Slowly and all at once

It’s a rare kind of person that knows early on who they want to be, and commits to becoming it with a singular, persistent focus. For the rest of us, we slouch through life, wondering what our purpose is while resigning ourselves to making a living. When we talk about purpose, we’re really talking about intention. Purpose is a way we describe our intent toward a course of action. When we’re unclear about our course of action, we say that we lack purpose, but really we lack intention; a determination or resolve. There’s really never a time when any of us lacks purpose, because our purpose is all the same: to express our creative selves.

My memory palace
My memory palace

As people confuse purpose and intention, they also misunderstand capacity and creativity. Most people think that to be creative, we must take classes, join a stage company or learn a handicraft. In any endeavor, we all have a certain capacity for excellence. Some of this is inborn, some of it is developed through practice, but it’s not the same as creativity. We can be creative in every moment without having developed any capacity for it, because it’s our core purpose.

Whenever I hear people talking about “Finding your purpose” I sense a hustle coming on. The conversation usually involves buying a book, crystals, a DVD or seminar that may or may not involve a sweat lodge ritual. These things may lead to finding a career or quitting a career and starting a new career that will make you wish you had never left your old career, but it will not help you find your purpose. It is not something that needs finding; it has already found you. All you have to do is relax and become it.

And this leads to another conundrum: doing less in a world that always seems to demand more. Our national mood hinges on growth. When economic indicators are up, we feel good and when they’re down, we’re gloomy. Growth isn’t creativity, it’s productivity. Nature compels us to create more adaptable and complex versions of ourselves, not just replicants. Nature loves complexity and diversity but there’s nothing in particular we have to do in order to be better hosts to our DNA virus. Sure we can make more kids, but creativeness isn’t limited to reproduction.

By marching to the beat of increasing efficiency, we lose purpose. Efficiency is also not creativity. Nature isn’t arranged around doing more with fewer resources. This is something that we have invented as a way to increase productivity. Nature creates a ton of unnecessary stuff; galaxies, penguins, and sand to name just a few. It creates a billion species over untold eons, only to extintify them and start over. It’s horribly inefficient and we are part of that inefficiency. Becoming more efficient helps us do more with less, but has nothing to do with finding our purpose, and actually, it obscures it. The busier we become, the more we fail to notice that we fail to notice how we become defined by the activity.

My purpose is to fully participate in creating abundance in all its forms. When I am purposeful, I am engaged in leveraging my inborn and learned capacities in a way that creates abundance. Abundance is not my purpose, it’s a by-product, and isn’t a definitive measure of my life. It is nothing more than the expression of my creative self, which can only be what it is. My intention will determine if I get things done, but my purpose couldn’t care less.

“When purpose has been used to achieve purposelessness, the thing has been grasped” – The Secret of the Golden Flower