Life purpose

What are we here for?

 

One of the biggest crimes at work in the world has been complacency and indifference.

It allows questionable outrages to take place unnoticed and unrestrained. Tracks can be covered, false claims made, facts massaged, victims forgotten, vast sums of money can be shifted illicitly and situations and their causes can be concealed.

Many of us are aware of what's happening and we do feel concern, yet our busy lives and our remoteness from events and decision-makers create a culture of indifference and marginalisation of anything inconvenient. Society has become individualised, atomised and alienated. Sections of our psyches are compartmentalised and unintegrated so that we manifest different aspects of ourselves on Monday mornings, Friday nights and Sunday afternoons.


When you're suffering hardship it is easy to believe you're forgotten or ill-judged. Self-interest and 'national interest' are taken as the basis on which everything is organised. The old lady down the road or the victims of atrocities in East Timor, Tibet or Congo, for most of us, live in another world. Perhaps it's their problem, not my responsibility.

Such callous complacency, whether practised by omission or commission, reached almost cult proportions in the 1980s, but now new connections are being made and, awkwardly, we're realising that our own and others' problems are very connected.

This has led us into an uncomfortable zone where the responsibilities of being human are clarifying. When you drive your car, it affects someone else, and when others drive their cars, the affected person is you.

The collective psyche of humanity is one being. We are its eyes, hands and legs. The collective psyche functions like an integrated circuit. Most people ignore it, except in those instances when the phone rings and it's someone they have just been thinking about - but even then, it is often rationalised as 'chance' or 'how strange', in conformity with the cult of individualism.

But it isn't chance, and it's perfectly natural: a slip of the mind lets it past the self-editing process, allowing a short perception of the integral connectivity of the collective psyche.


Transpersonality

 

We live our lives on each other's behalf. Each of us is a facet of the same diamond, and we may choose to see either facets, or the whole diamond, or each as integral to the other.

Famine refugees live out their experience to assist people suffering plenty - this is the diamond at work, seeking to balance itself. Excesses such as famine and over-feeding do not have to exist - they represent opposite sides of the same coin called 'hunger and want', a manifestation of the poverty of the human soul. Affluence, hedonism and shopaholism are as much symptoms of malnourishment as starvation is.

Disproportions and excesses will subside only when the whole 'hunger and want' issue is collectively reduced to more workable, fair and moderate proportions, when poor, rich and average people interact and identify more directly with each other.

Wrongs such as hunger occur because we are culturally conditioned to visualise ourselves as separate and unconnected, which means that hungry people don't matter as long as we ourselves are well fed. Thus we render ourselves incapable of acting together in solidarity and synergy. Though individualised, we're nevertheless quite good at behaving as herds, because unconsciousness is involved - herd-mentality and togetherness are not the same thing.


Togetherness is the natural condition of humanity: we are tribal by nature, and the biggest tribe is humankind. Contact and responsivity between parts of the collective psyche need to be strengthened so that they consciously act as the parts of the same wholeness that we all are.

If this doesn't happen intentionally, our psyche tries to make it happen unconsciously. This is how Americans unconsciously created 9-11: the polarisation of cultural extremes between USA and Afghanistan became so large that a short-circuiting override took place, sparking across the gap and taking the form of 9-11.

Commendably, many Americans noted the deeper lesson, that de-polarisation, befriending and interaction must take place. Perhaps it is they who are the true US patriots.

Crises such as 9-11 help bring the inherent unity of humanity up to and over the threshold of public awareness. The collective psyche, seeking reintegration, can do this in two main ways: by raising collective awareness to give humans opportunity to reintegrate themselves, or by force and trickery to bring about similar results.

9-11 was a case of the second option trying to jump-start the first option. It widened a rift between the collective head (vested interests, gov't and institutions) and heart (public feeling). This rift will play itself out until resolved. 9-11 showed that the world psyche has embarked on a course of self-healing, though progress depends greatly on what all humans - not just Americans - decide.


Chocolateering

 

The wonders of a full stomach are optimised if we know what an empty stomach feels like. Chocolate is best enjoyed when it is an uncommon treat. Affluence is best appreciated if its benefits are shared and spread around.

Underprivileged people are generally far more efficient and productive energy-consumers than better-off people: they create greater benefit from smaller inputs. By rights this should be a global balancing factor, since energy follows the easiest path, but self-interest and unequal terms of trade intervene to co-opt poorer people as cheap labour and as servants to fulfill richer people's needs.

Poorer nations are lent vast sums to help them integrate into the rich-people's system, for rich people's profit and on their terms, and then they are expected to pay back the loans too, to multiply that profit. This is a recipe for disaster.

This is why the World Trade Center was hit: it was a warning that a global correction is in process.


