Have you noticed how much is out there about finding your soul’s purpose? You know, the reason you’re here. There’s a thing you’re supposed to be doing that is aligned with spirit or soul or G_d and until you find that thing you’re not going to be happy. Usually, this invitation is accompanied by an eight week introductory program that prepares you for the year long program that in turn prepares you for a coaching program to run the program that helped you to find your purpose so you can help others find their purpose.
For sure it’s a sign that something is missing, and it’s widespread. I suspect that this felt absence is a symptom of having lived through a couple hundred years of scientific materialism that denies the domain of the invisible, of Spirit. What purpose could there be other than paying off the mortgage and beefing up your retirement fund?
What used to happen to me when I read about the latest program to help me find my purpose was that I started to question the life I had. Not such a bad thing, in itself. But even if I was happy, it’s like a virus was inserted into my mind, a virus causing me to question if I’d found IT yet. I mean, I could be fooling myself. Maybe there is a HIGHER purpose. And one yet HIGHER than my HIGH purpose.
What is this thing called purpose and how do we get it back?
I wonder if it’s possible that the universe is set up so that purpose isn’t so elusive. What if the whole thing is mostly noticing what allures you? Cosmologist and physicist, Brian Swimme, teaches that allurement is a fundamental principle of the universe. Earth finds the sun’s light and heat alluring, falls in love with the sun in fact (to use poetic language). You leave that allurement in place for 4.5 billion years or so, and presto, you get planet Earth, 2021, teeming with ecosystems, cities, unspeakable beauty and your own life. It’s actually a miracle, this evocation of such abundant life, coaxed into being by the allurement of Earth toward the sun. Talk about manifestation! And Earth didn’t even have to try. It just basked in the beauty of the light and heat.
Here’s a little tidbit. Did you know that the sun burns 600 million tons of hydrogen converting it into 596 tons of helium so that this whole show can run? Eventually it will consume itself. That’s a ways out, don’t worry. But our sun is only one of 300 billion stars in our smallish galaxy. I think future life in our galaxy has quite enough energy to keep things running (somewhere) pretty much forever.
“Even after all this time, the sun never says to Earth, you owe me.
Look what happens with a love like that
It lights the whole sky”
Now I’m pretty sure our planet didn’t take a course on finding its purpose. Earth felt into the allurement of the sun. This is one of the factors that underlies evolution, biological, cultural and spiritual. Do like Earth does. Notice what lights you up, fall in love with it, and get out of the way. There, I saved you a couple grand.
Underlying the simplicity of this proposal is a theological/spiritual possibility that the Intelligence and Creativity that animates an evolving universe is delighted by the intelligence and creativity of that which it has produced. “Interested” may be too weak a word. We are, let’s remember, offspring of that same creative intelligence, and so it makes sense (at least to me) that we are centres of said intelligence. We are meant to do and be an expression of That which/Who gave birth to us. We evolve as it evolves, through allurement.
Allurement is a fancy word for desire. And desire is a gift of the Creative Intelligence that is building a universe. It builds a universe through desire. Your desire. So maybe the universe is delighted by your desire, because the universe (Spirit/G_d) knows itself in and through through your desire.
Ah, but wait. This isn’t supposed to be about what I want, what lights me up. It’s supposed to be what G_d wants from me, and that requires sacrifice. But the sacrifice is worth it because, well, I will be pleasing That higher authority, who will then reward me with …whatever. At least you won’t be able to accuse me of selfishness. Everybody will be able to see that I’m a martyr for the cause. And maybe right there is the primary reward. I’m finally seen as “good”. After a lifetime of being set up to believe that I’m selfish, bad, unworthy, etc. I’ve finally justified my existence.
See what happened there? Change “allurement” to desire and something in us goes on red alert. We’ve been taught to be very suspicious of desire, especially if Christianity has been anywhere in the neighbourhood. St. Augustine had a wee challenge, (or you could say, ahem, a challenge with his wee wee). He concluded that sexual desire was the font of all evil and passed that little gem of wisdom on to the Church. That got generalized to all desire and we were collectively set up.
