The Quest for Meaning

The Quest for Meaning

 

EXCERPT
To Dance With the Question Why?

It started long ago, when our species first achieved consciousness. A distant kinsman awakened — I am. This uneducated forerunner of the human species must have grasped what Rene’ Descartes came to realize: “Cogito, ergo sum; I think, therefore I am.” With self-consciousness came a question. I am, but what am I?

Each culture has answered this question through its myths, oral traditions, and eventually through its sacred literature. Simply stated, we named ourselves. We are human beings, we are spiritual beings, we are children of the sun, people of the High Place, and so on. Individuality, of course, required a personal name: I am Jim or I am Soars Like an Eagle or I am Friend of the Wind or I am Mary. We named ourselves, knowing that words do not adequately describe what we are.

Then another question came, far reaching and powerful in its possibilities, a question that each of us asks, usually in the night — Why am I?

Hasn’t nearly every human being stood alone and looked at the clear night sky? In that moment, gazing into the cosmos, we can feel small. Sometimes, however, a cosmic experience may caused us to feel a part of everything. At other times, when storm clouds encircle us and we are greatly challenged by life’s circumstances, we can feel detached from the whole and without value. Either at peace looking into the night sky or anxious and afraid of tomorrow, we often dance with the question Why?  Why are we here? We are turned and spun around by such questions as these: Does life have meaning? Is there a purpose for being? Can I make a difference?

Without answers, life is aimless and each day can be drudgery. Astronomers spend their lives gazing into the clear night sky. They say they are looking for clues to the origin of the earth and the universe, but isn’t it the origin and why of our species that begs to be answered? These scientists are the offspring of a race of beings who have stood alone and searched the heavens. The ancient ones looked up, but they yearned for meaning on earth. I think it is interesting to speculate that the first of our species asked the same questions we ask today: What am I? Why am I? Does life have meaning and purpose?

If we are solely human beings, then a central purpose would be to continue. We are to live as long as we can and perpetuate the race. Extinction would be the enemy. However, we are spiritual beings. There is no end to us. We are eternal, and this is vital, for it often takes what seems like an eternity for us to discover our purpose and value.

My hope is that what is shared through this book will help us discover our reason for being. To even consider such a breakthrough fills me with anticipation and hope. And the hope is not just for you and me; it is for our species. Surely, our individual lives have purpose, but when we are all joined in a unity of purpose, something wonderful is going to happen. We live in an intelligent universe. Our Creator must have a grand purpose for our being. I believe that when we discover it, our values will shift and our evolution will take a new direction, a direction that Spirit has ordained. A doorway to the kingdom of God will form, through which the Presence will emerge. Creativity will rule the day, and compassion will rule the night.

So, even though we may stumble, let us dance with the question Why?  Let us turn and spin in harmony with the music of the spheres. And in the joy of the dance, I believe we will discover that our lives have purpose and that we can make a difference.?

CHAPTER ONE
Our Unity of Purpose

A Child Is Born
A child is born. The mother tenderly holds the newborn in her arms, and the father peers at their daughter through eyes moistened with tears. Although filled with the wonder and mystery of birth, each parent silently ponders the mystery of life. What will our child be? What will she do? Will she be a teacher, a lawyer, a minister, an engineer, and so forth? Will she work with her hands or will her mind be her took? Will she contribute to the lives of others? Will the world be a better place because she lived?

Life, being, truly is a miracle – not a random act, but the conception of a divine Mind and the outworking of a divine plan. Now, consider the Creator of all life, cradling the family in Its arms and pondering the birth of this child: The parents, man and woman, conceived this child, but first she was an idea in My mind and love in My heart. This one who is called a newborn is eternal and part of the divine plan. She has earthly parents and will dwell upon the earth in a body for a while, but she is made in My image and likeness. The parents will name her, but I call her beloved and her nature spiritual. For a while, she will be human, but always she will be a spiritual being, not only with the ability to contribute to the lives of others, but also with the capacity to allow Me to express Myself in and through and as her. She is! She has life and being. I have breathed into her. I have spoken her name, and my word has become flesh. May she discover why she lives!

The Gift of God
The gift of God is nearly beyond belief, for Spirit gives Itself to us. “You are Mine, I am yours, and we are one,” says our Creator. From this giving and oneness come life and being. Spirit breathes into us, and we become living beings. God speaks, and the Word becomes flesh.

So first, there is a gift of God which becomes life and being, and then another gift is given – purpose, the gift which makes life meaningful. And out of our purpose comes a mission that will uncover our talents and latent abilities. In fact, our mission will demand that we utilize our special gifts. We will have work to do, but it will be our joy. When we do it, we will feel God’s pleasure.

When we have purpose, we are enlivened and live life with boundless energy. Each day is an adventure and an opportunity to make our unique contribution to the divine plan. Purpose calls forth creativity. It opens a gateway to infinite resources that lie within – wisdom, peace, power, love, and strength.

