The purpose of life – We are not stories.
Being as though I am on holidays at the moment I am taking the time to catch up on some reading, watching and thinking hence today’s article. I happened to watch ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ on the flight over here – a film and book that one of my daughters had found inspiring earlier in the year. I enjoyed it but was also saddened when I remembered how I too felt as a teenager, lost in between two world – the childhood world of unbridled potential vs the adult reality that life is fragile, hard work and events are not always within our control. I also picked up a funky little magazine at the airport called New Philosopher and, to my delight found that edition to be full of articles exploring ‘self-hood’ and that is why I wrote this. I hope you get a little something from it!
We are not stories.
We are not stories, we become stories or rather through stories we become. Our purpose in life is to become the stories that we are capable of becoming while knowing and accepting that while we will be the main character in our life story after we’ve gone the interpretation and editing process is outside of our control. Indeed we must accept that rather than become one story we will most likely become many, none of which are static, all of which take on a meaning and purpose injected by the living. While this lack of control and direction over our stories sounds disconcerting it has an up side in as much as our essence or spirit will live on for as long as our life stories are told. Touching and Shaping infinite futures and bringing colour and perspective to new situations. That is if our stories are worth telling.
A story worth telling?
Just like an epic feature film the story of humanity requires many actors or agents of which not all can take an oscar winning staring role. Many of us experience that ‘coming of age’ pain when we realise that we too are unlikely to shine brightly outside of our own four walls. That our good friends can be counted only on one hand, that our life will be played out in a tiny and somewhat unremarkable corner of nowhere important. That we will win no major prizes nor create any major bodies work or, in case of illness or tragedy that ours will not be as long a story as we would like. This reality turns many a teenage dream into a depression that can linger aided and abetted by the shame at the heart of our disappointment, inadequacy and pointlessness. However, when viewed through the lens of a story we start to see the beauty and value of this life most ordinary. For it is this life that brings context, texture, depth and structure, rhythm, feeling and continuity of form from one generation to another. Like the base line of a song, the repeating pattern on a tapestry, the extras that make a film seem like reality. Without the background the shining stars become fake, suspended in bubbles that lack context. They lose their sheen and meaning. Contrast gives us perspective and more than that it brings clarity and understanding. The written word is more clearly understood when written on a crisp clean sheet, the writer knows this and celebrates the clean, blank sheet of paper not for it’s lack of potential or substance but for the opposite, because it is bursting in possibilities, it could become anything and in that anything becoming the background to host the writers letters is as Nobel a cause as any other. But background life stories are not just there to make our stars shine brighter. They are there to tell the bigger story, to sing the collective vibe of an era. To set the tone. No life is wasted, no life is worthless as all life contributes to the rich tapestry and history of our human story and because of that all stories are worth telling. All stories are complete.
Seek breadth and greatness but do not overlook exquisiteness and detail. Taiwan National Palace Museum.
The writer or the agent?
We don’t so much find ourselves as experience ourselves through our own stories and adventures on retrospect. We have all felt the pain of hearing a bad story (gossip) about ourselves. Wondered why someone drew that conclusion. Passed that judgement, especially given the fact that it is surely impossible for the third party narrator to have drawn conclusions and interpreted meaning into anything another does as there are infinite possibilities and triggers behind our actions and reactions. But that they do, we all do and without people taking an interest in the story’s of others the story hypothesis of life would be worthless and we would cease to be immortal.
So, if we can’t control how our stories are told, can’t be the masters of our own immortal destiny what is the point in even trying?
The point is that we don’t have to try. Living our own authentic life to the best of our ability with energy, passion and joy is human and is the only purpose worth protecting. We come into this world as pure potential ready to fulfil our missions. But just like the crisp sheet of paper before the writer we are born complete. The paper doesn’t have to pass through any other test to be paper. It had something about it they attracted the writer who now sits viewing the blank sheet knowing all the time that it is complete yet so full of potential- a potential that both writer and paper will fill together. The writer can only produce as much work as the paper can accommodate, can only write as neatly as the paper allows and will only be as robust as the paper can stand. Together the writer and the paper with help from the pen, the intellect and past experiences combine to bring something new- a story – to life. And so it is with humans. We are a contradiction- complete yet made vulnerable and needy by our own over spilling potential.
When we think of ourselves as the writers of our life story we are thinking from our ego- the projection of our best self- yet when we accept that our life will become other peoples story or stories we understand that rather than us being the writer we are nearly the agent of our own potential, channelling it how and where we might in spite of or because of our environment.
Man’s tendency to actualize himself, to become his potentialities…. To express and activate all the capacities of the organism. Carl Rogers.
Much fuss and negativity surrounds the ‘I’ generation, the bloggers, selfie-takers, over-sharers and self-aware-ers- yet if we take the story hypothesis to it’s logical conclusion we come to this- the agent takes control, writes the story, makes his mark. Rather than being a faite du complete, self- focused social media can be a transcendent tool, a bridge linking the potential to the real. In one way when the agent becomes the author he reduces the potential for immortality through living narrative by setting in stone thoughts, actions and events. However, in another way he strengthens his position and character, becomes more interesting and alive through the process both in life and beyond and takes his potential to a whole new level of being. Social media, I media can only be a bad thing if it is the ego that manages the pen. In saying that this new way of being and recording is no different to any other. People have worn masks, acted and been lead by others since time began. As humans we have an instinct for picking real from fake if we want to, if we are honest and it will surely be the real, the authentic writers that persist and stand up to scrutiny.
So what next
An authentic life, a real channelling of potential into action and reaction is what is needed to become. A stillborn baby never has the chance to be anything other than it’s pure self. As we grow we must resist the urge to sell out our potential to fakery and wishful thinking. This reality has remained unchanged since the dawning of time, it is only the tools and methods of communication that have changed. We should embrace that as what use is life if we fear, criticise or allow ourselves to be limited by something that had no potential without us? We bring the energy, we give the pen, the scheme, the selfie life, without us there is nothing.
The future stories belong to those who fulfil their potential and expend their energy well regardless of whether they self-publish or not for that is inspiring and inspiration is just the manifestation of fresh potential and if we can keep producing that, dead or alive we will be immortal.
And we all appreciate how inspirational a good story can be