Public awareness helps us knit our world into a more integral whole. One characteristic of modern crises is that many of them take place in corners of the world we hardly know - Albania, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Kalimantan, Tibet, Somalia and Rwanda now have a place on the world's mental map.

This has a psychically balancing effect, creating threads of attention and linkage between global extremes, encouraging energy-interchange between people who suffer the half-deaths of acute need or chronic plenty. Poor people receive material sustenance while rich people receive emotional sustenance. This unconscious trade acts as a basis for building a fairer, more conscious exchange which, eventually, will balance world conditions.

In early 2003 the isolated Solomon island of Tikopia was ravaged by a cyclone: the islanders survived using basic, well-honed survival skills which rudely mirrored back to urban TV-watchers their own survival-weakness and dependency on civilisation's appurtenances.

Boats were anxiously sent with disaster relief, but who, at that time, was in a greater disaster? The islanders, with their simple ways, or the TV-watchers who were embroiled in a declaration of war on Iraq to keep the oil flowing, to power their lifestyles? These very lifestyles indirectly caused that cyclone to hit Tikopia - swirled into a frenzy by weather conditions caused by global warming.


Spread your Wings

 

Wherever we live, it's a matter of lending more awareness to the wider world, of binding ourselves into the warp and weft of humanity's deeper experience.

We need to step beyond the scope of our personal lives and neighbourhoods. In a psychic sense, geographical distance does not exist: the criticals that separate us are cultural and experiential distance.

Compassion means feeling with others, putting ourselves in their boots and feeling what it's like to be them. Pity and sympathy are not required.

Insulation from the mainstream of world events is disaster-inducing - it reinforces humanity's unconnectedness and complacency. Semi-conscious compassion has steadily been growing in recent decades, yet many people feel emotionally strained after a moving crisis, and 'compassion fatigue' sets in.

This is a growth-pang, not unwillingness, and awareness-inducing activities change this. These can be pitched to fit into a busy schedule and to build a sense of active global participation.


Be careful to avoid getting caught up in the noise, dramas and jangle of the daily news, which is so often corrupted by the passing judgements of commentators and public figures. Subscribe to a weekly news-magazine or listen to or watch documentaries offering overviews and contextual analysis, to focus on the main issues and wider significance of current events.

Stand back and sift the valuable information from the attendant noise that is common in the media - they have column-inches and broadcast-minutes to fill. Watch for the small page-five comments that reveal important trends and less sensational yet symptomatically suggestive events.

What should we do? It is inadvisable to prescribe formulae. The challenge is to use the material of our life-experience to find our own special contributions and ways forward.

The greatest ingredient in world-healing is attention - attention given to the forgotten, concealed, ignored and covered-up aspects of reality. Even if you devote just one hour per week to such activities, consistently every week, it adds up to 500 hours over ten years.

Commitment and regularity work wonders. Find your own level, keep reviewing it, continue in the work and stay on the case. Next, we come to some useful suggestions.


Get on with your life's work

 

Of all the things we can do, this is crucial. The world is in a parlous state because we omit to pursue our callings - the tasks each of us came here to carry out. No one is here by accident - reflect on this.

We customarily set aside our life's work or delay it until conditions are right - and 'not yet' becomes never. Or we fall into the trap of believing we have no purpose, or no right to have one, or we can't make a difference: this is a parental or cultural conditioning pattern - 'little me' syndrome.

If we omit to develop our life's work, a conflict grows between our soul and personality. Part of us wishes to be somewhere else, to become or to do something else.

This weakening of presence, energy and attention, even if unconscious, is deeply compromising, a fight with fear or guilt. Today this fight is a major cause of disease, as the soul tries to prompt us to wake up and get on with it.


Cancer, a conversion of under-fulfilled soul-growth into unwanted physical cell-growth, lays it on the line, forcing us to commit to being alive and fully present.

Contracting an ailment such as cancer is a message that a soul is ready to move forward. Hence that cancer approaches epidemic proportions in our day.

A softer version is depression, a global epidemic in which hope subsides to a point where we must either re-frame the terms of our life, make an emotional breakthrough and let go of past patterns, or go under - our soul is trying to force us to decide to bring light into our hearts.

By withholding our gifts and commitment we deprive the world of opportunities, solutions and person-power. Imagine the staggering effect of millions of people withholding their life purpose. Imagine the unwritten music, uninvented innovations, unborn projects, unhelped people and unpainted pictures created by this.

During the 20th Century, denial of life purpose was standard practise, even though, supposedly, we possess free will. This withholding has been a crime against humanity, against ourselves, against nature. This is a tough statement, but there's truth in it. The ultimate act of free will is to serve the larger whole.

 


But what is my life's work?

 

God doesn't announce it out loud, and schools, parents and teachers rarely help. Even when you have a clear sense of it, it is difficult to sum up in words.