We will give our lives to our purpose and our mission. It is not so much that we will die for them, although we may, as it is that we will live for them. When we have purpose and mission, we feel part of the whole. We know ourselves to be a part of something greater than ourselves. Only an awareness of the Presence can connect us with the whole in such a powerful way. It is God that is the something greater, and therefore, we must turn to the Presence if we are to find our purpose and our mission.

A Part of Something Greater
Sir Christopher Wren was a British architect who designed and built great cathedrals. One day he was walking through a construction site and talking to the workers. They did not know who he was. Wren asked a man what he was making. The mason answered, “I am making a shilling a day.” To a second worker, Wren posed the same question. He answered, “I am building a wall.” When Wren asked a third person what he was doing, the man proudly stood up and said to the stranger who was wandering the construction site, “I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build the greatest cathedral in the world.”

The third man had vision. His mission was not making money, nor was it the task at hand. He had an expanded view of himself and the world. I suspect he was a happy man, for the happiest, most contented, and fulfilled individuals are those who live in a large world. They refuse to be limited to the task at hand or to what they receive for their efforts. They know their labor is united to something greater: They feel God’s pleasure and joy as they work.

Jesus, A Child of Purpose
At age 12, Jesus knew his purpose. Joseph and Mary had traveled with Jesus to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. The festivities were complete, and the family was returning to Nazareth. Jesus’ parents assumed he was in the crowd that was homeward bound. After a time, they realized their son was not with them. Mary and Joseph returned to the Holy City, and after searching for three days, they found Jesus in the temple discussing spiritual matters with the elders. When Jesus was admonished by his parents for his behavior, he answered, “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Lk. 2:49 NKJV)

Jesus lives a life of purpose, and consequently he lives one of the most extraordinary lives that has ever been lived. He became aware of the divine intent and made it his own. His initial effort was to discover the Presence within him. Having found his Father closer to him than his own hands and feet and his own breathing, Jesus next became aware of the divine plan and became a partner in it.

Our Spiritual Purpose
A journey to a life of meaning causes us to consider our spiritual purpose, to discover our mission, to uncover our latent abilities, and finally to find our life’s work. If we are to live a life of meaning and contribute constructively to the world, we must first discover our spiritual purpose. Those things that are spiritual must be the same for everyone, for Spirit has no favorites. All are held in equal esteem. What is offered is offered to everyone. The truth is that everyone has the same spiritual purpose. There are different ways of expressing it, but our spiritual purpose is to know God and to experience the Presence.

Many years ago, I went to a log cabin in the woods to determine if I could write constantly for a period of three days. I had felt guided to do this for a long time. I entered the cabin, got a fire going in the fireplace, and set up my 64Kaypro computer on a card table near a picture window looking out over a mountain lake.
I began to write. After having written only two paragraphs, the cursor on the computer locked up. I ran my hand over the keys. Nothing happened. I removed the disc that contained the work processing program and inserted it again. ( I told you it was many years ago.) The cursor continued to blink at me.

I liked what I had written, so I copied it longhand and shut off the computer, then brought it on-line again. Nothing changed. At this point, I began to realize what a cursor is called a cursor. Having lost my sense of an indwelling God, I looked up and said, “God, for years I have felt Your guidance to come and write. Finally, I am here, and the computer locks up.”

It was one of these times when I heard a distinct voice reply, “Your purpose is not to write; it is to know Me.” Shocked, I returned to my computer, and the cursor moved.

I wrote for three days. Nothing ever came of the words written, but I never forgot Spirit’s simple message: Know Me. This event changed my life and gave me purpose. It also demanded that I change the focus of my life. I have a friend who had a similar experience. After more than forty years, she found her birth mother. After the meeting of mother and daughter, my friend was changed forever, “in the twinkling of an eye” (I Cor. 15:52). She had a deeper sense of who she was. She remarked that she felt grounded for the first time in her life.

Humanly, something wonderful often happens when an orphaned child discovers his father or mother. Imagine what happens when we finally find our Creator. Just like my friend, we know ourselves better and are better able to live. And since our Creator is infinite, our spiritual purpose is always with us. It is like a friendship between people. There is no completion. The friendship grows and deepens. It expands to encompass the love that wells up in the heart of the friends.

This is the way I feel about my relationship with the Presence. It is an emerging friendship that I know will one day meld into oneness. To say that one’s spiritual purpose is to know God is somewhat accurate, but words never tell the whole story. Knowing God is not a matter of the mind, for Spirit cannot be known the way we know our hometown. It is more a matter of love, of friendship. This purpose is of the heart.

