What is your purpose in life? Are you working at or taking part in something bigger than yourself? Are you taking steps to make sure the impact you have in the world is positive?
I wrote last week about forgiveness and how it is a good predictor of longevity. In other words, people who are able to forgive tend to live longer than those who do not. Another unexpectedly good predictor of longevity is having a purpose in your life, dedicating your time, energy and skills to a project or a purpose greater than yourself − that benefits others.
I think that Greta Thunberg is admirable, but you don’t have to be a Greta Thunberg to make a difference. Look around you in your community; stop complaining about what’s wrong and do something! If you are stuck for inspiration, read; study the lives of people who made a difference − people who inspire you. Then couple that with a problem that needs solving. It doesn’t have to be something global; it can be something in your community – schools, for example. The most important part is to do something; get involved!
Our culture, our society is set up in such a way as to keep us anaesthetised. A friend once described it to me as “the mushroom strategy”; we are kept in the dark and fed on shit. The relentless pressure to steal our attention and to manipulate our behaviour − more sophisticated than ever − means that it is difficult not be sucked into mindless constant consumerism. The philosophy for our age is “take something,” “buy something”. Whatever ails you, if you feel dissatisfied − drink something, eat something, smoke something, buy something. Of course doing these things won’t fix any problem. In fact, after a little while you’ll probably feel worse and want even more. But at least for a little while you will be distracted. Your fragile ego (which is not who you are) is inflated by things and by virtual friends (who are not really your friends). I suppose that there is a certain poignant symmetry to that.
Turn your pain into healing for others. If you have hurtful experiences of abuse or trauma, work out how to use these experiences to help others. All episodes of your life, even the darkest and most difficult, contain a jewel of wisdom. Practice by doing and teaching are the best ways to really deepen your understanding. Supporting others in their struggle to overcome and to integrate their own difficult experiences is healing for both parties.
I have written many times about the importance of practicing such skills as awe, gratitude and altruistic kindness. All of these things enable us to experience directly a sense of being part of something much bigger than ourselves. We feel more inclined to help, to volunteer, to participate − all of which bring an increased sense of purpose.
Whatever you decide to do, make it non-tribal. As a civilisation we are more tribal than ever. We are all manipulated by cynical greedy media posing as news’ sources whilst feeding us propaganda designed to increase our fears of others who are not “like us”. Social media is destroying our society by increasing tribalism, creating a society of tribes each living in their own “info-verse” − each ignorant and intolerant of the other.
So whatever you choose, make it inclusive; base it on what we have in common: every sentient being you will ever meet, just like you, wants to avoid suffering and experience happiness. Recognise that our differences are largely superficial. Do not impose your religion on others. It is a fact that all religions are man-made. You might believe but have the humility to admit that you do not know.
No one knows. In fact, the deeper you go into it, you discover that there is very little you can really be certain of. I am certain only of the fact that I am conscious. I believe that the humans and other creatures I experience around me are also conscious. We all suffer the existential illusion of separation −a type of ignorance and the source of so much suffering.
Whatever form it might take in your life, however you choose to manifest it, let kindness be your religion, let the relief of suffering be your purpose.