Mormonism claims to know what our purpose is in life. So do most other religions. And it's usually a one-size-fits-all thing. And it often just serves the goals of the ones selling the answers. Many people show up here at RFM asking, "Now that my purpose isn't the one Mormonism taught, what is it?"
Well, the guy in this video observes that he never wonders about the purpose of his life when he's happy, when things are going well. It's only when things aren't going well. "This ain't working. So what *am* I supposed to be doing?"
Maybe life isn't about finding our purpose but about finding and following our passion, about building a life of joy, about building a life where we never wonder about our purpose.
I think that requires a change of mind, from thinking that only some person or institution out there can have the answer, to being self-directed, to trusting and believing in our own abilities to run our life. One of my biggest joys after leaving the church was realizing, "See, I can run my own life without ending up in the gutter."
The question is a very good one. However, it implies - by the very fact that it is asked - that there is a purpose for our existence, and that we need to find out what that purpose is. But why should we assume that there is a purpose? It seems to be a common assumption, especially among believers in God or the "supernatural", that everything happens or exists for a purpose. But there is no demonstrable basis for such an assumption.
Many things obviously exist without any inherent purpose. For example, if I find a hundred-dollar bill in the street, I don't ask "What is the purpose of this money?" It is the purest accident that it is there. I may (assuming there is no way to find its owner) create a "purpose" for it, by spending it, but that purpose is merely one that I have assigned to it myself, not any purpose that was inherent in it, or that had anything to do with its lying there on the street.
Or, another example: If I win a raffle where the prize is a two-week trip to London, do I ask "What is the purpose of spending two weeks in London?" Whatever inherent purpose it may have can only be expressed in the vaguest of terms: to be in London for a while. Anything beyond that is a purpose that I assign to it. If someone presumes to tell me: "Well, the purpose of being in London for two weeks is to visit all the historical sites there and to become familiar with English history", I would object that there are many other possible ways to spend the time, and that suggestion is by no means the only one or even the best one. I might prefer to shop, to go to the theater, to walk around observing Londoners, to spend time in the pubs and restaurants, to visit the art galleries, etc.
So, for someone to tell me that the purpose of my existence here on earth is something like "to have a chance to accept Jesus and be saved" or "to learn to reject this existence as 'worldly' and 'evil'" or "to pass a test that God told me to give you" or anything similar, seems presumptuous to me, like telling me how to spend my hundred dollars or my time in London.
What is the purpose of the whale, or the tulip, or the eagle, or the mountain? Some parts of nature we humans can make some use of, even if only to admire them for their beauty, their power, their complexity, or their mystery. But that use or admiration is only something that is the product of our own minds, and does not reflect any inherent "purpose." They simply exist, and (for living things) they exist simply for the purpose of existing. And I am no different. I also exist, and that is also my purpose: to exist.
In one sense, all living things have a purpose which is built into their genes: to exist, to survive as long as possible, and to reproduce their kind if possible. For us humans, we also want to make our existence as pleasant and painless as possible, which implies (since we are social animals) getting along with others of our kind. All moral codes developed by human beings are attempts to guide us in doing that.
Does such a view make life less meaningful, less purposeful? On the contrary, I find that it makes this life the most precious thing we have, to be used and enjoyed NOW, to the fullest. If you had two weeks in London, would you spend the time complaining that it was only two weeks, and that you would never be back? Would you do only those things that you think your friends back home will expect you to have done, because you will have to report what you did, and they will "judge" how you spent your two weeks?
It's your hundred-dollar bill. It's your two weeks in London. It's up to you to decide how you can use it best. You have to decide what the "purpose" is, because, until you do, it has no purpose at all. But that doesn't mean you should simply throw it away.
Many arrivals make us live: the tree becoming Green, a bird tipping the topmost bough, A seed pushing itself beyond itself, The mole making its way through darkest ground, The worm, intrepid scholar of the soil— Do these analogies perplex? A sky with clouds, The motion of the moon, and waves at play, A sea-wind pausing in a summer tree.
What does what it should do needs nothing more. The body moves, though slowly, toward desire. We come to something without knowing why.
It gets me out of bed and raising hell. I call it - whatever I'm imagining at the moment - my purpose. It changes occasionally. I have to imagine it matters & is important to keep the drive. Maybe it's just a game, but it works for me.