Isn’t it true that friendship helps us know ourselves? Surely, we know our friend better each day, and we love him or her more each day, but in the loving, we find ourselves. Our spiritual purpose expands us and reveals a portion of the mystery of being. We know God; we love God, and we come to love ourselves and others, in spite of faults. Can we say that we are done with this, that we know all we can know of the Presence and ourselves? Of course not. Our purpose is a constant companion that gives meaning to our lives.

Spirit Calls Us to Purpose
Spirit calls us to purpose: “Be still, and know…” (Ps. 46:10). “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mk. 12:30). However, we often ignore the Creator’s call and propose that God perform for us. We want the Almighty to do Its mighty thing: “Heal me, God” or “Get me a job” or “What do I do in this situation? Tell me.” or “Can you find me someone who will love me? I am praying for the right and perfect person!”

The experience of our spiritual purpose does not come when we give attention to the world and its added things. If we were solely human beings, then worldly concerns and their fruits would be enough, but we are not just human beings. We are spiritual beings, created so the Creator can express Itself in, through, and as us.

Spirit’s call is lofty and beyond human imagining, but as we respond to Spirit’s yearning for us, earthly needs that seem so all-consuming are met without making them the object of our existence. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt. 6:33). This is a promise as well as a challenge – to live a new way of life, one worthy of a being of the third millennium.

I can say to you that your spiritual purpose is to know God and love God and also to know yourself, but this alone will have no effect on your life. You must experience your spiritual purpose. Because your why is not of the earth, you must “sit with the elders.” This does not mean you must find wise ones who will impart their wisdom to you. “Sitting with the elders” means quiet reflection that allows the voice still and small to speak to you. It means listening to inner voices. Some will be human in nature. You won’t like what they say, but there is a loving, gentle “voice” that you are destined to experience. For now, gently lay aside your worldly concerns. When you return tot hem, they will look different, but they are not the issue now. Experiencing your spiritual purpose is the matter at hand.

Sitting With the Elders
When we seek the kingdom of God, we give ourselves to the Presence; we are sitting with the elders , as Jesus did long ago. The spiritual purpose is the same for every human being – we want to know our roots, our Creator, our God. This is our first step – to ask, to seek, to knock. At this time, it is not necessary to know, to find, or to enter into a conscious awareness of the Presence. The journey to purpose begins with right desire. It is enough, for our willingness to experience the Presence or become a friend of God marshals spiritual forces that grant many gifts.

No matter what is happening in our daily lives, we can give ourselves to knowing the presence. When we are unemployed, we have the work of awakening to our spiritual nature. When we are ill, we are being called to Know God as life. No mater the challenge, our purpose is to know God; however, when we catch our breath and are momentarily free of challenges and problems, we still have the joyous responsibility of knowing the Presence and sharing in the divine friendship.

As we seek the kingdom, we open ourselves to the divine intent to which we can give our lives. Through the years, it has been revealed to people in different ways, and it is evident that there is a special quality about a person who knows his purpose and mission.

The Divine Pattern
On September 10, 1946, a young nun was on a train traveling to her annual retreat. Her purpose was to know God and love God. Her ongoing retreats were evidence that she knew the spiritual purpose which is the same for all of us. While on the train, Anges Gonxha Bojaxhui, who was to become Mother Teresa of Calcutta, heard her “call within a call” – to take care of the sick, dying, naked, homeless, and hungry. She knew she was being asked to be God’s love in action to the poorest of the poor. This was the beginning of the Missionaries of Charity.

She did not hesitate. She asked to establish a new order to work in the deprived areas of India. At 38 years of age, she left the convent where she was a teacher to begin the new order. She knew her purpose: to know God. Now she has a God mission: to be God’s love in action.

One who knew her as a novice in the order of the Sisters of Our Lady of Loreto said she couldn’t even light the candles properly, but after her call, her latent talents and abilities began to show themselves. This is true of those who seek the kingdom. They give themselves to the spiritual purpose and a God’s mission arises. The mission is the “call within a call.” Then latent talents and abilities emerge.

It was this way with Albert Schweitzer. At the age of twenty-one, Schweitzer decided to spend the next nine years developing his mind and talents. He determined that during the remaining years of his life, he would serve humanity. He also continued formal education, however, and in 1913 obtained a doctorate in medicine from the University of Strasbourg. Schweitzer then traveled to Lambarene in French Equatorial AFrica (now Gabon). Until he died on September 4, 1965, Dr. Schweitzer served humankind and through example taught reverence for life.

People of purpose have heard the call to know God. As they experience this calling, they receive a “call within a call” that focuses their life’s purpose upon their God-mission. The mission places great demands upon the person – demands that cannot be met unless talents and abilities emerge. The divine intent is expressed through their work, and humankind is blessed beyond measure.

All people have the same spiritual purpose: to know God, to love God, and to know themselves. This is our unity of purpose, and when we make it our reason for being, we hear the call within the call.

 

 

 

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