The purpose of life?
This is certainly bold, isn’t it? I imagine many people would be skeptical in hearing that someone claims to have any insight into their purpose of life. I would be. I am.
It’s so subjective, for one, and there are so many ways of looking at it, questioning it. Did some deity assign my purpose of life? Do I choose it at some point, or just fall into it? Is there really any purpose to life at all? It’s not particularly difficult to make the case that we are simply organic machines, bent on survival and reproduction alone. But that is, in itself, a purpose of sorts.
As impenetrable as it may seem, the topic holds universal appeal. It’s a question humanity has asked itself time and time again, which makes it even more difficult to accept that here and now, someone figured it out.
One of the first pages in the satellite, Answers to “The Purpose/Meaning of Life,” addresses these concerns, and it does so without discounting the many other approaches or ideas regarding what the “purpose of life” might be. The myriad ways of approaching our personal purpose—be it religious or psychological, intellectual or ethical—have their place in the taxonomy. They are important to human endeavor in some way. This sort of purpose, as part of the taxonomy, is much more specific, more focused.
Think of it as answering this question: If you had to say what drives the type of things you do with your free time, what would that be?
Sure, we all have the regular rigmarole to deal with—stay employed, eat, keep clean, spend time with the family—the normal stuff. But what makes you happy, and more importantly, what do you feel best doing? I think of it as what you really want to do when you get off work. Are you itching to hit the bars and go dancing? Is there a painting you’re working on that you want to get home and continue working on? Are you off to go volunteer at a soup kitchen? Did you hear about some new life affirming activity, like yoga or meditation, and you’re excited to go try it out?
The taxonomy identifies seven distinct “Quests” and asserts that we all strongly relate to at least one of them. These quests are our purpose. They are central in our identity. They are why we do what we do when we have the choice of things to do.
Of course, the taxonomy being what it is, there is a technical, epistemological rationale for the existence and validity of these quests, but I don’t want to get into that. My personal experience is what sold me on these quests. I can think of everyone I know and, with a bit of speculation and maybe an assumption or two, I get the sense that they fit quite nicely into one quest or another. Also, it helps to think of the Quests as emerging out of a taxonomic inquiry rather than someone’s attempt at philosophy or theology. Furthermore, they are part of a much larger context—the Your Better Self framework and the taxonomy as a whole. Apparently, much of this framework’s discovery was quite surprising and unexpected. You can read about Warren Kinston’s shock and awe at stumbling across parts of this framework in its Background Story.
Reading through the quests reveals fairly straightforward descriptions, but it forces self-examination. It touches on the “searching” that, when articulated, is nearly the most succinct description of what if fundamentally means to be a human being.
We search for pleasure. We search for meaning. We search for truth. We want to help others. We want to create something new and beautiful. We want some guiding light to show us the way through life. We want to feel one with the universe and ourselves and each other.
In a way, every one of us is all of these things. This makes it hard to self-identify. But again, what most speaks to you? What reminds you of others you may know?
My Struggles with The Quests
The Pleasure Quest seems vacuous to me. I acknowledge its existence. My job used to be to entertain these people. I would play gigs at bars or festivals or casinos and see them in their element all the time. I even made close friends with some, but I always wondered how they lived that way without looking for “something more.”
I am equally repelled by the Obedience Quest. How can following be at all satisfying?
These sort of highlight THEE diversity for me. I try not to judge and simply accept The Pleasure and Obedience Quests as a reality without questioning their value.
I’m a bit confused by the Meaning Quest. THEE says that for someone on a Meaning Quest, “The Purpose of Life is to find a personal meaning for existing.” This seems kind of circular. And is it perpetual searching? So, if you find something that adds meaning to your life—having children or doing well at your job—is that satisfactory or must you then continue your search?
I think I am on a Meaning Quest—and a Creation Quest (proving that we can be on two at once as discussed on the THEE page Personal Combinations). I’ve attached my identity to being a musician, a writer, a father, a thinking person and various other things. This may be why it’s so confusing to me; it’s a bit too close to the cuff. And I do personally find it difficult to be ultimately satisfied—though this may be part of the human condition.
Interesting Taxonomic Side-Note
The psychological/social dichotomy is one of the clearest examples of a THEE oscillating duality. Level 1, Pleasure Quest, is focused inwards: What makes me feel good? Level 2, The Meaning Quest, is focused outwards: What social role can I play that gives my life meaning? Level 3, The Enlightenment Quest, is focused inward: What within me is a true expression of my “self?” Level 4, The Salvation Quest, is focused outward: How can I help others? Etc.
There’s a lot of exciting discoveries regarding oscillating dualities in The Architecture Room in the TOP Studio. It turns out manipulating them in a certain way spawns frameworks for overcoming difficulties in life.
Where Further Exploration Will Take You
Understanding the Quests paves the way for exploring some fascinating stuff, like how to become a better person, ideas addressed by religion such as Oneness, divinity and good and evil and how we as a species can enable a more harmonious communal existence.
These topics might be next on my list of inquiries.
