On Purpose

[some musings on Christmas morning]

We’ve all had that conversation: do you think we’re here for a purpose? A few times, when I’ve written something well, really captured lightning in a bottle, my more philosophical friends have asked whether I thought writing was my purpose, why I was here on earth. I’ve thought about this a bunch, and if you’ll forgive me veering from travelogue to theology, let me give you my take on the question: No.

No, I don’t believe in “purpose”. I do, however, believe in “opportunity”, and I think they’re closer than most people think. Purpose is about “should”, with an implied rule book; opportunity is about “can”.  Is there a moral imperative for you to stop and watch the sunset? No. Will your life be enriched if you do? Yes.

Kindness to others, creating beauty and helping those around you see it, appreciating the beauty they have created – these are all opportunities. Purpose is paint-by-numbers, a school field trip to the museum where you follow the droning docent. Opportunity is watercolor and a field of wildflowers.

Purpose abdicates responsibility; opportunity requires us to give meaning to our own lives. Or not – it is, after all, only opportunity.

I don’t believe my purpose here on earth to write, to be a good friend, father and husband, to do what I can to alleviate human suffering, and to create and share beauty when I find it. In my mind, purpose is too narrow a recipe for a life like this. But the world has given me the opportunity to do – or try to do – all these and more, and I give meaning to my life by embracing them as best I can. Uh, on purpose.

[Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take the opportunity to play with my kids, then pick some of those lemons from our tree out back and go bake a pie. Whoever said that “If life gives you lemons” bit clearly had never tasted a good lemon meringue pie.]

2 responses to “On Purpose

  1. Excellent point, well written, and a great lens to see choices through. Also along these lines purpose is static while opportunity is dynamic, and bears considering from time to time.So in the case of the original question, writing may be an opportunity for you to pursue now or at some point in the future, an ongoing choice to watch.


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