know it to be insignificant, a perfect justification implying my abnormality against my peers. Thanks God I later learnt about Confessions made by Tolstoy, discourses of Rick Warren and spiritual lifestyles of saints; only to regain my self confidence.
Purpose of life invariably gets entangled with notion of happiness. Further reflection only develops a firm belief: True and lasting happiness is not attained through possession or achievement, neither through self gratification. In fact any hypothetical level of professional competency and business success cannot generate an accomplished meaning of life. Rather after touching that financial pinnacle, life at once becomes meaningless. One can be a superb success, meet all his goals and still lead a purposeless life. Life is not about plain speed; but about direction. A man without compass may travel very efficiently but would not know or reach his destination.
It therefore has to be commitment to something great. Same great purpose which that learned and confident individual enjoying steak was naively thinking? I was at same one liner difference of animal and human life. The purpose! After years of search for a great purpose I am certain that search of great purpose for life is in itself one great purpose. Philosophizing this further would invariably lead me to perform reverse engineering of my life. An idea that I owe to Covey – what do I want to die as? ‘Happy’; and here I am at standpoint of my brainteaser. The tug of war played between aim and happiness triggered a cause-effect conundrum in which I painfully reached some conclusions.
I believe that purpose must not die because if it does, life becomes typical animal life thereupon. It must be spiritual but spiritual blankness is worldwide. At times, I did find what I wanted but only in letters and academic form – definitely not in spirits and reality.
Not only spirituality, I also have faith that benchmark of true and genuine purpose must surpass barrier of one’s biological death so that even at the near end of life, one still feels committed and dedicated to a cause. It therefore has to be a legacy. A combination of such spiritual legacy would mean two things. Purpose never dies and life never becomes meaningless; meaning of life remains eternal and would continue even after death.
After much deliberation, I have learnt that if we stop making attempts to be happy and make deliberate endeavors to find happiness for our fellows; that will just do the purpose. Thus spreading unconditional and genuine love amongst mankind fits the required definition of purpose – at least for me. It is about making efforts for others to be happy, helping them over with their life and being of utility to mankind. Sense of achievement comes not through owning a status or by being rich and powerful; it comes through service to humanity. This rule is in perfect harmony with what my religious belief tells me; the best amongst mankind is the one who is best to the mankind.
Beautifully said and chosen topic. The legacy should surpass biological death and purpose stays on. The fulfillment of ones life is not by achievements but what we left behind for the world, the kind words, books, education we imparted and the ideals even planted in our younger generation….
being of utility to mankind…yup that should be it. though i admit i have wondered through all the above, probably all my life, and still not found an answer (though honestly didnt endeavour much for it..im sure pretty much like that gentleman you’ve mentioned above). but helpful to others, helping them acheive THEIR goals, wow…should definitely bring happiness.