Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Purpose of Life

The purpose of life is not to be rich; the purpose is not to be beautiful; it is not to be smart, beautiful or healthy. The purpose of life is not to be perpetually happy—or to live a life of comfort. The purpose of life is not even to have lots of children. No, the purpose of life is not any of these things. It must be something that all humans can see and do. It must be something readily accessible to all.

If the answer to the purpose of life were to be rich, then rich people would be happy, and they would be the ones deigned to live in Heaven. “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:25). We have seen time and time again rich people living tortured, unhappy lives. They have all the money any man could want, and could buy their heart’s desire. Yet, time and again we see that rich people are very unfulfilled people.

The answer to the purpose of life surely cannot be to have health, beauty or intelligence. Once again, we see people who seek health and beauty, yet can never achieve that vision of perfection they seek. For there is always more distance to run at a faster rate. Further a great many of us have poor health and physical disabilities, which are not our own doing—The disabled would never be able to fulfill the purpose of life if the purposed were to be healthy.

What’s more, students often seek to be the very best minds to have ever existed, yet they find they never seem to reach the top. And after opening every book of knowledge one can imagine, the student drops his shoulders in despair and still wants more. He realizes he can never know all that can be known (Ecclesiastes).

What if we all sought to simply be happy and comfortable? Well then we would truly see a sad and dismal existence. For in everything we would seek and seek and seek to happy and would only find that in the end it does not fulfill us—any happiness we gain, the happiness eventually wears away. The simplest way to induce perpetual happiness and comfort is to take a drug that induces this state. If this were the purpose of life, we should all take these drugs every day, biding our happy times until our end.

Children in themselves are full of joy, optimism and life, and bring these qualities to anyone’s life. Alas, children grow and these qualities fade. Also, do not forget the great pain children bring as well. It is a lot of work to rear children. The harder you work the more invested in them you are and the more pain it causes. Every time a child is sick, the parent aches with the child. Every time the child commits wrong doing, the parent aches at the wrong doing and feels blame. Further, others cannot bear children. The heartache of rearing or not bearing children is the greatest of all of life. This too is not clearly the purpose of life.

Of all the things that we are and do, what can be they purpose of this life? It must be something that is possible for the greatest to the least of us. It must be something that is not dependent on our happiness or suffering. It must not be dependent on whether we are fat or thin, healthy or sick, intelligent or simple-minded, rich or poor.

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’ And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39).

The purpose of life must be to Love. It is something all humans can do, despite our happenstance. Love is something that we can do despite all the challenges life presents. For example, those who experience great suffering can choose to love others in spite of their suffering. If we love, we find that life is very fulfilling, and for those who believe in the afterlife it the key to the doorway to Heaven.

What is love properly understood? This is a very good question because there are those who have diseases (such as reactive attachment disorder), and brain injuries that prevent a person from feeling loving toward other people. So it would seem that not everyone is able to love. But, this is not love understood rightly. I argue that it is possible to love without the emotions associated with love.

People commonly think that love is an emotion. Let us first remove the emotions normally associated with love. Let us remove our own physicality too. The emotions confuse what love is rightly understood. Emotions are subject to error, because they are a physical reaction that occurs without reason. The mind can censure emotion using rationality. Therefore, love is not an emotion.

A lot of people understand love as being unconditional. This is a very good description of how love operates, but loving unconditionally is not love in itself. Unconditional love means that your act of love is not dependent on any other condition. But, unconditional does not define the act in itself.

Love is one of those things which cannot be strictly defined in finite terms. However for man, love is the pursuit of good in itself (1 Corinthians 13). That is to say, to love is to seek to know, in each and every thing, its perfection—its good. Should a thing have no good, then there should be nothing to love.

The purpose of life is to love.

(I could probably write a philosophy dissertation on this, but since I am not seeking a doctorate, I think I will just end it with that.)


Michelle M. said...

Beautiful post, Renee.

I think this is one of the greatest things that I have learned since becoming Orthodox. Thanks for sharing!

Anne said...

Amen! Awesome post! If you ever do go get your doctorate (and you and Andrew becomes the Doctors Clayton) :) you should totally write about love. I would read it!
here's a pic to go with your post: