Life is busy. I know this very personally and I won’t make it busier by giving you pages to read, not that you would anyway, because, quite frankly “what’s the purpose of reading so much stuff?” Speaking of purpose and the hectic busy-ness (business??) of life, I just want you to ask yourself one question, a question that all of the greatest philosophers and thinkers have continually asked themselves. This is also a question that many of us neglect and even forcefully push away, because the disenchanting answer frightens us and can remind us we are like aimless wanderers, walking on a bridge to nowhere.
Are we intentional?
If I were to ask you to come meet with me on the corner of Broadway in Everett, and told you we would spend the rest of the day at this place, what would you do? Would you abandon your responsibilities and join me without thinking about anything? No. You would ask me why I want you there. You would need to know “why?” You see, most of the commitments we make are marked by intentionality. We make sure there is a specific point and purpose to every tiny journey before we actually embark upon it. Do you remember when you were in school? Would you ever do a piece of homework that was optional, would not affect your grade, and had no real purpose? No, never. If I asked you to build a bridge to nowere, one that simply ended halfway across a river, but did not reach the other side of the sidewalk, would you simply do it or ask why? Of course you would want to know why, for we don’t want to do things without understanding why we must do it.
So why, for the love of all that is good, do we often live our life with absolutely no intent, plan, or purpose??? Why do we get angry at our boss if he tries to make us spend an hour doing something that seems pointless, yet we spend years living in an even more pointless manner? Why are we so focused on the purpose of small actions, yet so oblivious to purpose when looking at the big picture of all existence? We do understand that meaning can exist, for we choose to implicitly find meaning or purpose in doing small things, one at a time. Yet the small things obscure and hide the big, and more important things. So with no further ado, ask yourself right now, shout it out loud if it helps, but ask it seriously, “what is the purpose of my life?”
Are we Robots?
I remember when I got my first laptop, I was about 16 years old. I absolutely loved that thing, and spent as many hours a day with it as possible. Eventually my mother decided that I was too emotionally attached to it (I probably was) and started continually intervening in my computer use. Her favorite method was to ridicule me, I still remember her coming into my room and telling me “Yuriy, you are like a robot, sitting with your face stuck in that computer.” At first (being a robot) I simply programmed myself not to listen, yet ten years later I realize there was great (though maybe unintended) wisdom in her words. We are robots, at least we act like robots, to our great shame and misfortune. Think with me, a robot is a machine that follows its programming and carries out actions without asking questions like “why?” or “for what purpose?” You can program a robot to put together a car and this machine will weld pieces of metal together and will never question why it’s doing so in the first place. Our lives often become a lifeless routine; we follow our daily programming, we sleep, eat, work, do chores/bills, etc. We may feel a short burst of satisfaction from some momentary occupation, for example we eat and enjoy the taste, we do a good job and get a bonus, but that short reward couldn’t be the main point of our existence, could it? Would that prove, even more conclusively that we are robots of a sort? Are we only creatures that follow preprogrammed instincts in order to “feel” or “experience” a reward of some kind? Is that it? We do things to get a reward and don’t do things that would earn us a punishment? If that is it, then we are simply robots on a large spinning rock in a giant universe that will simply burn out and disappear in a billion years, dissolving all memory of our pitiful existence. If that were the case, the luckiest amongst us are those who have already realized this and jumped off a bridge.
What is the Purpose/Logos?
The Greek philosophers of old likewise found themselves entangled in such discussions. Purpose and reason was highly sought after, and many tried to understand the meaning of things, most notably life. One particular term was often used in these discussions: logos, which simply translated means “word” or “explanation” and in the philosophical language of the day it would mean “reason” or even “the argument.” Lets imagine, for a minute, that I come upon you putting popcorn in your coffee maker, I could reasonably predict that your popcorn may not be of the quality that you would enjoy (unless you are very unusual). The ‘reason’ is that you are not using the popcorn maker for the purpose, or logos, that it was produced for. Or imagine that I bought an airplane, would I try to drive it to work on the highway? No because that would not be in accordance to the purpose, or logos, of my airplane. So we can see that logos means purpose, but what does logos have to do with life purpose?
In his Gospel, the apostle John writes that “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” This Logos, or reason, or purpose, was Jesus Christ. You see, the ultimate purpose and reason for everything that was created is Jesus. Somehow, all things have their ultimate purpose in him or for him. The ultimate reason for every breath that you suck into your lungs is Jesus. The answer to every philosophical or existential inquiry is the purpose or reason found in the infinite worth of Jesus. Just like an airplane pilot, who’s logos or purpose is to soar in the sky, will not be satisfied with driving his plane on the road, so too humans cannot find ultimate satisfaction in earthly life, for we were created to be satisfied with greater things.
Tolstoy once wrote “In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.” I invite you to stop, look around, glare into the depths of your soul and the heights of heaven, and ask yourself “what am I doing?” Ask yourself “what will remain of me, my works, and my life once I am dead?” If you exist only to fulfill your cultural and biological programming, or only for the temporal and finite rewards of the present, you will find that the answer to your question is disenchanting enough to place a gun in your mouth. If you realize that you exist for a greater purpose, reason, or logos, indeed the ultimate Logos, it will give you joy in the smallest of daily tasks and be enough to bring eternal satisfaction to your heart, one that could not be quenched by eons of time and space.