The purpose of life is a life of purpose

In behaviorist psychology thinking about the purpose of life was considered a sign of mental disorder. It seems an incomprehensible judgment over what is considered by many as a token of intelligence.
In some cases the old psychological school may have been right, though. To accept life as it comes is a gift we have to cherish. Those who have gone through a depression – a dark night of the soul – will fully understand what absence of joy in life means.

In a state of despair or depression one will try to fill the emptiness, caused by a lack of life instinct, by searching for an acceptable explanation and a good reason to go on living. Unfortunately the intellect at such moments will not be able to provide one.

Chronic states of depression should be taken seriously – one should not consider it a failure to take recourse to anti-depressants as the cause may be somatic.

Admittedly, the mind is in need of some form of philosophy. Especially when one harbors a completely outdated orthodox view from childhood. Many are burdened by a trauma because of instilled fears for imaginary sins. In such cases a greater view of life comes as a blessing.

There is a limit, however. Pondering may become morbid. Some major mysteries cannot be solved by the mind. The reason for suffering in the world is one of them and may better be left alone until one has grown to a state of consciousness in which questioning disappears.

We may learn a lesson from animals which are free from such deliberations. All species are instilled with a life instinct that drives them on. They have no security, do not know how they will survive from one moment to the next, yet accept life as it comes without hesitation and qualms. Alas, such dedication is exceptional for man. His mind stands in his way.

Life should be seen as an eternal process of joyous spiritual discovery and growth: in the beginning stages of earthly life, the individual undergoes a period of training and education which, if it is successful, gives him or her the basic intellectual and spiritual tools necessary for continued growth. When individuals attain physical maturity in adulthood, they become responsible for their further progress, which now depends entirely on the efforts they themselves make.

Through the daily struggles of material existence, people gradually deepen their understanding of the spiritual principles underlying reality, and this understanding enables them to relate more effectively to themselves, to others, and to God. After physical death, the individual continues to grow and develop in the spiritual world, which is greater than the physical world, just as the physical world is greater than the world we inhabit while in our mother’s womb.


8 thoughts on “The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  1. I’m going to go ahead a play devil’s advocate on this one (quite literally I suppose) with regard to one bit of what you discuss above. While I’d agree with most of your assessment, we begin to divulge in opinion when you discuss the continuation of growth and development in the spiritual world after a physical death. None of us can say with any degree of certainty that a spiritual world of any sort either does or does not exist, but we can all have our opinions on the matter.

    Do you not think that it is possible that the ‘spiritual’ world you refer to is just another one of man’s delusions? A spiritual world presupposes the existence of something greater than us (God, as some call it). I have no problem, per se, with believing in the spiritual. However, the problem arises when people use this spiritual unknown as a scapegoat to all of life’s problems, or worse yet, as the reason for all of life’s gifts. Could it not be that what happens to us in our life is a result of our own actions and the actions of those around us as opposed some spectre of the spiritual?

    Why is it so hard to consider that man is just another animal (albeit highly developed)that has no higher purpose beyond the life each of us lives. After all, we don’t consider any of the other animals to have some greater purpose in life. What if we are just here on this Earth as we are by mere happenstance? But be that as it may, it shouldn’t prevent anyone from using their life to pursue a higher purpose – if for no other reason than the advancement of the human race (a pretty noble cause in my eyes).

    Maybe I’m crazy… maybe I’m doomed to some sort of eternal damnation – but something tells me that I’ll be just fine in this life if I never worry about some spiritual unknown and instead focus my energies on the only life that I’m certain that I’ll have; the one I’m currently living.

  2. Well said, AJ. Dimitri, I concur that life is a gift to be cherished and a journey of fulfillment. Fulfillment is achieved through knowledge, experience and choice — careful guiding with purpose. As life is given us to treasure we have a responsibility to guide and nurture through the choices we make. Our purpose on this earth should serve as principle around which to organize our lives — allowing both personal growth as well as impact of greater purpose.

    It is my opinion that life gets off track when an individual waits for the gifts to be given rather than a life of purpose and choice to yield. We get out of our lives what we invest — it is when we focus too heavily on ‘what is in it for me’ rather what can I do and how can I grow and impact.

    The life after and spiritual journey are guided through the here and now and what we choose to do with the life we are given. Some things are out of our control, but if we focus on those things we can guide, as AJ states, we’ll be just fine.

  3. AJ,

    Great opposition 🙂 I respond to your opposition I would say this:

    •I UBER agree that the “spiritual” world should not be used as any form of reasoning for the happenings we observe

    •It’s very hard to consider that man may just be another animal with a instinctual (animalistic) purposes for this reason: the difference between animals and man is that man can reason, and animals cannot. The mere fact we can “reason” supports the chaos theory, casual effect, Murphy’s law and any other theorem that emulates choice and randomness. If we were instinctual (animalistic) nothing would be random and life would be very predictable.