In the dictionary I found two main definitions for the word, Purpose.
Purpose--noun: the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
The purpose of bathing is to get clean and to be sexy. The car was created and exists for the purpose of traveling a wider range in comfort and making your neighbor's feel bad because theirs isn't as nice.
Purpose--verb: Have as one's intention or objective.
My purpose is to accomplish as much as possible in this life, for example. That is my intention and objective.
Problem is, religious leaders have a third meaning for purpose and that is the one people get stuck on when they think of purpose. Gets into the head. Goes back to the whole fore-ordination thingy we were taught in church as kids. This is the one where people think they have to *have* a purpose and they feel bad because they have no idea what it is and they worry about it. But in the end, it's just another religious construct to control and mess with you; a duty assigned by God for you to fulfill in this life so you can get the best reward possible.
Done & Done Wrote: ------------------------------------------------------- > ... Problem is, religious[/ MORMON MIS]leaders have a third meaning... a fore-ordination thingy we were taught in church as kids. This is the one > where people think they have to *have* a purpose > and they feel bad because they have no idea what > it is and they worry about it. But in the end, > it's just another religious construct to control > and mess with you; a duty assigned by God for you > to fulfill in this life so you can get the best > reward possible.
Yep, LDS/ religious upbringing and it's teachings and practices are so perverted, so misleading, so misguided as to an individuals true needs, desires and wishes.
I like to go with the Dalai Lama's observation that, "The purpose of life is to be happy."
One of the reasons that I went into teaching is that I wanted to help others. But one thing that I learned through hard experience is that when you work in one of the helping professions, you have to do it because it serves a personal need -- because you may never get an ounce of thanks or recognition. So having done my "service to humanity," I feel that I have done what I set out to do. I fulfilled my inner purpose. If I spend the rest of my life sipping margaritas by a pool, I am at peace with that.
I should add that in the course of my work as an urban teacher, I've been hit, kicked, punched, tripped, broken up fights, sent to the emergency clinic multiple times, had my room torn up and my personal things destroyed, and called a "witch" sometimes daily, usually for asking a student to do his or her work. I have a far easier and more pleasant job at present, but about 15 of my work years were pure hell, endeavoring to give an education (and a chance) to those who most badly need it.
As a result, I've become largely immune to the pleas of others to donate money, time, etc. I may very occasionally feel the urge to help, but again, I do it for my own reasons, not because I have been guilted into it. I've already done my bit.
I believe that the urge to help is nearly universal (except for narcissists and sociopaths,) and that people help in a myriad of different ways and times. I just don't feel complelled to help in exactly the same way that they do.
The above comments of RP nicely articulated the views of most in this thread:
“In one sense, all living things have a purpose which is built into their genes: to exist, to survive as long as possible, and to reproduce their kind if possible. For us humans, we also want to make our existence as pleasant and painless as possible, which implies (since we are social animals) getting along with others of our kind. All moral codes developed by human beings are attempts to guide us in doing that. Does such a view make life less meaningful, less purposeful? On the contrary, I find that it makes this life the most precious thing we have, to be used and enjoyed NOW, to the fullest.”
Summing up this comment, the purpose of life is ultimately the product of our genes, with an inherent purpose to reproduce and survive. Beyond that, the purpose is to simply make our existence “as pleasant and painless as possible” realizing that in order to do that we likely will need to follow a moral code invented by humans to help us all get along. On its face, this could be described as a materialist approach to the purpose of life with a hedonistic bent. In such an approach, the moral code is more of a necessary nuisance to our pursuit of pleasure, rather than anything of substantive importance.
Now, I ask you, is this really the best we can do in defining the purpose of life? To consider the question more deeply, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Does life teach us anything? 2. Do we learn anything about life from our decisions and actions? 3. Do we learn anything about ourselves from our decisions and actions? 4. Do we learn anything about others; about human nature? 5. Are we—-as autonomous persons-—in any way shaped by our decisions, and actions? 6. As we reflect upon our lives, can we assess what kind of person we now are in comparison to the kind of person we were at some time in the past? Can we determine what kind of person we want to be in the future, and strive toward such a goal? 7. Do we hold others accountable for that they were; who they now are; and what they will become in the future given their current mindset? Do we encourage them to do better?
