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The Man Who Had No Purpose

by on December 17, 2014

                                                    The Man Who Had No Purpose

                                                             by Marco M. Pardi 

Note: All comments are appreciated, read, and responded to accordingly.  The COMMENTS sections for all previous articles have been opened for use.  I will certainly look forward to your comments. 

“Ours is a world where people don’t know what they want and are willing to go through hell to get it.” Don Marquis (1878-1937).  In “Thoughts on the Business of Life”.

In my Freshman year at Gilmour Academy Brother Adolphus (not his real name), an exemplary teacher in the very fullness of the word,  tasked his English class with a writing assignment, the title of this blog piece.  I will not pretend to remember the words I wrote, but I do remember the tone those words conveyed.  To say “adrift” would be to imply movement, perhaps even direction.  To say “lonely” would be to imply a wish to connect with others.  Neither was there, for neither was true.  My man stood beneath a streetlight.  My man had no sense of connection to others, nor even the desire for such.  My man was awarded an A+, marking me, at least in the minds of others, as having a purpose: writing,  or some form of communication with others.  10 to 12 students per class, of the record setting 75 Freshmen at most 33 would graduate.  Perhaps they discovered their purpose elsewhere.  Many would go on to CEO positions or high ranking military or government positions, despite Gilmour.  Some families tend to identify the purpose for a child.

Moving on through life was largely a process of repeatedly coming awake, like an alcoholic coming out of blackout, and wondering what had brought me to this point, what was I doing.  I knew only that my fundamental value was personal freedom, irrespective of the circumstances in which I found myself.  Except for only a very few classes,  school was boring to the point of near fatal depression.  It was the crushing of soul I would read of in Hermann Hesse’s book Beneath the Wheel; from primary school through today I average one book per week.  Scoring an I.Q. in the high 150s at age 11 was okay, having it known was not.  It became the club used for mental beatings,  the evidence that I was flawed because my schoolwork did not match my “potential” whatever that was.  I knew only that one day, potentially, I would be free.  Reading fiction, all of Hesse and several others was good so long as I learned something.  Mainly I read non-fiction.

In the military I rented Uncle Sam my body, and kept my mind for myself.  I was 25 at my first marriage.  The woman’s family, fanatic Scandinavian Lutherans, insisted on a church wedding.  The minister insisted on a period of “pre-marital” counseling.  Soon into the first session he asked me if I was certain this was the woman I would want for the rest of my life.  I laughed as I told him it was absurd to ask such a question of a 25 year old and he would be foolish to believe the answer.  Immediately spared from further sessions,  we learned he refused to perform the ceremony.  I secured a second session with him, long enough for him to weigh my sincerity in the roll of bills placed in his palm.  Clerics have such a way of divining purpose in life.

I occasionally received updates and reunion invitations from schools I attended.  I was amazed at the number of my classmates listed “In Memory”.  They lived, they struggled, they may even have sensed a purpose.  They died.  Several died in the abattoir of Viet Nam.  Somehow, I doubt many of them would agree with the “purpose” intoned solemnly over their caskets.

Recent decades have seen the proliferation of books, DVDs, other media, and workshops purporting to help us answer the question, “What the hell am I doing here?”  The authors and presenters seem to have a clear purpose: separate you from your money.  Of course, it seems many people don’t ask anyway.  They eat, they shit, they die, with occasional reproduction and distracting entertainment along the way.  For them, the bottom line is: Okay, you were born; now make the best of it.

But few people seem to examine the nature of the drive to ask the fundamentally existential question,  the Why am I here question.  It has been said the human mind is hard wired to look for causation; there must be a reason this effect, being here, is in place.  It also seems this question is not commonly asked by people enjoying the moment.  Yet, when things are dark and painful Nietzsche is not an uplifting person to call,  nor is Albert Camus.  Camus’ L’Etranger was one of the most devastating books I’ve read, along with Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon.  Even the Dalai Lama, and several rinpoches,  offer the masses largely a matter-of-fact approach to life, something which doesn’t usually climb the charts.

No, we want Mr. Happy.  Rick Warren and Joel Osteen currently lead the charts, with numerous others fielding books, DVDs, and other spin-offs.  “But, wait!  There’s more!”  The mere fact that there are so many of these books on the market should suggest they do not carry the answer.    