But understanding the quests is necessary to gaining understanding during deeper inquiries into the Your Better Self framework.
Until next time, happy discoveries.
Posted by Tom Kershaw
For the occasion, I thought I would discuss an idea to take THEE principles off the Internet and into the political arena. Let’s talk about real solutions that, without a violent revolution or total social upheaval, could bring about much-needed, radical change to our political system—and it wouldn’t even be that hard to do!
The trick is to make it seem as if what we’re doing isn’t radical at all. If we can manage that, it will keep politicians and the media from marginalizing the initiative and writing it off as the mad ideas of some whacky fringe group.
As I have discussed numerous times in my 100 blogs, (yes, I’m going to milk it when I can) we are entering a new phase in our political development. THEE calls it Conventionalism and perhaps its most striking feature is a populace that is much more active in politics as a single, unified group. This will be enabled by advances in communication technology and will be a reaction to the obvious failings of the political and social elite (and us, quite frankly) during the current political phase—Plutocratic Pluralism.
Step one is to continue our adherence to the already-existing constitutional system. This isn’t because the Constitution is perfect and the forefathers (speaking as an American here) were demi-gods who graced us with their infinite wisdom. It’s because the Constitution is familiar and has deep cultural roots. It’s something a mass of people knows about and can largely agree on. It provides for solid political ground, something to latch on to for a crowd—which has the tendency to be a catalyst for chaos if there’s not some boundary over which they unconsciously agree not to cross.
“Politics by the people” has its downsides. When the crowd gets fired up, scary things can happen. But this can be tempered by, as noted above, a compass like the Constitution and the diffusion of power and responsibility. This is where interest groups come in.
The Political Unit that Counts
Every democratic society is rife with a multitude of diverse, quasi-political interest groups. This isn’t the Republican Party, the prison industrial complex or the pharmaceutical lobby we’re talking about. Imagine something more on the scale of the Prostate Cancer Coalition or the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. They span the spectrum of human interests but the common thread is that they must all engage with the political system to some degree. And there are just so many of them. It is estimated that there are 1.5 million non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the U.S.
The leaders of these groups, for the most part, are well versed on the problems inherent in the uncaring bureaucracy, the ineptocracy and the kleptocracy. They realize that they are competing with large, vested interests who have armies of lawyers and lobbyists. They generally feel powerless and marginalized because they are—but only because they stand alone. Yet, more people belong to some interest group than to any given political party, probably without even realizing it. My wife, for example, is a member of the American Translator Association and I pay my yearly dues to the American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). A lot of latent power waits, spread across these many groups, aching to be tapped.
I understand that it’s difficult to imagine that groups as different as a bird watching society and a music publishing association could have anything in common. However, their efforts to influence the political system are often thwarted, and there are reasons for this, reasons leaders understand. These reasons are what could unite them.
Let’s start another interest group, an interest group interest group. The THEE page that describes this plan gives a suggestion for naming it the National Association for Proper Politician Participation and Practices (NAPPPP). But that’s not really all that important. It would have only three simple duties.
- Reach out to the multitude of interest groups and organize itself as a nexus. Our new “meta-interest group” would act as a meeting point for all of a society’s interest groups.
- Survey and gauge these groups, ask them what stands in their way. It must be about the political system, not something within their particular realm of interest. Maybe it is that they don’t have enough financing to compete with corporate lobbyists. Maybe their protestors keep getting beaten up and arrested. Maybe Congressmen don’t even respond to their communications with anything other than a stock letter. It’s up to these interest groups to determine what most stands in their way.
- Lastly, this meta-interest group will find common themes, organize an annual convention and invite representatives to attend and conduct referenda. Groups will vote on, say, to reform the tax code so that corporations can’t take advantage of loopholes—and our meta-interest group will submit the results to government.
Every Interest Group in America, Representing 280 million People, Pushes for Tax Reforms
And you’ve got your grassroots, non-violent revolution. Politicians would hate it. They’d have no choice but to respond in some fashion—perhaps only a token speech at first, but if these annual conventions gain steam and referenda keep coming, we could see real, democratic change based on the Conventionalist ethos.
That’s the basic thrust. Please visit THEE’s Conventionalist satellite for deeper understanding.
Or, just think about it for a while. It won’t solve all of our problems. However, consider these points:
- The meta-interest group could be operated on a relatively small budget and with a small secretariat.
- It would perhaps be the most democratic aspect of Western society as it currently stands.
- It wouldn’t seem too radical, because who’s threatened by a bunch of translators and musicians and bird lovers getting together?
- It could affect real political change at a time when too many of us feel totally powerless and adrift in the choices of elites who exist well beyond our reach. Our own little interest groups are, however, easily within reach.
Posted by Tom Kershaw
- Tom Kershaw
- Hi! I'm Tom and I am a full-time writer, musician, and father to a firecracker of a four year-old. My wife and I lease our house and cars from her in hopes that her considerable talents of mess-making, princess-impersonation, and stuffed animal-whispering will pay off and fund our eventual retirement in the south of France.
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