Of no small consequence to this endeavor I’ve dubbed “The Edison Project”, from the outset, was the intentional digging into myself I felt needed in order to expand my voice. That in order to have something to say, I needed to know the core of myself. While not near the heart of my core, as of yet, I have devised a first tenant of life: purpose.
That is to say that it is in finding purpose that we find what feeds us towards our goals, our ambitions, our happiness. No matter how small or large a person’s penchant for competition is, at the heart of each of us lie certain constructs of winning and losing. We set goals and we measure them. If we succeed in our task, we measure that out to be a win, and are therefore happy. If we fail in that task, we measure that out to be a loss, and we either are unhappy, or resolve to create happiness by reinvesting ourselves in accomplishing what was once failed.
In setting goals that satisfy our core, we increase our happiness by building further purpose for our lives. The best way of doing this is to establish initiative and accountability. No matter how large or small the aim, establishing accountability to the things we say we are going to do ties us to our words, creates a mission and sense of purpose. By constantly probing our deepest selves, we begin to take initiative to both reach out to the world and accomplish goals, while simultaneously uncovering more of who we are. I believe there are central tenants which need to constantly exist while we dig, lest we venture off the path:
- God (read: Faith) – While I certainly advocate for the adoption of Christianity as the pillar behind our faith, any faith with ambitions to achieve the Golden Rule propels us towards enriching the fabric of ourselves and our immediate communities. An accredited Faith in this sense cannot be one that is warped into maliciously creating harm towards others in the name of that faith. To be fair, there are pockets from nearly every faith that seek to abuse the central aspects of their theology. None can be accepted over others, merely because they fit our understanding of what is beneficial to us. There are other aspects created by faith that are so large and important, that I will list them later.
- Family – Whether through the course of marriage, or the family to which one was born, purpose is derived from family. Role models are created first in this core component of creating purpose. Ideologies and pathologies are first communicated here and can also be the source of rebellion in later stages of life. The role of both a father and a mother are critical, as despite recent beliefs, men and women bring to children different examples of love, authority, acceptance of individuality and permission to be oneself that the other cannot mimic genuinely. Parents must work through differences and set a tone of compassion, teamwork, and handling of conflict in healthy ways in order for children to see compromise as optimal – in order to see that people don’t need to agree completely to get along properly. Purpose in this sense, is more of a passive understanding of right and wrong. A foundation of formulating virtue over vanity; where it can never be questioned that moral and philosophical right and wrong are not relative. They are fixed. If one strives towards virtue, they can never proclaim to subscribe to a separate set of virtues. In part, this is why religion and family are so critical to back each other up.
- An understanding of the power of evil against the power of good – And the willingness to acknowledge the evil that exists within ourselves. Dr. Jordan B Peterson, a Canadian clinical psychologist, a man to whom I am now becoming acquainted through his work, describes perfectly the virtue of power. He dismisses out of hand that power is found through manipulation or exertion of force or the threat of it. He says that is tyranny. I agree with him. Power is standing on moral principles and executing them with the authority and discipline given earned as we move along in the world. Power is when a man uses his strength, or any other masculine trait for good. Power is when a woman uses her love, or any other feminine trait for good. Peterson aptly describes that both men and women posses the same virtues; only that they posses different quantities of each virtue, as well as the focus to develop certain traits over others. Put together, men and women complement one another. Neither can be removed, or silenced, without creating a vacuum of virtue in one form or another. Peterson claims that we are first charged with defeating the evil within ourselves before we can expand that fight towards fighting evil in our communities, or society at large. I believe that is the inability to do so that creates in our leaders and inability to lead by example. How many times have we seen authority figures brought up on the very charges they espouse to disdain? It is in understanding evil that we defeat pluralism, moral relativism and vanity – in order to harness that evil and employ virtue against. The presence of this knowledge cannot be overstated. When one begins a new effort, if he, or she, has not accounted for the malicious existence within themselves, that effort can be easily forced down a path of destruction. To illuminate my claim further, one has only to watch Star Wars. As silly as that may sound, the entire epic rests solely on one’s ability to keep the evil that rests within each of us in check.
- Social Connection – A friend and mentor of mine, Andrew Bustamante has said it be when he put to me the thought, backed up by several studies that loneliness may become the next great epidemic in mental health. The fact that so many people now derive a majority of their interaction with friends and family through social media has led to the distilling of group thought, and advice, as crucial. I am certainly guilty of this fact. He has his own plans, which can be seen here, but for the purposes of my thoughts on purpose, social interaction and connection to society must be maintained in order to assure that purpose exists within the framework that society gives us. Without incorporating our purpose into the greater good, it is impossible to determine whether or not one’s goals and purpose establishes a productive element to society. As an aside, I’d encourage you to visit his website. Andrew is an excellent motivator, and has proved an even more valuable curator of ideas, as I try to bounce ideas off of him as often as I can.
For it was Marcus Tullius Cicero who said ” The best Armour of Old Age is a well spent Life preceding it; a Life employed in the Pursuit of useful Knowledge, in honourable Actions and the Practice of Virtue; in which he who labors to improve himself from his You, will in Age reap the happiest Fruits of them; not only because these never leave a Man, not even in the extremest Old Age, but because a Conscience bearing Witness that our Life was well spent, together with the Remembrance of past good Actions, yields an unspeakable Comfort to the Soul. This is invaluable advice. For each day, age eats at us. Each moment, we pass up a purpose-filled life in exchange for nothing of benefit to us, we are less likely to reward ourselves with a soul full of comfort and gratitude for the moments we have left to spend.
Yours in the Pursuit of Purpose,