Perhaps the most despicable of the purveyors of purpose are those who take the existential question and loop it back into a proposed state which, hoped for in the future, is granted a past; the state of non-corporeal existence “before you were born.”  I have explained my position on non-corporeal existence exhaustively in other posts on this blog, making it clear that I deem it a certainty but without the illogical trap of a god or super spirit.  Having said that, I re-clarify that such existence is of a nature other than the “time” we experience when observing the ever changing coalescence of what we call the physical.   Thus, existence in this dimension is such that we, as physical entities, can reckon a “before” the particular coalescence we call ourselves, a “during”, and an “after”.  But timelessness has no end points, in any direction.  It does not even have an identifiable, fixed point.  Our orientation to the physical presents us with fixed points and end points which we wrongly project onto this other dimension of existence when in fact these concepts are irrelevant.

Digging themselves deeper,  the purveyors of purpose devise a “before” period for us during which we confer with various non-corporeal authority figures and chart out a physical life to come in order to experience and learn from that which we are so far lacking or to make amends for something we did in a previous lap around the block.  This convenient little paradigm allows us to do several things:

  1. Displace the responsibility for one’s current miserable state

    (content people rarely ask why they are content) onto some

     pre-ordained plan which is larger, and therefore more

     authoritative than the self.  KEYWORD – shirk.

2.  Compensate for a sense of personal inadequacy (It’s in the

     Plan).

3.  Develop and inflate self importance (I was sent here on a

      mission and the people and events in my life are to serve

      my purpose).

and,

4.  Develop and reinforce the hope, generated out of self-

     love, that even should we fail we will get to repeat the

     process as the same person we love so much.

Can there be anything more simple minded than this?  Yes.  Buying the books that purport to tell you how to discover your life’s purpose.  Going to the workshops to hear the speakers milk the audience, like vampires draining the life blood of approval from their victims so they can live on to the next workshop.

I’ve said before, in so many words, that as far as it is logical to me, there is only one time when you can know what your life has been all about: In the moments it is ending.  I’m appalled when I hear so many people say they want to sleep through their death.  ESD.  Eat. Shit. Die. That must be the sum of those lives.

Years ago I happened to be in the area of Gilmour Academy on a separate matter.  I stopped by Gilmour to see who might still be around.  Brother Adrian (actual name) taught me a Sophomore biology class which was almost identical to that which I took in college years later.  I wanted to tell him that.  He was not there.  But,  my guide through the re-modeled campus (now co-ed) was an upper classman who had become a priest and served at the campus.  As we toured the new underground tunnels connecting the various buildings I enquired about Brother Adolphus.  The priest continued through the tunnels, explaining that, built for winter, they were hardly ever used during summer breaks.  He stopped at a particular bend and turned to me.  “This is where Brother Adolphus was found.  He had shot himself to death during a summer break.”

Knowing Brother Adolphus even for the short time I did,  I was quite certain that, as he stared into the barrel of that revolver he took his time to sum up what he thought had been his purpose.  My mind flashed to that writing assignment and I wondered just how long Brother Adolphus had been pondering purpose.

 

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13 Comments
  1. Having read this offering several times over, it still leaves me scratching my head. Your skill as a wordsmith continues to astound me. with only those few words of description, I can “see” your man under that lamppost and feel his emptiness. How is this? Alone and lonely are two different words, two different feelings. Some of us feel that more acutely than others. We are best when alone; lonely in a crowd.

    The oldest question for thinking man must be, “what is the meaning of life?”. There must be more than “eat, shit, die”, but if life has a purpose, what is it? And has my life, has any life, fulfilled its mission? I don’t exactly believe that we come here with a “script” to follow (that’s abdicating both fault and power to fate), but if there’s no purpose, there’s no point.

    I help people. It’s what I do. It’s who I am. I sometimes wish this was not so, but if my life has a purpose, this is it.

    This has seemed an odd subject, coming from someone who has had purpose and meaning in so many lives. We who have known you have been changed by the knowing. I can’t answer for the others, but I think more, know more, do more, dream more because you have been a part of my life. Thank you for that, Rose

    • Rose, I have had mystical experiences since early childhood, and had no idea what they were. As an adult, they unnerved me more each time (afterward), despite the bliss and connection to everything in the moment.

