Can Humans Find a Greater Purpose?

Jõhvnööbikud“Why am I here?”  “What is my purpose?”  “What is God’s will for my life?”  “Am I making a difference?”  “How will I be remembered?”

I have often asked myself these, and many similar questions.  We as humans seem to be programed with an insatiable interest in purpose.  We want to accomplish something, we want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and we want to know why.  We often imagine purpose as something that we must find, discover, or create.  Or something that must be bestowed, or given to us by some other entity.  But purpose is something that is always with us.  It is an integral part of who we are, and we cannot be separated from it.

Consider Water

Water does not strive, it does not desire, and it has no goals.  It does not search out its purpose.  Simply by behaving according to its own properties, it fulfills its purpose.  As a result clouds are formed, canyons are carved, and life is sustained (The water does not aim to accomplish these things, yet they are still accomplished).  The purpose of water is to be water.

Consider A Tree

What is the purpose of a tree?  Other than to grow and to become a perfect manifestation of itself?  There is none.  A tree does not desire to make a name for itself.  It does not try to make the world a better place.  A tree is a tree, and that is its purpose.

Can we live like the tree, or the snail, or the bird?  With no purpose other than to be ourselves?  Is it possible to stop striving, planning, searching and asking?  Or is longing for a greater purpose simply part of our nature?

“The Master gives himself up
to whatever the moment brings.
He knows that he is going to die,
and he has nothing left to hold on to:
no illusions in his mind,
no resistances in his body.
He doesn’t think about his actions;
they flow from the core of his being.
He holds nothing back from life;
therefore he is ready for death,
as a man is ready for sleep
after a good day’s work.”  ~Lao Tzu

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Top Ten John Muir Quotes

Händkakk_2014I love inspirational and thought provoking quotes.  I love when a complex, intricate, gargantuan subject or idea can be represented with not so many words.  They’re easy to find (thanks to the internet) They’re diverse and plentiful, and they draw me in like a moth to a fortune cookie

This morning, I am feeling a special affection toward the wise words of John Muir.  I’d like to have copy and pasted the entire list from Goodreads and BrainyQuote, but for the sake of brevity, I have only included ten.

10.  “Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” ~John Muir

9.  “As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can”.  ~John Muir

8.  “This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”  ~John Muir

7.  “Going to the woods is going home.”   ~John Muir

6.  “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”  ~John Muir

5.  “Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.”  ~ John Muir

4.   “I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do.”  ~John Muir

3.  “The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us. Thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own, and sings our love.”  ~John Muir

2. Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”  ~John Muir
1.  “The power of imagination makes us infinite.”  ~John Muir
BONUS QUOTE!
I thought this one would go nicely as a tagline on my Unschooling blog Dadosaurus Rex:
“One day’s exposure to mountains is better than a cartload of books.”  ~John Muir

Oneness Vs Autonomy

“Step by step the longest march
Can be won can be won
Many stones can form an arch
Singly none singly none
And by union what we will
Can be accomplished still
Drops of water turn a mill
Singly none singly none”

1280px-Moulin_dussart_01I heard these words sung on the radio today, and I’m trying to decide how I like them.  My first thought is a resounding “Amen!”  There is truly nothing that we “singly” can do.  Without the sun, without the earth, without our fellow creatures, and our fellow man.  We are all interconnected, and we can all band together in love to make the world a better place.

But then a rebellious thought rushes in.  What if I don’t care for marching, and would rather sit by the stream?  What if I’d rather be a rolling stone than a stone in an arch?  What if I am a drop of water that doesn’t want to “turn the mill?”  What if my aim is to evaporate, join the cirrus and float about in a wisp of white?

So, do we take the path of cooperation, or individuality?  Is there a middle ground between oneness and autonomy?

BONUS HAIKU!

Too Many Choices

I cannot make up my mind

I’ll let you decide

Stop Thinking

“Stop thinking, and end your problems.” ~Lao Tzu

IMG_20150428_143905We live in a beautiful world.  Even the small segment that our senses can take in (smaller still what our minds can comprehend) is beyond what we can express with words.  There are infinite opportunities for joy, yet we use so much of our time fretting over the insignificant; the non-consequential.  We fill our days with worry and busyness, trying to get ahead.  We constantly occupy our minds with television and social media, afraid to sit in silence, and be alone with ourselves.  Trying to drown out and silence the voices of fear, regret, and uncertainty.

Stop worrying.  Stop thinking.  You are on the right path; the only path; your path.  Follow it to the end.  Take care with each step.  Feel each breath.  There is no need for fear.  You are a passenger, an observer.  Enjoy the ride.

Learning From Trees #3: Bonsais

bonsai

Throughout our day, we have many interactions with people.  Some of them may be positive, while others may not be so positive.  After a negative encounter we may wonder, Why does this person behave in such a way?  How could this person be so heartless (inconsiderate, rude, oblivious, cold, cruel et cetera)?

Well, this is an excellent question, and there is probably a reason for their undesirable behavior.  It is also not only possible, but quite likely that they have asked themselves the same question, and have tried unsuccessfully to change.  Why is it so hard to do what we know is right?  Is it just human nature?

What people become under one set of circumstances does not tell us very much about what they might have become under another.  Japanese gardeners, over many centuries, have learned to do things to trees, to clip their roots or trim their branches, to limit their supply of water, air, or sun, so that they live, and for a long time, but only in tiny, shrunken, twisted shapes.  Such trees may please us, or they may not. But what could they tell us about the nature of trees?  If a tree can be deformed and shrunk, is this, then, its nature?  The nature of these trees, given enough of the sun, air, water, soil, and food they need, is to grow like trees, tall and straight.

People can be more easily deformed, and worse deformed, even than trees—and more than trees, they feel it, it hurts.  But this cannot and does not say anything about their nature.  Only to the degree that people have what they need, that they are healthy and unafraid, that their lives are varied, interesting, meaningful, productive, joyous, can we begin to judge, or even guess, their nature.  Few people, adults or children, now live such lives.  Perhaps few ever did.  There is no way to find out how much good or kindness there may be in human nature, except to build or try to build a society on the assumption that people are or would like to be good and kind, a society in which to be good and kind is at least not a handicap.  Until we are able to do this, it would be more wise and fair, and even prudent, to give human beings the benefit of the doubt.” –John Holt

Perhaps we ought to take Mr Holt’s advice, and show a little grace not only to others, but to ourselves.