    •I also agree – not to live in the grey matter of spirituality, but living life in sole materialism would be a fallacy since life its self is controlled by in-materialism 🙂

  4. Well put, both of you. But, this is too good for me to let it die right there. Dmitri, in opposition to your opposition (particularly point 2), I would ask you what constitutes ‘reason’ as we know it? Reason is a very ambiguous concept. The reason that you claim we have as humans may very well be nothing more than a developed sort of instinctual operation.

    Let me explain it as such: An animal has the sole goal of staying alive, and when possible, thriving. Man, I would argue, had the same purpose as he developed. However, something happened along the way. Man developed a penchant for problem solving and over time became smarter as he evolved. This, in turn, caused us to become more dominant in the natural hierarchy. Thus, we became worried about not just, surviving, but could slowly begin to focus on thriving.

    To thrive, however, it became necessary for man to enter into social arrangements with others to achieve a common purpose; a better life. This naturally developed into the social and more norms that we consider the norm today, and these norms are constantly evolving.

    Basically, what this little aside was trying to demonstrate is that ‘reason’ could be nothing more than a natural development. I think humans tend to place themselves on a pedestal and assume some all important view of themselves in relation to the world around them. This has its own reasons – it has aided our development and evolution. Man is perfectly capable of developing ‘reason’ while still operating in the random. Perception changes the way people order their reason within their own mind.

    I guess the heart of what I’m driving at here is that, while a spiritual purpose might well exist, it is equally plausible that we are the product of happenstance. This does not cheapen our lives, in fact, it should make them all the more valuable and remarkable. I agree with Victoria when she says that we should simply try to live our lives in the best way we each know how. If we live the proper lives, we will ultimately be more fulfilled – and that fulfillment can come in a myriad of forms. The spiritual will take care of itself (assuming it exists) if we take care of our own lives.

  5. AJ,

    Very well put, so of course I will offer opposition cubed (to the 3rd power)…lol

    You suggested that perhaps humans have nothing more than a heightened, more developed state of “instinct” well this is simply not true and can be proven. Concurrently I will contend that “reason” is NOT an ambiguous concept – it’s very concrete.

    It all starts with the lineage of how the instinctual mind works and then the mind of reason. The instinctual mind doesn’t “reason” – meaning the origin of thought or action is derived from instinct not reason.

    For example, a brown bear will never chose not hibernate, if the bear could reason, it may decide to do something else. If felines could reason they may choose to eat grass instead of mice because of taste or “wanting” to change diet. Those are all disseminations of instinct and for an animal cannot be overridden by its “reason” or lack thereof. Think about it AJ, there are no “stupid/less smart” animals, but there are “stupid/less smart” humans. An animal’s “intelligence” has no bearing on its survivability thus survivability is inherent within the instinctual process, not its ability to “reason”.

    On the other hand humans can reason, change our mind, and do things for spite, spite is a form of reason. A tiger will never kill a zebra “just because”, or because of a disorder. Tigers will only kill a zebra to survive and eat. Again, on the other hand humans will kill just to hang “trophies” on a vertical display scheme.

    Reason is not developed or grown in humans, perception is. Reason is the fundamental origin of human thought and character. However, perception can be molded, skewed, and redefined according to whomever BASED on “reason” 😉

    Lastly, animals can’t figure out cosmogony and cosmology. Your neighbors are basically saying any sentient being can figure out what he can experience, to the best of its ability. The “universe” of a goat is what it can perceive. But being able to figure out your “universe” is not being rational if your universe is the back yard. And yes, they can probably make the statement that relative to the goat, we only understand our own back yard, as it were, and to some extent that’s a clever and somewhat valid argument, but not good enough. It’s true we can’t see all of the universe, but we use reason to attempt to figure out what we can’t see. I don’t think a goat does that. One of the problems here is that “rational” is a very loosely defined term, coming from “reason”, which has definitions all over the map, some of which fit a goat.

    Our place here is purposeful, the result of our actions is the “happenstance” or rather, accidently purposeful. No one, no event, no happening is ever just a “happenstance”. AJ if you haven’t already, read the “Butterfly Effect” and share your thoughts with me.

    Looking forward to your next thought(s)…

  6. Interesting perspectives, gentlemen. AJ, I concur a goodly amount of what you say, but feel a need to reiterate our purpose on this earth is much more than merely staying alive and ‘thriving’ where / when possible. Our life has meaning and purpose and, I believe, we were put here to contribute to universal needs and path within our world. As humans, we do so through our ability to reason, make choices and guide our life to the point we are able. Yes, there are those things that are out of our control and for which, perhaps, are predetermined. How can we truly know…we do have the ability to reflect on our individual paths and draw conclusions (reason). We also have the ability to play the trends and choices forward looking at causal relationships — all merely perspective and subjective.

    Dimitri mentioned the “Butterfly Effect” — the ripple effect of an event (consider the fluttering of a butterflies’ wings as it impacts the path of a tornado, for example). The choices we make, through reasonable thought, build upon our development in the journey and, through causal relationships, impact future events and individuals.

