Seeing our purpose in life

Bird Droppings October 12, 2010
Seeing our purpose in life

It has been over five years since I started writing this piece. I went out this morning with many questions on my mind. I Have a significant paper to write, a wedding coming up to officiate, a new grandbaby on the way, new and old students and how to deal with them when I get to school and pondering with each breath if I have chosen wisely. It was cool as I walked out and rearranged a few stones in the back yard. I walked to the corner where I could see a glimpse of the sunrise as it is too early maybe I could think about a sunrise was more like it. I was reading earlier a college student’s frustration in life and love on her xanga account and glanced over birthdays and postings in facebook.
As I am listening to teenagers at school so often we limit ourselves to what we know now. Obviously it is hard to assume we will know more lately, but children at some point lose that aspect. It may be at puberty where imagination and thinking of what could be and how dissipate. Maybe that is why middle school kids are so hard to deal with they are locked in the now more so than any other age losing the ability to see ahead and not knowing enough to ponder anything else. However often I wonder about my own purpose in life, why am I here?

“Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” Richard Bach

Every once in a while I find a quote from Richard Bach that strikes me. I remember reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull in the early seventies and it made sense. I would wager today most high schoolers and even college students would have a difficult time or find it too childish. A good friend offered up a book by James Kavanaugh, known for his controversial 1967 bestseller, A Modern Priest Looks at His Outdated Church, calling for reform in the Catholic church, Celebrate the Sun, a sort of whimsical story about Harry Lagendorf Pelican. Each author took a whimsical look at the human condition and solutions in differing directions. Kavanaugh’s book is on my list for Christmas.
When I was very young I felt I had a mission in life some great event perhaps I was to accomplish. As I got older and perhaps wiser that event became my life’s puzzle slowly falling in place each aspect piece by piece.

“The need for self-actualization is the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming. People who have everything can maximize their potential. They can seek knowledge, peace, esthetic experiences, self-fulfillment, and oneness with God, etc. It is usually middle-class to upper-class students who take up environmental causes, join the Peace Corps, go off to a monastery, etc.” © 1997, Robert Gwynne, based on Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of needs” –

“Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission.” Mourning Dove, Salish

I have seen her name spelled several different ways Morning Dove and Mourning Dove; she was from the Salish tribe and a healer or a medicine woman. Maslow in his development of a hierarchy of needs has self actualization as the top of his needs pyramid. Such terms as self fulfillment, a self purpose and finding yourself have been tossed around as well. Native American thought has each aspect of our existence with purpose each as sacred and all are intertwined. I found myself explaining that to my son many days ago as we drove towards town. He had asked me, “What did you think of the pope”? An interesting question out of the blue, I used and borrowed from Mourning Dove all has purpose and all is sacred each unto their own. Is he a great man? Is he sacred? Is he to be revered? These are questions to answer from your heart and not for me to answer.

“Each of our acts makes a statement as to our purpose.” Leo Buscaglia

“The presence of a long-term, conscious goal has helped me maintain stability through the ubiquitous changes of over half a century.” Mary Craig

“Everything in the universe has a purpose. Indeed, the invisible intelligence that flows through everything in a purposeful fashion is also flowing through you.” Wayne Dyer

Perhaps we lose purpose in this disposable society. Many weeks back when I was privileged to participate in a session of training in Foxfire technique we toured the Foxfire museum a step back in Mountain life to an earlier day when each plant tree and leave had significance. The late Robert Murray was our tour guide and curator of the property and he would stop at a patch of weeds and pull a leave.

“plantago major – common plantain – white man’s foot print – Medicinally, plantain is astringent, demulcent, emollient, cooling, vulnerary, expectorant, antimicrobial, antiviral, antitoxin, and diuretic. It affects blood sugar, usually lowering it. It has been used to treat lung disorders and stomach problems. For these purposes, a tea is made from either the leaves or the whole plant and taken internally. This same tea may be used as a mouthwash to treat sores in the mouth and toothaches. It may also be used externally to treat sores, blisters, insect bites and stings, hemorrhoids, burns, rashes, and other skin irritations. Alternatively, a poultice of the leaves may be applied to the afflicted area. This is probably plantain’s most common use. For relief from a bee sting or insect bite, simply shred (or chew) a plantain leaf and hold it on the bite for a few minutes.” Robert at Foxfire and that was in about ten seconds

We would get a complete summary of the what was once a weed, just a plant and now was a pharmacy. I remember using the seed heads to shoot at each other as kids. As we walked each tree, Sweet Birch used as a tooth brush, plants such as mint and so forth all had significance. Many days ago I took a leave of white sage to school and let students smell and explained for Native Americans this was a scared plant used as incense and in teas to calm. You can use several leaves in boiling water and make a very relaxing tea. We have lost that closeness to nature that dependence on what is around us in our plastic world.

“What makes life dreary is the want of a motive.” George Eliot

“Men achieve certain greatness unawares, when working to another aim.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Needs are proponent”. A proponent need is one that has the greatest influence over our actions. Everyone has a proponent need, but that need will vary among individuals. A teenager may have a need to feel that he/she is accepted by a group. A heroin addict will need to satisfy his/her cravings for heroin to function normally in society, and will not worry about acceptance by other people.

“When the deficiency needs are met: At once other (and higher) needs emerge, and these, rather than physiological hungers, dominate the organism. And when these in turn are satisfied, again new (and still higher) needs emerge, and so on. As one desire is satisfied, another pops up to take its place.” Abraham Maslow

As our needs change in effect does our purpose. Emerson addresses we end up unaware as we journey often becoming greatly unaware of that as we gain it. Eliot speaks of motive a knowing of where we go or a direction. Dr. Maslow uses the concept of needs in a hierarchy of as we fulfill or satisfy one we reach a higher need. Looking back I find primitives seem to have a more complex view than we moderns and a more appreciative view of all around us.

“Be above it! Make the world serve your purpose, but do not serve it.” Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

I think many take Goethe’s view and seek to make the world serve your purpose.

“Multitudes of people, drifting aimlessly to and fro without a set purpose, deny themselves such fulfillment of their capacities, and the satisfying happiness which attends it. They are not wicked, they are only shallow. They are not mean or vicious; they simply are empty — shake them and they would rattle like gourds. They lack range, depth, and conviction. Without purpose their lives ultimately wander into the morass of dissatisfaction. As we harness our abilities to a steady purpose and undertake the long pull toward its accomplishment, rich compensations reward us. A sense of purpose simplifies life and therefore concentrates our abilities; and concentration adds power.” Kenneth Hildebrand

Daily I see students like this floundering wandering aimlessly like empty hollow gourds to shake and rattle.

“The meaning of life is to give life meaning.” Ken Hudgins

We have lost appreciation for life in our disposable world we seem to forget that all about us was once alive. As we timber old growth forest and try and pretend we can grow it back in 500 years. As we strip the world of rain forest that has taken tens of thousands of years to develop. According to some it all is alive each rock, each plant, each aspect of our existence and we ourselves find no significance in it far too often.

“Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” Richard Bach

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator

A friend posted about a sunset in New York City as she came home from work and how that had become a significantly good part of her day seeing the sunrise and set. My days of wandering the pastures late at night walking up on our buffalo as… they slept are gone. I am now content to sit by the fire in our home and walk out into the back yard of our country home and listen to the morning. I still find purpose in each breath and in seeing each leave and twig as I walk about. I still look to see the red tailed hawk cross my path and wonder as my own puzzle pieces fall into place. Richard Bach has given us an ultimatum we can choose to use that and seek further or simply be as many do see this world as disposable and for them we are too. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart. namaste

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