If it is possible to live with a purpose, what should that purpose be? A purpose might be a guiding principle, a philosophy, or a value of sovereign importance that informs and directs our activities and thoughts. To have one is to live seriously — though not necessarily wisely — following some track, believing in a hub to the wheeling universe or a sea toward which we flow or an end before which all the hubbub of civilization subsides. What is your purpose, friend, or what should it be?
Perhaps most of us do not come to a clear conclusion in the matter, but this does not mean we have no purpose, only that we do not recognize it or admit it or even choose it for ourselves. In the unhappiest case nature simply takes its course, which is a turbid meandering through the swamps of desire. If life means nothing then only pleasure is worthwhile; or if life has meaning and we cannot getat it then still only enjoyment matters — such is the view of brutes and some sophisticated philosophers. It slips into the unconscious by default when we hold no other, but we are reluctant to entertain it and will rather, if we think about it, take as our purpose support of family, search for beauty, improvement of society, fame, self-expression, development of talent, and so on. But it might be fair to say that apart from these or beneath these the fundamental purpose of many of us is the search for love, particularly romantic love.
The love of a man for a woman and a woman for a man is often the floor to which people fall after the collapse of other dreams. It is held to be solid when nothing else is, and though it frequently gives way and dumps them into a basement of despair, it still enjoys a reputation of dependability. No matter that this reputation is illogical — it still flourishes and will continue to flourish regardless of what is said in any book. Love, or possibly the myth of love, is the first, last, and sometimes the only refuge of uncomprehending humanity.
While we cannot all at once purify our sentiments of their dross, we can raise the aim of our thought and conduct, and reflect on — indeed, contemplate — the virtues of the Buddha and the noble ones who are free from taint. Their achievement is an image to set before our inner eye, something higher to live for, within and beyond the motions of our conventional life. No good thing prospers in ignorance. The more we understand this flawed universe the more skillfully we can live, and the happier we will be.
‘We love best when we do not love out of desperation.’