PURPOSE AND THE MEANINGFUL LIFE – SUMMARY (continued)

It follows without great difficulty that the purpose of relationships (proximal purpose) is to facilitate these internally deduced purposes for each other,  The subtlety here concerns differences that various types of relationship impose on each party. Different relationships entail different degrees of reciprocal support for each other’s internal purpose; while some types involve unique roles. Romantic love offers one form of extreme intimacy, including physical and spiritual interconnectedness, metaphysical wholeness, experience of the beautiful, and perhaps even transcendence of space and time. Romantic love of course also is the common means for biological continuance through reproduction. True friendship offers a second type of extreme intimacy with another – this free of the burden of physical desire – including an enduring mutual altruism, a unique quality of pleasure in association, growth of the self, and a metaphysical confirmation of the other in reality and of the universe in the finite.

Family purpose includes belonging to a group with shifting roles throughout life, informing one’s sense of identity, ethics, and fate, providing psychological sanctuary, and for some, experiencing a divine or transcendental understanding that one can extend to all of humanity or even all living things. Acquaintances, while of mixed value, fill a nearly universal human need for the companionship of other humans. Strangers offer purpose in learning to overcome psychological obstacles of unsociability and prejudice, the experience of diversity and the opportunity for novel relationships of greater breadth.

Societal and cosmic purpose are perhaps more precarious than internal and proximal purpose, requiring a more analytical approach considering personal and environmental factors. Nonetheless they represent our more common notion of what is meant by purpose. They serve in multiple ways to assure a purposeful life by being our source of subsistence, self-fulfillment, authenticity, direct benefit to humanity or to Nature or to the cosmos, and our hope for an enduring legacy that symbolizes a kind of immortality.

When one asks what is the purpose of life, particularly one’s own life, the answer is complicated and must be addressed at these four levels of reality – internal, proximal cultural, and cosmic. Anything less is incomplete and ill-fated.  We simply must adopt a lifetime commitment to all dimensions of human purpose remembering at all times that if virtue is the result of practice and habit, purpose is the result of planning and persistence.

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