July 17th, 2021
Karin and I have a friend in California who has a knack for asking perceptive and penetrating questions. She is our age (60’s), and she is considering the possibility of remarrying. She is wondering what the purpose of a marriage would be at this time of her life. With that in mind, she wrote to us and asked,
“How do you see your purpose as a married couple ?”
After I read the question, I gave her a one word answer:
We are caring for our little grandson, Asher, 24/7. We became his full time caregivers at the beginning of February of this year. The boy is seven months old. He’s a wonderful baby, but raising him is rather labor intensive. We do almost nothing in our lives now that is not Asher-related.
Our friend wrote back to us,
“I thought you would say just that. Your purpose is clear.”
It’s good to have a clear purpose in life. It doesn’t happen very often, at least not with me. It seems like I have spent most of my life floundering. I’ve met some individuals who apparently have always had a mission, or a calling. I don’t know many people who are like that. I think that most folks spend their entire lives trying to answer the question:
“Why am I here?”
The various religious traditions try to respond to that question, but without achieving any kind of consensus. Maybe it’s because they try to look only at the big picture. Buddhists look for enlightenment. Many Christians say the goal is to get to heaven. In a way, the cosmic answers don’t really help. I think the question of purpose should be reworked to ask:
“What am I supposed to do here and now?”
The Christian answer to that is: “Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Buddhist answer is similar but it doesn’t bring God into the equation. A Buddhist might say the purpose of his or her life is “to save all sentient beings”. It is the same general idea: We are in the world to serve others.
So, how do we love our neighbor? How do we save all sentient beings?
The specific answer to those questions is situational. It changes from moment to moment. In five minutes from now, the answer for me might be to change Asher’s diaper. Right now, the answer for Karin is to feed Asher some mashed bananas. Our purpose in life is often very obvious and very simple. We just need to open our eyes and see how we can help.