Meaning of Today, Purpose of Life ~ BitterSweetLife

Friday, April 28, 2006

Meaning of Today, Purpose of Life

Spiritual Purpose

The sky this morning looked like packed snow, with wind-driven ridges and blue-gray whorls, like winter in the Upper Peninsula or Alaska. Clouds were piled in layers, a massive, sliding ice floe. Then, as I had feared it would, the glacial sky began to melt and rain poured down.

I didn’t mow twenty-some lawns with my brother as we’d planned. Instead, we went out for coffee, which is a poor man’s worker’s comp. We sipped and talked in luxurious bewilderment. There was the problem of the day to think about. These miniscule puzzles, only 24 hours in duration, often trouble me.

Today I had planned to assume a visor and headphones and cut grass in the sun until the turf war ended in a blaze of green. Instead it was raining. So what now could be said to be the purpose of the day? And how would I know? I often think that waiting until the day is over and then looking over my shoulder to discover its “purpose” seems a backwards approach to life’s meaning.

It would be nice to know one’s objectives going in, but this only seems to work in drug raids and the movies.

If mere days must be diagnosed retrospectively, the chances of discovering a life’s trajectory seems slim to none. These are the things I think about when plans are suddenly changed. I remember that my purposes and reasons, like my schedule, are often mere constructs. I have my rationale for living and God has his, but God takes mine and uses it as paint in his watercolor.

In some ways this is disconcerting. Ultimately, though, I am relieved.

After coffee I drove over to Johnson County Community College, the local education-on-demand megaplex, to visit Greg Harrell, my old Journalism professor. When I ran the campus paper at JCCC for a year, GH levered me into the job and then used his considerable patience and savvy to keep me in it.

But GH wasn’t in his office, so I wasn’t able to acquire the considerable purpose that might have been added to my day by catching up with him. I stepped into the office next door to ask for some notepaper, and two chatty professors assumed I was a student and incorporated me into their world with snide efficiency.

Me: “Hey, could I get a piece of paper to write GH a note?”
Prof 1: “Sure, here you go.”
Prof 2: “I suppose you’d be wanting a pen to go with that paper.”
Me: “Yeah, it would be good if I borrowed a pen as well.”
Prof 1: “Look out, next he’ll want some tape to stick the note to the door!”
Prof 2: “And who knows what after that!”
Prof 1: “Hey, this would make a great book idea.”
Prof 2: “I think the book is called, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…

It’s really remarkable how, across the board, English majors are so charming and witty. I scrawled my note, slipped in under GH’s door, and headed back into the thunderstorm outside.

Back home I would do some more reading on C.S. Lewis’s view of the atonement and hang out with Aidan, who has made “wakefulness” into an art form that he devotes considerable time and energy to each day. (“Aidan, what’s going on in here? What are you doing?” “Oh calm down, Dad! I’m just ‘being wakeful.’”)

The purpose of the day conundrum will have to wait, though. At least until this evening. Maybe at that point I’ll look back and conclude that the objective behind today’s slap-dash construction was lunch with Lindsay or extra research time or a nap—or even this post. (Deceptively small pegs can bear the weight of a day.) Then again, maybe I’ll forego the whole question and add April 28 to the stack of unanswered days that I’m deferring till kingdom come.

I’d rather know now, of course. But thoughtful non-concern requires a childlike trust and so, in the end, it may be the best and most effortless technique for explaining a dayand thus a life.

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Paid in Full said...

Great thoughts on purpose. "I remember that my purposes and reasons, like my schedule, are often mere constructs. I have my rationale for living and God has his, but God takes mine and uses it as paint in his watercolor."

Beautifully written...I could not have said it better myself.

Dex P

Will Robison said...

I sit in the presence of a true master. Someday, I want to read your book. Thanks for giving me some good thoughts to chew on this weekend.

P.S. I concur with Dex P. I couldn't have said that with ten times as many words - and I'm sure that I've tried in my head a thousand times. I'm going to steal one of your blog posts now for my youth group lesson this Sunday. Have a good weekend.

John B. said...

Reading your post reminded me of a brief moment from Walden in which Thoreau had planned to do something or other outside only to find it was raining and wasn't going to stop any time soon (kinda like Wichita today. But anyway). He was disappointed until he reflected that "the rain was good for the grass and thus good for me."

Sometimes, being diverted from some particular purpose can result in a larger good. Like blog posts shared with a larger (blogo)sphere than your own particular cranium.

R. Sherman said...

AJ, the idea of we humans establishing a purpose for a day seems pointless to me. The best days I've had have come without regard to my desires. They are pure gifts from God that appear from nowhere and make me wonder, "Why did you decide to give me that, today? I wasn't aware I needed it."

That's our problem, I think. We want to paddle too much and not go where the current takes us.

Good post, as always.


dannyvan said...

"Thoughtful non-concern" is a beautiful antidote to ignorant bliss or grueling worry. This post may herald the coining of a new theological term! (I think that R. Sherman also makes a valid point.)


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife