On purpose

June 02, 2014

Personal random musings about finding purpose.

Ricardo Magalhães


Pretty much ever since humans developed a self-conscious mind, much has been said and written about the meaning of life and our purpose in being part of this grand scheme of things. And yet, despite each one of us believing in all kinds of different theories, we never or rarely fully embrace the ones we most firmly believe in.

We often find ourselves battling with the decision: should we try to find and seek an actual purpose in life, something very graspable to believe in? Or instead should we just accept that the purpose of life is determined by our relentless seeking of experiences, whether conscious or subconscious?

In the middle of this, I’ve discovered that I’m a pretty good liar to myself. Let me share this with you.

My first initial thought was a predictable and boring answer — my ultimate goal for this, my life, would be something in the means of contributing for a better world. How exactly, I don’t know. I could say I’m trying to make this world a happier one; after all I’m trying my best to make others happy; to be the kind stranger, be the one who listens, to be the one who stops in the subway morning rush hour to help a mother with the baby trolley down the stairs. I try, I do! And this gives me a great deal of joy.

However… I could be better at this purpose. I’m not actively trying to make the world a better place, or else my day job would certainly be a different one. If I truly, absolutely believed this is my ultimate purpose in the world, I’d probably quit my job right now and go somewhere where I’d be most needed. Nepal, South Africa. The animal shelter down the block.

So let’s try again! My purpose would be… to generate experiences. Hopefully, with other people. But then again, I’m a bit of a lonely wolf when it comes to social interactions. I’m the biggest fan of solitude and very often ditch someone else’s company just so I can walk alone with my thoughts. So I could be doing better at creating meaningful experiences with others. I’m trying hard to improve this one, but it’s pretty obvious where I’m failing.

Learning. Yes, that is my purpose after all! I’m consuming all the data that I can possibly fit into my busy daily schedule, for the sake of learning more and more about the world, people, cultures, myself. There’s no ten minute slot of time when I won’t have an article to read on my phone, a book in my bag. But… I’m trying now to actively cut down on the amount of information I consume. To many words read, not enough produced. Lost and wasted input due to very little output. Granted, this is also something I’m trying to change now.

But what’s the point of learning so much, if you don’t teach it to someone else? How can I teach what I’m learning being a wolf who mostly walks alone? How do I create meaningful experiences if all I do in the dead moments of time is putting my eyes down on to a book, instead of looking around and pay attention to the surroundings?

Boy, this stuff is hard. As I write these words, I’m on my way to dinner with friends, and I was already thinking about leaving early tonight. There’s just so much to read and to do tomorrow morning. I have me some purpose to find!

However, tonight, I’ll be a better me, a more genuine self, and instead of planning ahead I’ll just go with the flow, live what comes around.

Because there’s only this moment, your choices of now, and we’re silly if we think we can predict how these going to shape our future. My purpose, just now, became a simple one: to worry less and accept life as it comes. I’ll happily tackle the obstacles, and use them to tell stories sitting around a table with a glass of wine. Maybe two.

I guess in the end, our purpose is all about listening to ourselves with as little noise as possible, and boy there’s a lot of noise out there.

What do we say when our minds are quiet? You should listen to that. The rest will figure out itself.

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Written by Ricardo Magalhães who works for the Internet. By day, a front-end web developer with a passion for typography and design. By night, he sleeps. Follow me on Mastodon.