| Chase Tibbs |
Has the contemplation of your own existence ever left you feeling anxious? Every wonder and worry about the purpose and meaning of life, your life? Me too.
I’ve wondered what life, the actuality of existing, means. What does it mean to say life has purpose? On the flip side, what would it mean for me, and every human being, and the animals that cover the land, and the fish that care for the sea, and even the atoms that work beyond my knowing…what would it mean to say that all of this, all of living, is meaningless?
I know; kinda heavy stuff, right? In my past, I’ve either been afraid to ask the question or have jumped to find an answer. It’s this mystery, complexity and depth of life that makes me shutter; while it’s also the mystery, complexity and depth of life that has inspired me to imagine, and wonder, and ask challenging questions.
Traditionally, I’ve heard meaning and purpose as something that is prescribed, predetermined. “You have no influence in shaping your purpose,” I’ve been told. I’m simply supposed to find it, dust it off, and do it. Or, maybe it’s already been uncovered and my purpose is solely to submit. Another way meaning and purpose have been discussed is that neither actually exists; life is meaninglessness itself happening all around us so nothing we say or do has any meaning whatsoever. A third way I have heard meaning and purpose of life discussed is an individual is completely self-determined. The individual is the only influence upon itself. It is independent from all others, reliant only upon its own wisdom and its own desires.
But none of these seem to uphold mystery. None of these seem to acknowledge complexity. None of these seem to see the beauty that is in you and the beauty that is in me and the beauty that is in the morning song of the birds. It’s not that these are simply unsatisfying. My contention with these perspectives is all of these seem to reduce existence, in all its infinite complexity, to the finite minds of human beings. How small.
Maybe there’s something deeper to life than submitting to authority, despairing into meaninglessness, or simply doing this all by our separate selves. Maybe purpose is both, individual and communal; meaning, both singular and plural; life, both received and created.
This week, in WAYfinding, we'll engage with these ideas through the wisdom of author and activist Parker Palmer. We'd love for you to add your voice! Simply let us know you're coming.