By Roland Watson
This article is the first in the series about you, and your future - what you are going to do for the rest of your life. To begin, I want to state a simple fact.
You are free to be free
Your future is up to you. You are free to be free. You do not have to be determined.
Unfortunately, in the present day, and at a minimum in the near future - for at least the next few decades - many people will fail at this. They will be conditioned - programmed - to such a great extent that they lose all traces of real individuality.
However, this does not have to happen to you. You must do your best to avoid their ranks. And, since you have gotten this far in the website, I believe it is reasonable to assume that you will prevail. Congratulations!
In this series, I am going to summarize, and make some additions to, the various ideas I have presented so far about the purpose of a human life. This should serve as a guide for your reflections on your own purpose, and for your efforts to accomplish it.
I will also make some concluding points about behavioral form, including a more in-depth review of the issue of language and form, and of the distinction, or meeting point, of form and objective reality. Then, I will close with some final, practical advice for living your life.
For human purpose, we have seen that there are different ways to look at this. As with ethics, there are many different foundations that can be used to establish our purpose.
For example, there is the purpose of people as defined by society: that you should fulfill your end of the social contract, and strive to be a well-oiled cog in the social machine.
Also, there is a derivative purpose that is implicit in your relationship with every form of social organization, including to be a dutiful son or daughter; to become a parent - this fulfills a social as well as an instinctual function; and to perform as expected - or as demanded - as a student, employee, and consumer.
And, as we further have seen, while such purposes are not objectionable in and of themselves, in the modern context, where social institutions have such great power, and demand such complete subservience, their actual implementation is often at odds - if not in serious conflict - with real human needs.
What you should strive to do is strip away "form" goals, the shackles of the modern world, including its values, addictions and general terms of existence. Only by doing this can you return to the real needs, motivations and aspirations of life. Indeed, if you do not do this, if you accept socially imposed goals, such as the overriding importance of the pursuit of wealth and power, you may well find that they are not enough.
This is certainly the case if you fail in their pursuit, but also even if you succeed. Your life, regardless of your wealth and power, will not have a real foundation, and because of this, it will be as if you inhabit a vacuum - a goal vacuum, with no place to go, or guide upon whom you can call.
Following from this, the next level of purpose is what you seek as an individual. You want to satisfy your needs, starting with your instinct to live, and through this to be happy. However, it turns out that different things, achieved or obtained, bring happiness to different people.
It is disturbing that one perspective on this is that the greatest pleasure is the ending of pain, which is akin to the view that our primary motivation is the avoidance of boredom.
But, this is to view happiness as an end. Real happiness relates to the means. In considering this, we have seen that to be happy, truly happy, requires that you develop, and practice, a philosophy of life.
True happiness derives from your efforts, moment by moment, at personal development, including to be "good," meaning to be ethical, in all situations, both with other people and species; and, to spend a considerable amount of time helping those people and species who are in real need. More generally, one of your main goals should be to help bring about equality, among all people, and life.
The basic guideline for personal development is to pursue education and experience. Your objective here is to learn about the world and all aspects of existence, and in the process to live your life to the best of your ability.
This is where the importance of travel becomes obvious. You want to open your eyes to the horizon, not impose or accept limits on yourself such that you shut the door on it. While it is true that there's no place like home, that doesn't mean you should spend your entire lifetime there.
The dimensions of personal development
Personal development has many dimensions. There is development relative to other people and society, including by being ethical, and through pursuing friendships and love.
And, there is intellectual and also artistic development, where as a specific instance of life you push your limits as far as possible. You, as life, seek to break free of all barriers and boundaries and, on your own, instigate the further evolution of the human race.
For intellectual development, your goal is to learn the truth, whatever "truth" is available given the limitations that I have described. And, for artistic development, your objective is - among other things - to create beauty: to find a means of self-expression that is "beautiful."
And, of course, as the philosopher Immanuel Kant observed, they - truth and beauty - are one and the same. And this in turn recalls Aldous Huxley's statement that the goal is "some intensification and refining of consciousness," or, as James Joyce put it: "to discover the mode of life or of art whereby your spirit could express itself in unfettered freedom."
We have also seen that purpose is in some ways situation dependent. While you always want to be ethical, some aspects - or your prioritization - of your purpose will change over time. For instance, if you have children, supporting and educating them will become one of your primary concerns. Purpose continually adapts to our changing conditions.
Indeed, in challenging circumstances it generally reverts solely to the goal to survive, to avoid pain and suffering, and to overcome poverty, or abuse, in other words, to meet our basic needs. But, when relief arrives, and barring death it will arrive - if need be you will have to go out and find it - you can then focus on the more celestial of our drives, on satisfying your higher needs.
It is at this point that you will confront the religious conception of purpose, which in an organized context is usually presented as the demand that you submit to God - or the universal order, fulfill his - or its - rules, and strive for personal salvation. But, of course, this is simply a social form, a real need cloaked in, even suffocated by, religious dogma.
True religious purpose relates to developing your own spirituality by pursuing philosophical speculation, to find a deeper purpose in life, and to make peace with your death - and the deaths of your loved ones. And this, as we have seen, is in concept quite simple. Your purpose is solely to live. You want to use your will to think, and to have the courage to act: To live your life well, and to accept both the inevitability, and the actual event, of your death.
On the other hand, perhaps this definition appears sparse, even unidimensional - and overly focused on the end. Life is far fuller than that, and what gives it content, or body, is the existence of love: in all its forms.
I said earlier that love is one of our highest needs - along with intellectual development and creative expression. In the next article I will consider this in more detail, and try to view all aspects of love, including its role in human purpose.
© Roland Watson 2015