Purpose was easy to find, in the cave man days. Eat or be eaten. Hunt or be hunted. When struggling for survival, the meaning of life takes on a different feeling. Survival imbues life with its own meaning. Staying warm, fed, clothed. These are the tasks of life.
But once those questions have been answered, and survival is assured, then once again we turn inward or outward or upward and wonder what the purpose is. Great thinkers have posed the question, and answered. Joseph Campbell said, “Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to ife. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.” So is the meaning of life to give your own life meaning?
Some Christian scholars believe the meaning of life is to love God and serve according to his purpose. What then is God's purpose? Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all you heart soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. So if we are loving God, and loving our neighbors, what does that look like?
For someone who studies the Tao, the meaning of life is to understand the profound unity of the universe and study a path that joins that unity rather than disturbing it.
Even those who follow no religious pursuit, who claim no ties to God, or Buddha, or Tao, even they search for a meaning to why we are here. Charles Darwin said simply, “We are here because we evolved.”
That simplistic answer leaves us feeling empty and unfulfilled. Darwin may be right about evolution, but he missed the mark on purpose. Not purposefully. He missed failed to consider the purpose behind our evolution.
Which brings me back to my question. What am I doing here? How can any one of us get through our life, without some idea of what we'd like to accomplish? I set out, early on, to be a doctor. I wanted to help people feel better, to help them be well. And somewhere along the way, I had eight children, and I lost sight of medical school.
For a long time I drifted. Basic survival became a necessity, and I put behind me those lofty goals of medical school, of changing the world, and of helping people feel better. I couldn't help myself. How could I possibly help anyone else? After spending many years in a fog of poverty and abuse, I awakened one day to realize that I could make life better for my children, and that became my purpose. Make life better for my kids.
Along the way, I made life better for myself. As I came out of my shell and emerged into the world, I realized that life can be better for everyone. We can each make life better for ourselves, and for those around us. We don't have to discover great meaning and purpose to our being here. We can start where we are and create purpose for our lives right here.
Wherever you are today, you can ascribe meaning to your life. Begin by forgiving yourself for whatever mistakes, faults, and shortcomings you perceive. Then, think about the people in your life. Your children, your spouse, your boss. And as you think of them, send thoughts of love, acceptance and forgiveness. Surround them with love. After you finish sending love to the people in your life, take a moment to think of the people in your life you don't particularly like. You're ex-husband, ex-wife, ex-friend, ex-boss. All those people who cause you to grind your teeth, clench your jaw and who cause anxiety to well up like acid from the pit of your stomach. Think of people who hurt you, whether intentionally or not. Think of the ones you dislike, distrust, and abhorr. Before you let the anxiety, fear and frustration overtake you, pause for just a moment. Under your breath say the words, “I forgive you.” Take a deep breath and let the forgiveness wash over you. This is not easy, but you will be okay.
Letting go of resentment is one of the hardest and best things we can do for ourselves. The only thing harder is to forgive yourself. The meaning I give to my life is to share love, peace and forgiveness with the people around me. We are all surrounded with people, whether we like it or not. We have families, work, friends. For me, I will share love and forgiveness with my husband, with my kids. With my friends, and with you.
The reason I am here is because I am exactly where I need to be. The reason you are there is because you are exactly where you need to be. Whatever challenges you face, whatever struggles you endure, these are the lessons for you today. Embrace them. Learn from them. And share love with the people you meet.