Life's work goes through a succession of phases. It is personal and specific: when you are on purpose, you feel you're in the right place at the right time doing the right thing, engaged and alive. When you're off purpose you feel stuck up an alleyway of meaninglessness, sidelined, possibly forever.

This isn't true, but it feels like that. Meaningless phases of life and the 'dark night of the soul' represent transitional periods where we are obliged to examine, revise and update our life-purpose.

Fulfilling our life's work - at least as much as life permits - is pretty much the most rewarding aspect of life available to us. When we leave life we take nothing with us, except for what we have become by being alive. This is life's big payoff, and nothing really works as a substitute. It's not what you get for what you do, it's what you become by doing it.

Here are a few clues to help you clarify your life-purpose...


When you were 7-12 years old, what did you dream of becoming when you grew up? Examine this for symbolic clues. If you dreamt of becoming a brain-surgeon, your purpose might actually be to help people change their way of thinking. Or perhaps you need to be crucially relied on to perform delicate, crucial actions. I dreamt of being an airline pilot and, while that's not my career, I do take people on long experiential journeys and, as with pilots, the toughest part of the job is successfully landing them on the ground again!

Think back to those instances when you felt deeply happy, engaged, alive and making a contribution, even if it was in a 'spare time' activity. Note the details of the situation and what felt special about it. What conclusions can you draw from this, and what will you do about it?

Choose several people you admire: what do you respect them for, and what qualities of theirs would you wish to emulate? Weave these into your life.

Look at what you most fear. Our life's work is scary because it involves rising to our full stature and standing up for our commitment. Review instances in your life where you felt really scared. What were you scared of, and what did you do then? Look for further fears hiding beneath that. Note it all down and, next time, use your fear to move forward. Many people who have changed history started out afraid and in despair - this is a clue.

What do you know you must do? If you were given the money and opportunity to fulfil your dreams, what would you do? Since you probably don't have that money and opportunity, what are you going to do about it anyway, now? What contribution would it make to others?

 


Push the Limits!

 

If you are walled inside a comfort-zone of regularised life-habits, the winds of change cannot easily reach you except by forceful disruption.

So it is necessary to 'tread the edge' a bit more. Take the risk of stirring up elements of your life and stepping out. Go on, live more dangerously!

Take steps to change your consumption patterns: cut your car-driving or give people lifts, change your energy consumption and diet, and check the sourcing of products you buy. Security and life-purpose tend to conflict: you don't have to be insecure, but you do need to be clear that fear of insecurity should not stop you from moving forward.

Security is relevant, but it should not be an obstacle. If in doubt, throw it all up in the air and see what comes back to you. Be willing to take risks and to actually 'do the business'. To build a wonderful garden or to help single mothers, there's hard work involved - skills-development, trial-and-error, uptimes and downtimes, experience-gathering and dealing with circumstances.

People might discourage or criticise you: how much does this matter? Fear of failure or of insecurity might challenge you and there might be hurdles to cross, but these exist to hone your focus and commitment. When you surmount them, you unlock doors, set miracles in motion and gain headwind or assistance.


Here's a tricky one. What did your parents succeed or fail in achieving with their own lives, that was significant to them? Even if you choose to live life differently from them, there will still be common threads and similarities between their and your life-purposes. Check out your ancestors too: the 'life-purpose gene' can hop a generation or two.

What world issues most stir you up? These might manifest far away in Ethiopia or Mexico yet, if they stir us up, they invariably connect with dilemmas or pain we too face or have faced, or with situations where we have felt helpless, wronged or victimised. Our life purpose has something to do with righting wrongs we have experienced, and with assisting others in learning what we have learned or still are learning.

This is a good envisioning tool. Visualise yourself (say) twenty years from now. Follow your imagination: visualise what life will be like, in factual terms - what you're doing, what's happening, what and who are around you. See yourself and feel out the details of your life at that time. How do you feel about it all? What are you doing and what contribution are you making? What is fulfilling and what is challenging? How are others responding? What to you love and what do you fear about it? Explore it fully, and get the whole picture. When you feel complete, close it down and write down the scenario, immediately. Then have a think about it. Make a timetable of dates and goals along the path to that time. Make a few notes about the experience.

The following can help you clarify what to do with the rest of your life. When we near our death, if we have not made progress with certain important things, we regret it as a lost opportunity. So, visualise yourself at the end of your life, dying, and feel the feeling of it. In this situation, what do you most regret having omitted to do - or to be? If you had your chance over again, what would be different next time? Choose 3-5 items. What wider effects would these have on the world around you? Explore the details of your feelings. Then come out of the visualisation, back to the present - yes, you're still alive! - and write down any thoughts arising from the experience. Perhaps you need to do these things in the time between now and your death.

 

NEXT:
Weapons of Mass-Reconstruction