The Never-Ending Process of Purpose

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Traveling cross country from San Francisco to our new New York City apartment with a caravan full of “stuff,” and the blaring sun reminding us how burning hot it can be, I thought about the word purpose, a purpose unto itself. Purpose was all around me. In fact, we were in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond store, and I heard this song I don’t know, and the crooner is singing about finding something to believe in or not living. Those weren’t the exact words, but I was holding too much “stuff” to write it down.

But what I did get to do, and I thought it quite exciting—wish I had a video camera—was to interview people I had met about what they thought when I said the word purpose. What the heck, I thought. Michael Black hit the salient features of “purpose,” and I couldn’t agree more. Carole added some purposefulness to the word, and Rita gave us many writers’ and philosophers’ quotes on the subject. All great in their own way. Susan and Hannah had existential definitions for the words as their day and adventures took them into the here and now, the ever important daily purpose, or describing obstacles to achieving one’s purpose.

A young bartender we met, Danielle, a wise 24 year old, answered that question. Here is a bit of the conversation. Larry, my husband, added a few things, also.

P: What is purpose?

D: It is cause and effect, everything happens for a reason.

P: Is it transient?

D: Yes it is.

P: So it changes.

D: Of course.

P: Does it change as your life changes, or as the experience changes? Can one experience have several purposes, or is it that you have to go through an experience, and in that experience there is a purpose?

D: For me you have to go through an experience that has a purpose, then you have another experience and that has a purpose.

L: Pat, why the meeting with Danielle and Tierney (another interviewee—is that a word?), what was the purpose?

D: Hey, that’s what I said when I went home last night. I met those people for a reason, not just to serve them wine. If I meet this Joy (a person we recommended) and she helps me with something that is life changing, then that’s the purpose of our meeting. You become the purpose.

So what I have gleaned about “what is purpose” is this: There’s a silent movement to it. Its vicissitudes in life are individual, constantly changing, and very important. There may even be an ingredient of serendipity to the mix. My cousin, Wally Gold, a songwriter (who wrote “It’s my Party” and “It’s Now or Never” and others) said that because of serendipity, he met Aaron Schroeder, the music king at that time, and that changed his life and his life’s purpose. Maybe for me, the benefit of this trip, in a spiritual way, was to help people take a look at what is truly meaningful to them.

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