      I wonder if I would have ever known what was “happening” to me had it not been for having Marco at my questioning disposal. I treasure each experience (now fully), as well as the great minds who contribute to these discussions. I’ve learned so much from all of you.

    • Thank you, Rose. And thank you Dana. I think it is clear we find meaning and purpose in each other, and am so glad we do. Marco

    • Rose, Dana and Mark. Sorry to be so short with my replies. Am traveling, and connecting through some weird ways. Will do more when I can. In the meantime, my most sincere thanks to each of you. Marco

  2. Dana permalink

    Marco, as a 4-8 year old child exploring my back yard, or the woods, or the cemetery, I never wondered “Why am I/are we here?” Instead, it was “What are we?” and “HOW are we?” The what and how thoughts left me in awe, and still do.

    I once heard Oprah Winfrey confidently state, “Every single human being was placed here for a reason and/or purpose.” (paraphrased – insert the clichéd “AHA! moment” nonsense from the audience). Sure, there is a reason I am here – simply because my parents knocked boots in 1970. End of story.

    High 150s… No surprise there!

  3. Thank you, Dana. I’m so glad you are back. If I could wish, I would wish time would place us together in childhood. Now that would be something!

    • Dana permalink

      Thank you! It is good to be here. I have often thought the same thing about us as children.

      It is neat to think that we can develop our own purposes, if fortunate enough to do so. I have found that too often “purpose” is linked to permanent career choices or financial success only, by many of the so-called self-help “gurus.” There is definitely much more meaning and purpose together here with our friends.

  4. Mark Dohle permalink

    I believe we are children in some ways. Or we lost it and need to get it back. Faith is not a relief from the struggle of all the ‘why’s’ of life, it does however give some kind of path that actually gets more opaque as one travels down it. None of our pious ideas come true, we are not protected from whatever happens, bad things, good things, love or hatred…..they happen. Perhaps down deep it is our reactions that allow us to return to a childlike position, not a childish one.

    Trust is a choice, a hard one, the deeper we go into faith, the darker it seems to get. Why is that? Christian mystic give an answer, it works for some, kind of works for me……in the end, we just get through the day, and my faith gives me a compass, though the road again is over some kind of abyss…..death most likely.

    When we die, what do we take with us (?)…..we are seeds yet to be planted, our death is the time for that. Perhaps to trust in the the process (whatever that is) is the way to go deeper and to come out on the others side a ‘child’, what that looks like I have no idea.

    For me Christ on the cross shows me my soul, my life, as well as the souls and lives of all mankind and creation…..I do not believe it is a dead end, but something ‘other’, in a way that is impossible to imagine.

    When I was seven, I got a knife out of my mother’s kitchen and went out to our small freshly plowed field. I looked at the knife and wondered if I should kill myself or not….in the end I thought it stupid and put the knife back. I of course never told my mum (or anyone for that matter) about that. I guess something in me decided to trust, even if I did not know at the time what it was. My faith gives an ever growing inkling, but it is just inkling, something I nourish and try to grow.

    Thanks Marco for your honesty.

    Peace
    Mark

    • Thank you so much, Mark for your thoughtfulness and your tolerance. You live a life I might well have chosen for myself. Perhaps I had a different purpose. I treasure our friendship. Marco

      • Mark Dohle permalink

        Thank you my friend. I am truly honored to be your friend.

  5. diannejoydiamond permalink

    I remember reading this post when it first came out. I wanted to respond to the phrase of
    “eat, shit and die.” I think we develop our purpose in life as we go along. Experiences, both positive and negative, are the paving stones which help us build our individual path. A friend posted the link below on fb today. As I read the characteristics of one who has lived on earth in another lifetime, his list of 4 completely describes you, dear Marco. (Especially the 3rd one!)
    I would love to hear what you think. Be sure to watch the short video at the end of the article. http://nativewarriors.net/4-signs-that-this-isnt-your-first-life-on-earth.html

    • Wow, Dianne. I read the site you provided. Now you’ve got me spooked. I’m looking around the house wondering if you’ve been living with me all these years!

  6. Thank you so much, Dianne. You know I treasure your thoughts. I will check that site. But you probably know I’m not much of a reincarnation guy. In fact, I hope never again – at least not here.

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