I now know that the problem of deciding your purpose in life can be remarkably easy to resolve. The problem becomes much clearer when you cut through the fog of nonsense that religion, specifically, and society, in general, uses to obscure human nature. You will find that there is a much clearer answer to this question and I’ll state the first step:
You choose your own purpose.
That is all the first step is and I’ll explain why this is very important though this step is but a simple change in how you think. The hard part is actually working out what exactly you want to make your purpose in life but you’re not going to get very far and you are not going to have the commitment if you haven’t worked out that the responsibility to decide starts with you, and only you, in the first place.
I never knew this until quite recently. In hindsight it is obvious why it has been obscured because if you look at all the institutions in our society that make claims to be the moral arbiters or to provide the guidelines for human development then they, for the most part, are founded on beliefs that place the responsibility for your purpose with some thing that they claim is greater than you. They then go on to explain to you that your purpose is thus (…) and then insert something that meets their own wants, that furthers their own ends and which need not be relevant to your own need to find a meaning in life.
Many years ago I had attended both secular and religious schools and over the past few years I’ve examined other belief systems and how they address this topic of purpose and how they find meaning in life. Some destiny is an essential part of their practices and beliefs be they Muslims, Christian, Theosophy, Buddhist, or Scientology even, but these and every belief system that rely on the existence of some supernatural realm or entity or which promotes the arcane or a mysticism is ultimately doomed in providing any answer to the question of what is your purpose because these belief systems all have what are ultimately catastrophic flaws in understanding human nature. It is social pressure, ostracism, legalities, taxes or the inertia that comes from ignorance that maintains societies acceptance of these organized litany of nonsenses, not that they have any overwhelmingly useful intrinsic value to humanity.
They use a cruel strategy when it comes to “purpose” that more or less goes along the lines that without some higher being then there can be no purpose for something as all things that are made have been made for a purpose. They have this circular argument that they promote in which the idea is that you have no purpose unless you have a creator. From this follows an appeal to consequences that without purpose there is no meaning and without meaning then there is no point and with this nihilism they dig themselves into an ever deeper quagmire of their own design.
Now if you are one of the many who remain unconvinced about the existence of these supernatural creators and that what the universe really is can be found by what you can discover in nature around you rather than from made up stories then the idea of being told you have no purpose gets a bit worrying. Primarily because things that have no purpose end up being thrown into the trash in our society.
As equally skilful as the Theologians in subverting your right to choose your purpose are the propaganda of the ideologies of Statism, of institutions and of cults of personality that pervade our society. Be it North Korea, China or the Federal or Civil service bodies of a democracy, if the collective decides that you have no part in deciding your purpose then you are not free and if you desire this freedom to choose your purpose without deferring to the will of the collective then you are an enemy within.
So how do I justify that it is not wrong or bad to have no pre-defined purpose ? How do I present that without a God, without a Leader, without a State, without a Manager, without an Owner, to give you a purpose, then this remains a good thing ?
Well I need to show examples using things that are natural. I’m going to pick a tree in a forest. The purpose of a tree in a native forest was never to be turned into a power pole, firewood, or a boat. The tree grows naturally and it has its own intrinsic nature and it is us that purposes the tree for our own ends and the tree has no part in this decision. We’re not the only animals that use trees – boring insects, fungi, birds, snakes, beavers, rats, bacteria…. the list would go on as many other living things use the tree for their own needs too.
Naturally occurring things do not necessarily have any intrinsic purposes beyond their existence whereas created things necessarily have a purpose that was in the mind of the creator. To the State, the Institution, the Theocracy, or to the Leader this means that if they can rule you at a fundamental level of your existence if they dictate that you were created or state that you have no control over deciding your purpose.
On the other hand, if the person who favours self-determination, who has a freedom of will or has a naturalist worldview without a creator, then all things need not have any purpose and if they choose their own purpose then they have a fundamental freedom from any autocratic rule.
That is why this question of purpose is a powerful concept and if you accept this first step, that is that it is you that chooses, then you’ll find you’ve discovered the flaw in a lot of chains that are used to bind humanity.
So now that you have worked out that you are without purpose until you decide what this is then you’ll quickly find that things that are without purpose are painted as wrong, pointless, useless or bad. That is the shallow criticism you’ll get and it is easily countered.
The first point to make is that lack of purpose is not a bad thing – quite the contrary – a virgin forest remains a beautiful sight despite that fact that we have not felled the trees and given them a purpose of being patio furniture. A nice set of garden furniture can also be a beautiful sight too so I’m not making any case that natural things are intrinsically beautiful.
Is it bad that a tree can grow without being felled and given a purpose ? No, it is neither good nor bad but a neutral state of being and it is its natural ground state of it just is. Within nature you’ll find that to be without an intrinsic purpose is a very natural thing indeed.
Now the tree is not self-aware, is not self-conscious nor has a freedom of will as we have. The tree can no more decide to be a boat or a power pole as it can decide to be a tree. It is intrinsically a tree and will remain so. Equally we’re intrinsically human and will also remain so. There is nothing good or bad with that ground state of being without purpose.
The difference is that we are conscious and we have an individual freedom of will that allows us to make a choice about ourself. It is a natural state that we have evolved this freedom and this in its own way is neither good nor bad but it just is.
But a side-effect of our consciousness is that we now have a concept of purpose as an emergent property of this human nature. I’ll summarize this concept with the statement that,
The Universe is purpose-ready
i.e. the universe doesn’t preclude you choosing a purpose nor tells you what this purpose actually is. The fundamental structure of universe permits the existence of “choosing a purpose” in the same way that it allows the existence of “drinking water” even though it was many millions to billions of years after the Big Bang that there was any oxygen to form water, let along humans to use the water in this way. The fundamental particles of matter and the random nature that is at the heart of our universe gives us this freedom to choose.
So that’s the quick version of the ideas I have on purpose and this one simple concept, when reduced, can be shown to have a scope that extends through the fabric of the universe to the very heart of our human nature and our human culture. Our origin may be from the matter of stars but we have evolved the ability to choose a purpose for ourselves and with this ability we can alter the outcome of the Universe itself.
I hope you can now see the forest and the trees.