The Pointless Pondering of Purpose

I’ve been in a rather intense state of thought in my off time this past week or two, and it’s primarily because I was stuck in somewhat of a thinking trap where I was wondering what it was I was going to do in the future, where I was going, what the point is, etc.

Not that it was a bad thing. I don’t particularly think it was bad for me to sit in silence and consider all of this stuff. Existential thought and wondering why and what the point behind things are is important to do sometimes, because it is often the case that we forget about what’s good and why it’s good. We get stuck in hardcore routines or patterns of perpetual passivity and forget to relax our sight and see the bigger picture. That said, there’s the opposite danger – sitting inside that process of thought and tangling yourself in webs of rationalizations that have nothing to do with sensation and perception, also known as the concrete fact of reality.

Interestingly, in my free time I’ve also been playing a few strategic board games and puzzles, and all of it had to do with seeing the bigger picture. Let’s take for example Gomoku, or 五目並べ (Gomoku Narabe).

Gomoku is a very simple game to understand: you have a board, white stones and black stones, and the goal of the game is to connect five of your stones together in a row, in a line or diagonally. It’s Connect 5 basically, but you have freedom to put your stones wherever you want – barring some rules in positioning for black, as black goes first and without the rules has an unfair advantage.

The game is simple, but it quickly progresses into a game of intense complexity and thought. Short sighted charges for victory usually give the other player the ability to position themselves in a way to trap you and win the game. I’m OK at it, but as I played more and moved into “apprentice” stage when taking the AI on, I suddenly realized how short sighted and weak my ability to see the bigger picture was.

I’ve been thrashed by the AI over one hundred times. It’s frustrating, but there’s a brutal lesson learned in the losses because every single game is completely on me and my failure to see the bigger picture. I enjoy it tremendously and welcome any friends who want to play – it’s incredibly enjoyable and a great workout for the mind and long term planning.

What does this have to do with pondering about the purpose of things? Well, the two are connected in that during this week or so of me being stuck in this looping thought of “what is my purpose and what is the point?”, it was just like in my hundreds of matches of Gomoku – I wasn’t seeing the bigger picture and was suffering from some serious tunnel vision.

In other words, I was stuck in the thoughts, but not looking at sensation, perception and ultimately, reality.

I suddenly started to notice what I had been doing early this morning during my quiet morning coffee sit downs. Instead of focusing on the pieces I had, I “zoomed” out of the thought process and got back to focusing on reality – the proverbial “board”, so to speak.

From there, it suddenly occurred to me that purpose is not “found” – it’s chosen. And purpose is not a singular, at least not for all people.

What I mean by this is that there are many, many people who sit and, as they mature from their teens and twenties, they begin to wonder what their “purpose” is, or what they want to “be” – they’re looking for this answer outside of themselves.

This is pretty normal, but there’s a mistake there in that there is no such thing as purpose, existentially. Outside of yourself, separate to your state as a living organism, there’s no such thing. It’s nonsense to even consider that purpose is out there – purpose is chosen and manifested by the individual.

But it’s not necessarily one purpose, and this was where I was getting stuck personally.

There’s this prevailing notion that once you find your thing, you’re going to make it, and everything will be fine from there. Total nonsense for the most part, and it is akin to saying that there is “one” perfect person out there for you, romantically. Again, total nonsense, and applies a platonic standard to reality which can never flourish.

There is no “the one” in relationships, just as there is no “one purpose” that someone was meant for. That’s fatalistic and dangerous thinking. There are “chosen” ones, and “chosen” purposes, but there are no “ONES”.

It’s just not how humans work. Humans are constantly striving for more and the next endeavor. We’re primed to keep moving and keep struggling. We want to know more, do more, see more, build more, etc. This doesn’t mean that you can’t spend your life on one main career or relationship – it is entirely possible to do so, especially when you’re very heavily invested ie. children, running a business, etc.

But both those also have elements of expansion and creation of legacy. Children are your legacy biologically, your name and business, spiritually (for lack of a better word). We constantly want to do more, no matter what – and sitting still, while beneficial in many respects, is just not in our DNA to do indefinitely.

There was a clarity and relaxation of my mind once I had reconnected myself back to reality going through that little thought trap I was stuck in. I was constantly looping in thoughts rather than starting inductively, which led to confusion and trying to figure something out that didn’t have all the proverbial stones on the board. I tend to be a person who throws his gangling frog tongue at lots of different things in life, and I do it because I have intense interest in so many things. I’ve been aptly called a Renaissance man and it certainly shows – last week at the zoo, my girlfriend couldn’t even comprehend why I knew so much about every animal we saw. I just like to learn and examine everything.

That puts me in a place in life where “finding” purpose can be dangerous. It leads me to losing interest in something, concluding “that’s not it” and then asking “what now?”.

The reality is, purpose is a constantly changing thing for me which I choose based on my interests at the time. I have a primary career which I’ve chosen, and while it gives me great satisfaction, it can change within the next five or ten years if new horizons excite me. I paint a lot but these past few months I’ve done effectively nothing – because it’s not my chosen activity or “purpose” right now. Writing is a constant in my life, but what I write about changes constantly.

I’m always picking and choosing, but never finding. And that’s important to understand, because there is no such thing as purpose on this Earth. There is simply you, your mind, and a universe of options where you can make your own purpose, and change it when the tides shift.

It is an active process of exploring reality while you’re alive, choosing things to focus on, and living to the best of your ability.

In other words, and to come back around to my game of Gomoku – stop focusing on the path you’ve made, but instead focus on the board, think, and choose a new path. It’s easy to put pieces down on the board and firmly believe you’ve “found” the answer, but usually that ends up getting you nowhere.

Look at the whole board, think, then make your move. That is what purposeful action is – and conversely, what purpose is. You don’t “find” victory – you “choose” it after a process of thought.


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