We ended up with “desire bad, service to others good.”
Ok, he had a (sort of) point. A very limited point, which will clarify as I proceed.
Contained within us are animal desires, human desires, and spiritual desires. (I almost changed “animal” to “survivalist”, because when I thought about it, many animals will give their lives to save their offspring. We humans tend to underestimate our animal kin.) But for the sake of an imperfect model, I’ll leave it.
We evolve through these as stages (or at least it’s possible). Animal desire=survival at all costs. This is a good thing. If our ancestors weren’t equipped with the survival instinct we wouldn’t be here. For the purpose of this schema I’m equating animal desire with early ego desire. It’s all about me. Human desire evolves from me to we. A desire comes on line that genuinely cares about the other. Spiritual desire evolves from this “us” (ethnocentric well-being of my tribe, my gang, my family, my people) to “all of us” (cosmocentric desire, the well-being of all). At this stage you are nearing Bodhisattva status.
So, they’re all “good” forms of desire. But I think what scared Augustine was that he got stuck at animal desire and couldn’t seem to evolve beyond it. (No “we”, just his own wee wee) Okay, that’s the last joke at poor Augustine’s expense. Then he generalized that his problem was everybody’s problem. Nope, Augustine, it was your problem.
I don’t want to minimize the trouble that stuck desire gets us in as a species. Summarized, stuck desire is characterized by five expressions of the personal will (for survival): the desire to be great, to take, to keep, to advance, and to hold on to, even if it hurts others. Note, the intent is typically not to consciously hurt others, it’s a by-product. If the intent is to hurt others it crosses over into evil. Every Netflix film that gets our adrenaline pumping is centred on a protagonist who is contending with stuck desire.
Still, desire is not the problem. Stuck desire, desire that is born of willfulness, that is the will to merely survive, is the problem.
How come it gets stuck? Trauma, lovelessness, humiliation and shame. We get stuck in survival (“I” mode). If we learn that the “other” is not a safe proposition, we will eliminate the we space to protect ourselves, or we may eliminate the “I” and fake connection, so we don’t get hurt. Then we go to church, hear a bunch of moral ideals about how we’re supposed to be, which is actually beyond us developmentally. We act “good”, behave ourselves, do all the right things, but guess what’s missing? Honest to goodness (that order matters) desire. We find ourselves performing a life, without the support of the universal life energy that feasts and delights on genuine desire?desire that comes from within. And when we’re living from that place we’re living our own life not somebody else’s. Not being “good” or “nice” or “caring” or “selfless” or “of service” because it’s an ideal that some external authority told you was the purpose of your life.
When you’re living your own life, you are living “on” and “with” purpose, because your desire is freely flowing. And your desire is free to evolve beyond survival when you’ve cleared up the trauma. Then you get real genuine pleasure making other people’s lives more beautiful. You feel compassion for the whole universe, and want to align yourself with the desire of the whole. The “desire of the Whole” begins to manifest through the desire of the part (you). And the desire of the part (you) is a bright reflection of the Whole, and actually advances the Whole. This, I think, is how a sacred, evolutionary process works.
But please don’t hear all of this as “we must all evolve and reach the status of compassion for the whole universe”. That’s just another trip laid down by somebody outside of you. We can easily get trapped in the pursuit of performing this latest, greatest ideal so that our trauma self will finally feel legit. I’m just saying that this seems to be direction of the unfolding if we trust what allures us, and remove the obstacles that keep us on the hamster wheel of having to prove ourselves. Don’t let me or anybody else tell you what your life “should” look like. If we truly trust what allures us we end up with a quirky, variegated, sometimes eccentric life that perfectly reflects the uniqueness of our soul.
And then you won’t have any question of “purpose”, because you’ll be living it. It will be living you. And you don’t need anybody else or any program or metaphysical system to tell you what the purpose of life is. They are, invariably, projecting their own felt absence on to you.
In truth, you are the desire of All That Is, experiencing Itself, in, through and as beautiful you.