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What Is Your Purpose?
Choose your own adventure
I recently had a lot of fun recording an Infinite Loops episode with Rob Henderson & Trung Phan about Apocolypse Now, Hearts of Darkness, Jed McKenna, and the art of creativity.
Ahead of the release of our episode tomorrow (7 September), I’ve dug out and edited an old Twitter thread I wrote which digs into the profound, unsettling, but ultimately empowering philosophical truth that lies at the heart of Jed McKenna’s work.
I. The Matrix Has You 🐇
"Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages."
— Bertrand Russell
Everyone who thinks must face the scary question of: “Why?”
Why are we here? What is the grand purpose?
There *must* be some grand scheme, some huge meaning to life. There *must* be complex answers for this complex question!
Whole industries, academies, universities, philosophies, and religions are there with the right answer, right?
Um, probably not.
These institutions and philosophies have great, almost infinite, pre-packaged belief systems, but I think they are there primarily to help you *avoid* thought. To serve you up comforting balms and platitudes that are effectively ‘spiritual Ambien’ to ‘help’ you only to go back to sleep.
The Matrix well and truly has you.
We prefer the dream to being awake.
II. Crossing the Bridge of Nihilism 🌉
"what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.”
— William Shakespeare
The most common answer given by some of the greatest thinkers throughout history and now to the question of “why” is…
Nada, nothing, a null set.
What we do in life echoes in eternity? Not bloody likely.
We have as much substance as the stardust we're made of.
This thought terrifies some, but if you can push past the nihilism that serves as an endpoint for many who think about this stuff, you realize something:
If there is no grand scheme, no existential meaning to life, YOU and I get to ‘create our own adventure’ and decide what gives meaning to OUR lives!
Just being here means we've won against the cosmic odds. Your life is your canvas, and you get to decide what to paint on it. Make it a masterpiece. Or don't. This is something that is entirely up to you; whatever you decide, we all end up in the same place.
Why live life in black and white when you can live it in color? Why not have some fun and leave it all out on the field?
III. Choose Your Own Adventure
"If I’ve performed my function adequately, my words will outlive me by a decent margin. I don’t really care if my fruit rots with my corpse or outlives me by millennia, but there’s a pretty good chance that you’re reading this after I’m dead."
— Jed McKenna
Crossing the Bridge of Nihilism isn't the end of our journey; it's the beginning.
Now that you realize you get to create your own adventure, you need to start thinking a bit about just who this YOU is.
My favorite fictional character, Jed McKenna, puts it this way: "The only map you can trust is built into your dreamstate being. I call it your pattern or spiritual DNA or the prism of self, but it's really just the unique kernel--the flaw--that makes you you and me me."
Wait, each of us is unique? What was all that mumbo jumbo about nonduality and interconnectedness? 🤨 I like to fashion it as we are all unique, flawed nodes on the giant connected network of what makes up what we call ‘our universe.’ Yes, Schrödinger probably was on to something when he said that “The total number of minds in the universe is one. In fact, consciousness is a singularity phasing within all beings.”
But, woo woo aside, what does that practically mean for you and me? I think it means that we must exercise our agency and decide: What is my mission? What is my purpose? What functions must I fulfill that will lead me to happy reminiscences when it's my turn to return to the Source?
Defining our purpose is the ultimate question that builds the scaffolding on which we create the stories we tell ourselves *about* ourselves.
And when we repeatedly tell ourselves who we are, THAT is who we become. When you write out or paint your stories on paper or canvas, they take on a life of their own and, in turn, significantly affect YOU and how others perceive you. As Bob Wilson said: "Opinions result from perceptions, and perceptions reinforce Opinions, which then further control perceptions, in a repeating loop that logic can never penetrate."
There's no hiding on this side of the Bridge of Nihilism. You, and you alone, are responsible for finding your purpose.
IV. Passion Is Not Assigned; It's Discovered.
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche
The good news is, when you find your passion, you'll start liking your life a LOT more.
But your “why” can't be decided for you by others. That's up to you. And everybody's "whys" are different, but they HAVE to be YOURS to give you the enthusiasm to go out and get after it.
Passion is not assigned; it's discovered. And once you shake off what everybody from your friends and parents and society in general try to TELL you what you should be and do, you can start in earnest to start exploring what makes you want to bound out of bed in the morning.
But to have that attitude, it's gotta be your REAL purpose, your REAL function.
As I've noted before, it really helps to write it out and then review it. Ask yourself - does it resonate with you? Does it make you feel tingles and just instantly say yes? You're getting close then.
As Jean-Paul Sartre said: “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.”
I wouldn't phrase it like that, but it really works for some people: condemned, so no choice is available to you other than making the ULTIMATE choice of deciding your purpose. Your Mission. Your Function.
Ultimately, we all go back to the Source. That seems to be the one thing that we all know to be true. So, all that's left is how are we going to choose to live.
“The mind is its own place and, in itself can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven” said John Milton, and he's right, but it's YOUR mind, YOUR choice.
Make it a good one. As that wonderful philosopher Andy Dufresne said, "Get busy living or get busy dying."
This is an edited version of a thread Jim shared on the App Previously Known As Twitter. Follow Jim on Twitter for more insights like these!