An Unexpected Example Of Finding Purpose In Life
This past Saturday I awoke 2 hours before everybody else. I don’t do it for the benefits that I’ve been told that I may or may not receive and I don’t do it for bragging rights. I do it so I can add two hours of “me” time to my day. Time that cannot be found anywhere else. Time all alone with my thoughts, a good book, or in silence. Me time.
My family and I (sans our dogs) left the comfort of our own home for the second weekend in a row. Last weekend we headed south. This weekend we ventured north.
12 steps from our weekend residence stood serenity. On my left, I saw wilderness. On my right, water as far as I could see. Directly in front of me, the Sun.
I love it by the water.
It brings about the best of sensations. A calm that can only be replicated next to the water. A smell so addictive that I purposely make every breath deeper than the last. And the sights…the postcard-perfect sights. The only thing my moment was missing (if I can say it was missing something) was rain.
I do love the rain. Whenever it comes I find myself sitting next to the closest open window or door. Rain, the perfect metaphor for life. With each rainfall, the Earth is able to wash away its faded memories and create new ones. Growth occurs because of rain and cannot occur without it. Even my son has begun taking a liking to it. As it comes down and if he’s awake, he will always make his way over to it and for a moment, sit with me.
I stepped down from the rock-filled path that cluttered my way and onto the sand. The moment I reached the sand, I looked up and stood mesmerized by the Sun as it began to illuminate the blue and orange sky with its reflection perfectly mirrored on the water. It was something to behold. It took my perfect moment and turned it into pure nirvana.
For one hour, I sat deep in my thoughts. For one hour, I sat watching, thinking, and lost in my surroundings.
I was lost. I was happy.
During this hour a mayfly made its way over to me, landing on my hand. I looked at him and he looked at me. As he moved around my fingers, my fingers moved around him. We did this dance for 10 minutes before I put him down beside me. I looked away to the water and when I looked back, he was gone.
I sat puzzled.
The mayfly, like many other species of insect, has a relatively short life. They spend the majority of their two-year existence not finding purpose in life but rather in the preparation of fulfilling their life’s purpose.
And when they do, they do it beautifully.
What a life the mayfly has, I thought to myself. They know their purpose from the day they are born and they don’t spend the best years of their life wasting their time doing things that they shouldn’t be doing. They know their path and with or without adversity, they walk it gracefully.
For the rest of the weekend, I thought about my friend and how his life might relate to ours. Namely, does the mayfly, one of the world’s most unchanged and primitive creatures, know something that we don’t about finding purpose in life?
Could it? Does it?
Not a chance, I told myself. We are human and we invented fire, the wheel, are able to create semi-lasting relationships, go to school, work, and do everything in between. We have a higher level of understanding, we utilize emotion, and have advanced forms of communication. Not only these but we live atop the food chain.
“Would it be cruel to tell an adult Mayfly that it only has one afternoon?
Would it still fly as far and as high as it could? Might if fly further and higher than usual?
Or would it forget about its wings and sit on the water, head bowed, sufficiently traumatized…”
For the next twelve hours, I found myself bothered by my thoughts and couldn’t understand why. Initially, I came to the conclusion that we are vastly more advanced than our Ephemeroptera counterpart but the more I thought about it, the less I believed it.
Yes, we are different on all the aforementioned levels I reassured myself, but this is only the case if we choose to be.
The mayfly is a prisoner of its own existence. It is bound to the water to live, procreate and to die. It lives a life trapped in a vicious and repetitive cycle. While we can be prisoners of our own existence, we have the option to live whatever life we choose. We can eat, live, sleep, dance, play, work, procreate and so many other things wherever and whenever we desire. The mayfly, on the other hand, cannot. Unlike the mayfly, we are capable of a greater existence and for the most part, we live a greater existence. Surely, we know a thing or two about finding purpose in life…
Or do we?
In a world filled with endless opportunity, why do we not take advantage of it? More so, why do we not take advantage of life? Sure, we vacation to leave ourselves behind, and yes, we take risks when we have to but why is it we try to escape from ourselves and not take risks more than when the world tells us we need to?
If told we will die tomorrow, I can say with certainty we will go home, think about all the things we want to accomplish and all the people we want to see and one by one begin checking them off. At death, the world is telling us that we need to take a vacation and a risk and we do them both.
Why does death have to be the catalyst for us to spend time finding purpose in life?
In thinking about it, I realize that this very question has haunted my thoughts for years. Time and time again I find myself circling back to this question, never actually able to answer it.
I’ve come up with various answers in the past but none of them ever satisfied my appetite.
- Not caring
- Our own definition of happiness
- We don’t want to
- We can’t
- We won’t
Maybe not coming up with an answer is the answer.
Like the way that water will always move from more concentrated areas to less concentrated areas, so too must the world. The world needs equilibrium to keep itself balanced and if each of us continually lived their lives as if it was their last day, that equilibrium would be broken.
Knowing that I ask who are the lucky ones who get to live their life as they want to live it? Who are the lucky ones who don’t have to spend time finding purpose in life? Who are the lucky ones who know it? The answer to that question is up to you. Understand that you do not have to be the molecule of water shifting from a higher concentration to a lower concentration. It is possible to be the molecule of water that remains in the higher concentration.
You have the power to wake up each day and decide to make your life your own. You have the power to roll out of bed and attack the world with such ferocity that the world has no option but to keep you in the higher concentration.
What’s remarkable is the difference between high-level and low-level concentration is meager.
- Reading vs Watching Television
- Complimenting vs Criticizing
- Embracing Change vs Fearing Change
- Forgiving Others vs Holding a Grudge
- Continuously Learning vs Thinking There’s Nothing Left to Learn
- Accepting Responsibility vs Blaming Others
- Gratitude vs Entitlement
- Setting Goals vs Never Setting Goals
Finding purpose in life is as simple as making good decisions day in and day out.
Of course, you also have the option to do nothing. The choice is yours. I’ve watched first hand what happens to the mayfly that doesn’t have that choice and I’m here to tell you it isn’t something worth fantasizing about.
Cheers to your success,