Andrew (perspectivism) wrote,
Andrew
perspectivism

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On Individual 'Life Purpose'...

[This is a letter I wrote last month, that's now stood a test of time -- I still much like it!]

Andrew,

I have started reading Atlas Shrugged which, of course, immediately brings you to the forefront of my mind.

I'm about 1/4 of the way through (it's a LONG book) and am beginning to wonder if I'm doomed to an unhappy life because I have no purpose. I'm a purposeless person. How does one go about finding their purpose?

I thought maybe you would have a pithy answer for me and I'm hoping you can synthesize your answer down to a couple of sentences {{giggles}}. Am I asking the impossible?

Also, just as an FYI - I have began to ask everyone I encounter what their purpose is. It amazes me how empty many peoples purposes seem to me. I often feel like telling them that, they too, are purposeless and just don't realize it. What is your purpose?

Okay, back to reading a book that is really depressing me. ;)
I'm glad you're getting caught up in such big questions!

My view of 'purpose' is rather different from Rand's. I believe that most of us humans should not so narrowly focus long-term obsessions. In many ways, psychologically, 'specialization is for insects'.

When it comes to big questions like 'purpose', I see the world more as a naturalist and less as a philosopher. Three films spring to mind: the PBS Evolution series, Microcosmos (the dramatic lives of insects & flowers), and Adaptation (a story weaving human goals with the evolutionary success of life throughout history).

Our minds are huge, and we face a wide range of choices. Nonetheless, we are organisms -- and are never really removed from the fabric of life. (That may sound somehow environmentalist for a moment here, but I totally don't mean it that way. Species compete with each other & use each other, and the naturalist perspective should have no problem with that!) What I mean is mostly that our species has evolved to find some (kinds of) goals inspiring/uplifting/meaningful -- and to be unable to sustain real thriving interest in other kinds of goals.

Looking as a naturalist, the big question is whether a human is thriving -- and what they might do to better that. Making yourself more vital to your tribe (especially those you care most about) is often the best way to thrive more. That one is what drives a lot of idealistic-type people into medical professions -- and it's what haunts them once they're out there working & often feeling interchangeable with other doctors & nurses (which they might describe more vaguely as feeling caught up in a big impersonal system).

What's my personal purpose? Insight. I'm not unique in this lifelong periodic obsession, but my evolving structure of insights becomes more distinctive every year.
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