The Purpose of Life
I had a fairly clear idea about who I was and where I was going, I had no idea what the purpose of life was. I pictured our sun either going cold or exploding and all life on earth gone. What would have been the purpose of it all?
I spent hundreds of hours struggling to find the answer, hundreds of hours I could have spent studying, but I could not find a satisfactory answer. Were our lives meaningless? Finally one day the answer came to me. You might even say I had a revelation. These questions are not about facts. They are about decisions. And though students today have rarely heard these questions, you still must make the same decisions.
What is most interesting is that, in many ways, these are three ways of asking the same question.
Who am I? Who have I chosen to be?
We tend to think of who we are largely in terms of our past. I was born in — and grew up in —. My parents (or other relatives) are— and they are known for—- . And then we add what we plan to major in and what kind of work we hope to do. But who we are is more than our past and what job we might work at. We are our dreams, our values, and our calling in life.
Audre Lord, an African-American poet, said “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and be eaten alive.” This is one way she defined herself.
Black Lesbian Feminist Mother Warrior Poet
When I read this, I felt the need to define myself in a similar way. I feel no need to define myself by the color of my skin, my sexual preference or in terms of relationships as wife, mother, or grandmother. It’s hard to define myself in terms of single words but here is my best effort:
Learner Teacher Defender Warrior Pathfinder Visionary
But I would prefer to use more words: Passionate Learner, Caring Teacher, Defender of the Downtrodden, Warrior for Truth and Justice, Innovative Pathfinder, and Global Visionary.
Another way to say this is: I am a passionate learner. I fight for what is right. I hope to show the way for others to become passional learners so they can transform the educational system.
Now it’s your turn. How would you say who you are?
Where are you going?
Starting in seventh grade, living in the segregated south, I knew that prejudice was wrong. I knew separate but equal was never going to be equal. I argued for integration, knowing it was right, in spite of having all my friends, classmates and teachers disagree with me. This was my first experience of standing up what was right.
In my early years, I saw myself going overseas, probably to Korea as a missionary – hopefully teaching science. That dream changed over the years. My husband and I ended up traveling around Asia and the Pacific teaching seminars and six-week training schools leading to community development projects. I was a teacher, both overseas and in the US, always learning, always using the latest educational methods, always focusing on the needs of my students more than the subject.
Where am I going now? My new pathway is sharing what I know about learning skills, hoping that some of those who study my website will become passionate learners.
What is the Purpose of Life?
This was the question that puzzled me most. I assumed that somewhere there was an answer for me to find. The revelation was that there was no purpose except the purpose we chose ourselves. The question should have been, “What is MY purpose in life?”
Is your purpose to make a lot of money so you can buy everything you want?
Is your purpose to make your parents proud?
Is your purpose to spend your life doing something you really enjoy?
Is your purpose to become famous?
These are perhaps the most common purposes. It’s perfectly normal and fine if your purpose doesn’t sound as grand as changing the world, working for world peace or conservation or finding ways to cure cancer.
I’ve discovered that my purpose has changed over the years. As a teacher, my purpose was to change, in some ways, the lives of my students. Certainly, as my children were growing up, part of my identity and purpose was as a mother. After I retired, I started thinking about what I could still do. Sitting around watching TV was not appealing. I asked myself what I could do to make a difference.
As you might guess, I am focusing on discovering the very best learning skills and sharing them with students around the world. My long-range vision is that, while our educational institutions keep trying to improve their methods, these institutions won’t be transformed until the students know what they want and need and demand it. Only passionate learners can demand that kind of change.
I was surprised to discover that Who I am, Where I am going, and My Purpose in Life, turn out to be very much the same thing. I don’t know if this is always true. Perhaps a few of you who are reading this can tell me if this is true for you.
In order to accomplish something, you must make clear decisions. I have stated my purpose. Now it is your turn. What is YOUR purpose in life?
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