“What is the purpose of my life?” It’s a timeless, eternal question that has plagued or intrigued humanity since the beginning of time. It is a thought that can be disturbing to me especially when I’m in the throes of extreme pain. What is the point to all this? Any sort of happiness I gain isn’t worth such torture. As the years go by, many of us with chronic illness sink into a state of depression, because physical pain always affects you on a mental level as well. It is never exclusive.
This question scares me on some days, makes me anxious, confused, angry or sad on others, but mostly I come up blank. Perhaps I get a glimmer of inspiration from time to time, but it never lasts. Some people pursue their passions with vigour and it keeps them stimulated and going, but chronic pain is heavy. It weighs you down against your will and wishes.
One of my favourite quotes of all time!
The Circle of Purpose
But a strange thought rose within my mind one ordinary day: “I don’t have a purpose in life, and therein lies my purpose”. What does this mean, to me at least?
A purpose is something of the highest priority in a person’s life. Without one, I am untethered, and I can be fearless. I have nothing to adhere to, nothing to weigh against, nothing to hold me back. Sounds a bit chaotic, doesn’t it? To explain further…
I actually believe other people have purposes to their lives, and because I have none, I can expend my energy on helping them find theirs, which in turn, benefits us all as a society. (If you play RPGs or MUDs, that would be the ultimate support class 😉 ) In the grand scheme of the universe, I am nothing but a speck, a flicker of everchanging emotion, and my pain is but a dot in its fabric.
“Shape clay into a vessel; It is the space within that makes it useful. Cut doors and windows for a room; It is the holes which make it useful. Therefore benefit comes from what is there; Usefulness from what is not there.” — Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Purpose Can Come Later, but Regret is Always Too Late
What I need to do, is to simply do. Purpose can come later, but regret is always too late. (Note that this is just one way of approaching such despair, and some days I do choose to employ the exact opposite philosophy to keep me going!)
What I need to do is to simply keep going, no matter thought, circumstance, or emotion. To show the world the most important life skill — acceptance of what is, and to embody the essence of life itself — survival. It’s almost like being an amoeba or cell, which doesn’t contemplate itself into confusion. It keeps going, and because of that, the universe exists.
The Elegance of the Human Spirit
If I can keep going and even take it a step further, to thrive despite the arid ground I’ve been planted in, what it does is to reflect the elegance of the human spirit. A display of humanity with purity. The roots are to survival, as the blossoms are to thriving. If I can keep going, I then, become an instrument for the beauty of life, I become the canvas for the master painter. Because of my lack, I can be filled up with life itself.
Stop Struggling, and Just Be
What is the point to that? It is that I stop struggling with such questions because as someone who lives in constant pain, my ego will never be able to sustain me. The illusion of control or independence will shatter against the rocks like waves that come and go. I will be in that raw state of fragility more often than not. It takes my flickering pain, and transforms it into a guiding flame. The journey of life is grand and glorious, but the road ahead is narrow, with many pitfalls and deep valleys of despair. It gives purpose to my pain. Pain has its uses, but in chronic illness, it becomes confused. Looking at it from this perspective, even when my pain has no purpose, there is still purpose to it.
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Originally published at www.achronicvoice.com on June 17, 2018.