An important theme in many of our pursuits is living with purpose. As human beings we look for purpose naturally. We need it, and we do everything in our power to find and define it. Some people are content with the purpose assigned to them by religious doctrine, and some find it elsewhere; but regardless of where we draw our purpose from, we are social creatures. We rely on each other, on our social fabric, and for that reason there is a common purpose that we should all embrace. It need not be the sole purpose of each and every life of course, but it should rank among the most important things that give meaning to our lives.
The Dalai Lama has been credited with saying “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” This is such a simple concept, yet its meaning is lost on a culture of entitlement, a world in which we work begrudgingly and seek fulfillment in the temporary satisfaction of ‘stuff.’ Despite this, though, among material addictions and the affluent wet dream, some people are breaking the mould and finding purpose where purpose is needed … helping others.
It must be said that selfishness is not always a bad thing. It’s okay to indulge once in awhile. People are suffering everywhere, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t appreciate and make use of the things we are fortunate to have access to. You won’t find me railing against materialism, I like ‘stuff’ as well. What I’m trying to say here is that ‘stuff’ shouldn’t define us. I’ve said before, and it remains true, that my purpose is not to acquire wealth. It’s not about the big house, or the expensive car. When I look back on my life, those things won’t matter. The question I’ll be asking is “what purpose did I serve?”
I enjoy life. I love my family, my friends, the freedom I feel after finally coming out. I also enjoy knowledge, and therein I find my purpose. Knowledge unlocks everything. It allows me to be more accepting, more compassionate, more empathic, more devoted to my family, more loving to humanity. Knowledge lead me to becoming an Ally, and it lead me to the realization that I am Queer. Living with purpose, for me, is everything the Dalai Lama said in just two simple sentences; and it’s worth repeating. “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”
I am optimistic about our species. I think we have it in us to be stewards of one another and the natural world in which we live. In order for that to be, however, we have to want it. We have to wish good upon our neighbour and make it happen. We have to prioritize things that help one another and reject things that do harm … but first we have to want it. Our thinking has to shift. Material things have to become less important than well-being. Personal enrichment has to jive with generosity. Hubris must be seen for the ugly thing that it is. Entitlement has to disappear, and we have to see people as people – who and what they are comes after that. Perhaps most importantly, we have to judge with understanding. Look at your fellow Homo sapiens and celebrate the diversity among us. If you don’t know, ask. If you are wary, start a conversation. Have your likes and dislikes, but have them be based on knowledge; rather than myth and misinformation.
Now to be clear, none of this is mere opinion. The simple mantra of helping others is relevant to every life, whether we recognize it or not. When you go to the grocery store, for example, you buy food that was planted, cared for, harvested, packaged, shipped, and stocked on the shelves. Hundreds did their jobs to get it into your hands, and the money you pay for it goes into the system that pays them, the cashier who rang it in for you, etc. We rely on each other. We lean on our friends and family when things are tough, we form kinship bonds and all kinds of different relationships, and we survive by participating in the economy. That’s the way we organize, it’s the way we are. What purpose could be more human than extending that to all aspects of life?