“No living person can give genius the power to shoulder the meaning of the world. Yet, what are we to say about this problem if even Jung, who always relied on God, could still faint away with the burden of life? Probably in the last analysis only this: that all men are here to use themselves up and the problem of ideal illusion doesn’t spare any man from that. It only addresses the question of the best quality of work and life that men can achieve, depending on the beliefs they have and the powers that they lean on.” – Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death.1
In this section we have seen that the second key ingredient of a meaningful life is purpose which is perhaps the most critical if guided by a strong moral compass. Some persons might argue that the word ‘purpose’ is even interchangeable with the word ‘meaning’ when referring to life, but clearly purpose is further enhanced by adornment with virtue, contentment, and the encounter with ultimate reality. Virtue and purpose-driven intention are, it seems, two of the most defining features of what it means to be human. In contrast a purposeless life fails nearly every person’s minimal standard of a meaningful life.
If we define ‘purpose’ as “the reason for which something exists or is done, made, or used; an intended or desired result, end, or aim”2 it becomes clear that an abridged definition might be -purpose is the answer to “why” we exist. On the other hand one’s individual purpose answers the question, “What is the desirable result, end, or aim of my particular life?” The answer, it turns out, is not objective and imposed from without, but subjective and self-determined. This principle applies even if one decides to follow what one believes was the intended purpose of one’s creation by whomever is considered responsible for it (e.g. parents or a divine creator).
Being subjective, purpose then originates from internal reality… inside oneself. At that level purpose is surprisingly straightforward, derived logically and is perhaps universal. One wishes to make a good life for oneself, improve oneself, understand reality and find happiness and meaning. In other words, my purpose is to find a lifestyle that offers common necessities, pleasure and security, limits pain and unease, optimizes a reduction in my imperfections, offers the opportunity to make sense of my surroundings and the world, and enables a state of sustained meaningful Eudaimonia.
(continued next post)