    Dimitri, while I concur man does possess the ability of logic and reason, and you do allude to ‘less smart’ humans, I still feel a need to stress it cannot be assumed equitable across all individuals. I think there remains some ambiguity in thought regarding instinct and reason, and our ability to rationalize and think through causal relationships. The ripple effect of the butterflies’ wings is synonymous to the cause and effect relationship of our choices (remember our ability to reason) as they play out in the history of our universe.

    The ability to reason is the ability to understand and draw conclusions. It pulls from process thinking skills — utilizing both knowledge and wisdom. As individuals, we possess differing levels of analytical prowess. Not all humans can deduce similarly rational thought given the same data set. For example, if two different people were given the same scenario to work through knowing the outcome would change the future, we cannot assume the outcomes would be the same. Each person brings to the table his/her skills, experiences, perspective and ability to work through a sequence of data and issues. The outcome is different based on perspective and choices. The “Butterfly Effect” is skewed based on ability to rationalize and reason when the event is driven by mental capacity and choice.

    Just for the record, there are those scientists who will argue, but cannot prove, that certain animals possess some level of reasoning ability…hmmmm!

  7. Ha… Victoria, I love that little cliffhanger you leave us with at the end of your post, and it serves as a good place to begin my rebuttal. Although I probably didn’t express my thoughts as clearly as I should/could have in my previous tangent, you both have brought up some great points that I think can be further discussed.

    Dmitri, in your previous statements, you have tended to ignore the possibility that our own lack of understanding of what we perceive. While you did allude to this, I think you may have missed a vital component of the puzzle. Where do we first gather or thoughts that go on to form our reason? This happens through our perceptions. Thus, is it not probable that many of the things we take as certain truth, are merely mis-perceptions and imitation of past mis-perception? People used to be absolutely certain that the Earth was flat and that the Sun revolved around the Earth. We ‘moderns’ now consider this to be a comical notion. We know better than this – yet all of those things that we think we know because of our superior reasoning may only be true insofar as we are able to perceive. That is, something could happen tomorrow that could open our eyes to a whole new world of perception, which could then cause us to reason in a completely new way.

    Consider our own thought processes as we are writing these posts on this blog. We first, in our minds, consider the knowledge that we ‘know’, then based on our past experience express that knowledge in the form of language. Thus, in many respects, everything that we reason to be true is constrained by our ability to outwardly express what we have perceived and reasoned. Therefore, I think it would be folly to assume that we have the ultimate knowledge about how things are ordered and how they operate. This is not to say that they are not possible universal truths (2+2=4 as the popular one goes), but rather that knowledge is all relative. I’m sure (to steal your example) that a goat probably believes that he has all of the answers relative to his understanding of things, just as we think the same.

    And, I don’t buy in to all the hype about alien life, but I don’t rule out the possibility of it existing somewhere in the universe. What if we were, in theory, to make contact with this alien life and it turned out to be vastly more intelligent than are we? Imagine how that would completely shake the understanding of the human mind? That is not to say that this can or will happen, but merely to provide a gedakenexpirement.

    Without delving into epistemology too extensively here, I’ll just repeat a quote that I like a great deal, “The only thing I know for sure is that I do not know for sure.” This all goes back the the original point, I hope, that life is far from meaningless. It does have a purpose, but that purpose is often times obscured in the individual mind. My own feeling is that it is the betterment of my own life and the pursuit of knowledge (unfortunately, in keeping with the quote, the more I learn, the less I realize that you actually know). The purpose is derived from the experiences we have and our ability to express our own sense of purpose.

    And just as a final note, I have read bits of the “Butterfly Effect” in the past, but have been left wanting. Could it not be that one original random event sparked every subsequent event, causing all of these ‘ripples’ to be created?

  8. Yea nice one Vic!!


    Well my rebuttal to your comment would be this:

    This funnels down to Quantum Mechanics and Theory, being that reality to curved around the limits of our understanding. The more we understand the “bigger” and more possible reality. I believe I have provided this example before:

    One day a man “thought” of flying, thoughts are in the physical sense made of nothing. That thought was materialized into physical reality using a set of new rules and math that now govern flight. Every time you fly, you now part take in an expanded reality that 110 years ago was not available. The same with anything that is here “now” that wasn’t before.

    This exemplifies that reality can only be communalized once a given quantity of bodies “participate” within it. Anyway you can see that this is quickly going an entirely different direction. This also express that there is no deemed “lack” of understanding as you referenced I “ignored” as understanding is all relative.

    My last point will be that, yes there are many other life forms around this universe. “space” its self is all relative. For example space is to humans as a hand is to a dust mite. It would take over 58 years for a mite to travel the surface of a human hand – waaaaay outside the lifespan of the mite. Same with us traveling across “space”. So whose to say that our earth/space isn’t anything more than a dust ball on some big “monsters” back?

    Does “Horton Hears a Who?” ring a bell…?

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous :)

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