Do we actually control our life?
Having “some sense of purpose” is currently a strong ideological compliance issue in the Western world.
In the Silicon Valley, that enlightens the world, the urge is very strong, since every start-up aims at “making the world a better place”. You’re nothing but a second-class citizen if your purpose is anything less ambitious than that, or worse, if, like Ted, you have no purpose.
In France, where I live, this dogma makes young people feel extremely guilty, as most of them have not a clear purpose in life. Consequently, they massively enroll in college for psychology studies, when there are in France more psychologists that we will ever need. Maybe, they hope that they will find their own purpose by learning the meanderings of the mind.
I totally support the strategy to do what we’re good at, rather than to desperately search a purpose. That’s what I suggested to my children when they did not know what they should study. My son works now in a restaurant and he loves it. My daughter works as a graphic designer and she’s OK not being a new Picasso.
I would like to point to two authors that I find of interest about this topic.
Karl Weick is an academic that created the field of “Organizational Psychology”. I recommend his book “Making Sense of the Organization” where he shows that people have a natural bias to try to make sense of what’s happening. Through experiments, Weick shows that people reconstitute a strategy from what they observe. They believe that what happened is a result of the implementation of this strategy, even in situations where the facts are happening at random.
Weick shows that there is something deep in our central nervous system that tries hard to make sense from what happens. In other words, maybe we feel more comfortable when we can believe that there is a purpose in what we do and what happens to us.
Wayne Liquorman writes about non-duality. This ancient school of thought explains that there is something deep in our central nervous system that tries hard to make us believe that we control what happens, when we actually don’t control anything, as we are part of a larger system, in constant interaction with other parts. Liquorman calls it a “False Sense of Authorship”. When we believe we can control our life, as a side effect, we believe we must have a purpose.
I wonder why the indoctrination about having a purpose in life is so prevalent currently. Has someone a plausible explanation to the fact that Mark Zuckenberg, who massively sells advertisement on internet — does he do that on purpose ? — , preaches for this purpose thing ?