Finding Purpose

What’s the point?

I hear this phrase more often than I wish I did. It pokes it’s head into a variety of conversations.

Clean your room.
What’s the point?

If you want to be an Engineer, you’ll need to be better at math.
What’s the point?

Stop moping. Find something to do.
What’s the point?

Help your little sister.
What’s the point?

Young boy bored looking out at a rainy landscape without purpose
What’s the point?

What’s the point?” is the teenage translation for the preschool “Why?“. From such a young age, human beings search for the reason behind action or, more aptly, reason for action. The preschooler’s focus on ‘Why?‘ stems from a genuinely curious exploration of the world. Whereas, the adolescent’s ‘What’s the point?‘ carries with it a deep connotation of hopelessness. It has an embedded complaint that compensation has not been met previously, so…

WIFM Syndrome

Materialistically, this is the WIFM (What’s In It For Me) Syndrome. Action is legitimate relevant to potential personal gains. If all humans followed this formula and only acted in exchange for materialistic compensation, how could our world ever progress? Until our actions reach beyond self to encompass communal benefit, this civilization will likely continue to struggle divided. The measure of humanity remains inverse to our measure of self.

How do we change the mindset? Have we lost sight of Purpose?

A bee recognizes the purpose of the yellow flower
Convince the bee that the flower has no purpose.

Function is Purpose

This Universe, this world, each species, each and every atom at the micro or the macro level, within all spheres and spaces, individually and collectively has a function and, therefore, exhibits purpose. In High School Biology we studied the organs of the human body defining and distinguishing them by their functions. The liver keeps our blood clean, breaking down fats and filtering harmful substances. It ensures that our blood composition meets the standard necessary for good health.

The heart contracts rhythmically and consistently from our birth till the day we die, pumping blood throughout the body. That blood transports oxygen and vital nutrients to each cell and then collects the carbon dioxide and refuse to expel outside the body. The skin not only provides protection for the body by preventing the loss of essential fluids, but it also regulates temperature and the excretion of toxic substances in the form of sweat. Each organ has a function and together all those functions carry the purpose of extending life.

Even the smallest cell consists of internal parts that each have a function designed to further the growth and development of that cell as it interacts within the organs within the human form.

Earth precisely placed within the solar system
Assure the precisely placed Earth that gravity has no purpose.

I see function and, therefore, purpose in each element of life. I challenge you to name any element of existence that does not have purpose. Given all these layers of purpose that shape and form life, why do so many of us feel a lack of purpose?

Purpose Satisfies When it Touches the Heart

No doubt, for some purpose is as basic as survival. We need food, shelter, and companionship to meet physical needs. Eventually, this type of purpose feels hollow. The mundane passage of time, measured by hump days and paychecks, holidays and birthdays, beats onward as our physical capacities diminish and still the hollow is there. Mocking and teasing. Begging to be acknowledged and desperate for fulfillment. That level of purpose satisfies physical immediate needs but it fails to touch the heart.

Human beings carry an elevated form by way of intellect and the power to choose. That elevated form requires a sense of purpose beyond individual and beyond the physical. As children we ask ‘Why?‘. Without satisfactory answers, as teenagers we declare ‘What’s the point?‘. Without a higher purpose we will flounder, dissatisfied and unable to define ‘What’s missing?

It’s Saturday

The garden as seen from my mother's bedroom window
Her view of the garden

I sit in the quiet. I like the quiet. It’s Saturday. The air is chill. The sun hasn’t reach the garden yet. It teases from the rooftops of neighboring homes. In the summer it shines down directly over the garden rendering it impossible to sit and challenging to breathe. This morning I swept the patio, brushing dust and stones back into place. I even swept the pavers. Then, I filled the feeders and came inside. I sat on her sofa to wait for the birds to come.

A sparrow perched on a back yard bird feeder
Sparrows were her favourite


I want it to look lovely for her. She always liked things tidy and in their place. Now I have to keep it that way, don’t know when she may be looking. I don’t want to disappoint her.

The sparrows live in the Oleander bush outside the kitchen window. I should call it a tree actually, or perhaps just an enormously overgrown bush. I don’t think the sparrows care what I call it. They call it home. They live there because she kept the feeders full for them every day. With a steady food supply, only a fool bird would live anywhere else.

A large pigeon and two small sparrows sip water from a green cement bird bath
Pigeons and Sparrows share water

The pigeons and doves also come. They are a bit large for the feeders but that doesn’t stop them from trying to land there. They flutter their wings and twist to perch themselves, swinging the feeder slightly till they gain balance from its imbalance. Gently swinging, they dive their beaks into the seeds, eating a few and cascading a shower below for their comrades. The foragers amble over the patio, pavers, and stones pecking at the seeds that fall between. The garden is busy and full of life when the birds come. No wonder she loved to watch them. It’s a show whose theme remains the same but not a single action repeats. It’s difficult to pull my eyes away for fear that I’ll miss something.

I wanted to see them today…in the quiet. Do they know that she is gone? Do they feel her absence like I do? The stories from now belong to us. Her story has gone to print, no more edits or redos. And those of us left behind Chinese whisper the details.

Why didn’t I speak?

The Unsaid

Some things are better left unsaid. But how to un-think? Just because I haven’t spoken doesn’t change the reality. Or does it? It might alter others’ perception of me but not my awareness of myself. Words unspoken linger in the mind building bridges to no escape, towers and tunnels. They burrow and twist, torturous thoughts sharp-pointed, incessant. There is no escape from me. I am who I am because I was who I was and it shapes my will be.

Countless times I choose not to speak. I see the opportunity drift past, a window open and wide…inviting. If I jump through, I fall somewhere else, at a slightly different angle or sometimes on a different path altogether. It’s like a portal to another me. I hold my tongue and watch the portal pass, wondering if I made the right choice. Should I have spoken? Or more importantly, why didn’t I speak? My thoughts are still there, whether anyone else realizes it or not. My thoughts are still there, but there is no trail for anyone else to follow. I’m a ghost there and a ghost here.

A Coward or Cautious?

muslim woman standing before a tall tree with a large bird concealed within the branches
In silence…

I could define myself a coward, afraid and unwilling to announce my point of view. I could define myself as cautious, careful to observe and measure my words appropriately. Perhaps I am a cautious coward altogether. It’s so much safer to hide in my thoughts…or, is it? In my thoughts, un-tethered, I risk drifting.  But, never too far. For here in my thoughts at the core, my faith does prevail immutable. I know You watch over me. I lean on You, revolve around You, a pilgrim, hallowed in purpose. With You as my center, I am never alone. With You as my center, I can’t possibly lose my self  from myself. Silence doesn’t mean that I have nothing to say, it means some things are better left unsaid.