I could go on and on, but the point is clear. Underlying all of the mundane purposes of life that involve the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain, there is arguably a more basic and fundamental purpose that relates to our response to life itself; that is, what life presents us with, and what we do with it. This encompasses how we respond to others, and how such responses change who we are. The purpose of life in this sense is to build our own understanding of life and personal character, while assisting others to do the same.
Now, this sounds a bit idealistic and metaphysical, and indeed it is. After all, I have not cited scientific authority, but rather only primed your intuitions. Yet, there is nothing in science—-physics, biology, psychology, neuroscience, etc. etc.—-that can answer the question as to the purpose of life without first embracing the materialist assumption that all things human are physical and deterministic. And this assumption is itself an entirely metaphysic position, which, I might add, is demonstrably false!
So, if we are going to wade into metaphysics by addressing ‘the purpose of life’ why not adopt a idealistic metaphysical position that is based upon human agency, free will, and objective morality—-all of which are intuitively compelling? Well, you might say, it’s too close to religion. But, I have not mentioned God, or religion. I am only talking about a worldview that is consistent with how we view ourselves and others, and places “morality” at the center of the purpose of life, rather than our own personal pleasures.
My purpose is to be beautiful, er, to be myself (whatever my 'self' is), and not go a looking for purpose, treasure, or even wealth, fame or other objective, though I welcome whatever comes, meaning I also welcome challenge, hardship, growth opportunities, etc., when they arrive, because it is all intertwined [I think].
To make/ find others happy, or sad, or glad, or wild and/ or crazy [or not] (not to be lazy) and free! To be me. To be thankful for each new day. It's pretty simple, and rather complex... and all in the context. Life doesn't owe us anything!
I can't just be Me (because that is too universal), but I also have to be Myself (which is quite a task). To be me, I have to be others too; to forget myself (if/ when I remember to). To be myself is to put myself in other's shoes [if they fit] (depending on the style, color, etc.). To be KIND, some say. I sometimes take it to the next level, and ask what, or how, kind?
The purpose, some say, is to find that purpose ♡ but that may take all your time (what else have you got?), though it can be a noble pursuit. Others say "take it day by day", and things like, "Don't Worry, Be Happy", and just be yourself!
My purpose is to live a colorful life, and not live in black (suit, tie, and shoes) and white (shirt).
To be natural. To be ALIVE. To invent, arrange, rearrange, create, explore, to find myself living.
The purpose of life? Besides German Chocolate Cake?
You are born and there you are.
From there on out you exist as a survivor--- that not being a given.
In order to transcend simply existing, I needed accomplishment. I figured physical characteristics are here today but gone tomorrow and can deceive with their importance. But what you do is there forever. Tattoos are less permanent.
The importance of purposefully being your best self is paramount to fulfillment. (The adverb supersedes the noun and the verb in my world.) Diligently never leveling off is part of being your best self.
Pleasures come and go. Happiness is like a butterfly that lands briefly here and there. If it stays too long the feeling loses it impact as you become use to it. Contentment can be ongoing and usually comes from either liking the choices you have made or laughing at the bad ones, but always from accomplishments. But contentment can't be a purpose, just a side effect.
Would the purpose of purpose then be in the end to be able to smile or laugh no matter what-- even if you cringe at yourself now and then?
After leaving religion, it is so refreshing to be the boss of my own life. Part of that means I am the only one who gets to determine what my life means to me and what any purpose I may have. Now, that is freedom. People who want to TELL me what the meaning/purpose of my life SHOULD be, I categorize as extreme narcissists. Because seriously, who else but a narcissist would do such a thing?
Like right now, my purpose is to enjoy the Halloween season. I've had religious freaks tell me I am going to hell for even loving Halloween. Welp, guess they are going to die mad. Sure must suck to be them, being so angry and judgmental like that.
This is just one example. Others told me that life has no meaning or purpose if I don't have children. I guess they like to go light on imagination. Or heavy on misery. Either way, I don't think it's right to use people like that. I also don't like to think about how many children are abused and murdered by their own parents. And thank the gods I never believed that for a second.
oldelder, thanks for your post. I couldn't agree with you more. It is misguided to think religion can do something for you that you are perfectly fine doing for yourself.