I’ve been thinking too much about the purpose of my life. Too many days in the past I’ve found life meaningless, so I have searched for answers in books like I usually do.
A long time ago, I took a creative writing workshop at my local community college, and one of my professor’s recommended reads was David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water” address. (I read it again, since I first read it five-ish years ago.) Wallace says that learning how to think, “means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.”
He also talks about the “boredom, routine, and petty frustration” that come from day-to-day adulthood. I thought of concrete examples of this in my life such as the boredom that can surface when teaching the same lesson to my fourth class of the day or how about my sometimes petty frustration with traffic.
You’d think that I’d have life figured out by now.
To give you an idea of the extent of the meaninglessness I can sometimes find in life, this June, I found myself looking for books about life purpose despite having a degree and a job. You’d think that I’d have life figured out by now.
I started reading The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren which is based on Christian principles, and my spiritual light bulb finally switched on. (I feel the need to include, here, that I’d actually come across this book before during my teenage years, but I don’t remember if I read it completely.) This is not to say that I have never gone to church or that I’ve been a devout Catholic. So it wasn’t so much that I was reading verses from the Bible for the first time or didn’t know about Noah or Eve.
This book was, and is because I’m still reading it, a reminder that I’ve been looking at life through an unconscious perspective. And among the many lines I’ve underlined in Wallace’s address, Wallace says, “The kind [of freedom] that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways every day. That is really freedom. That is being taught how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the ‘rat race’—the constant, gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.”
I have been so caught up in that wanting, achieving, and displaying phase of my life. Maybe, now, it’s the beginning of a new journey in which I find a deeper meaning in my life that transcends the limitations of my, as Wallace calls it, “skull-size kingdom.”
Where or how have you found the purpose of your life?