David Spero

Purpose is Profit, December 16, 2020

That’s a very good question, whether the sense of purpose comes about through separation, through duality. When you look out into nature and you study other life forms you don’t see them asking about purpose. Their lives are inherently purposeful in the sense of having a way of living, a way of being, a way of functioning. But what the human being typically means by purpose is profit. It’s not always explicit this connection between purpose and profit. By profit is meant accumulation, the attaining of something specific, being able to make some claim that beyond existing there is something that makes existence worthwhile, full of worth.

Since the idea of purpose can be conflated to mean something heavy-handed, serious, about accumulation and so forth, I don’t see much value in responding to that concern as though we have to answer this question from within the idea of purpose itself, as though purpose dictates the question and then we have to accommodate ourselves to whatever loaded meanings and assumptions are inside of the concept of purpose in the way that human beings mean it, because it’s clear that human beings mean it in a way, if it is a universal occurrence, that birds and fish don’t use it. If purpose is intelligent functionality, human beings do not really live inside that idea, that nice idea.

So, to me the question around purpose becomes better understood through a consideration of beauty. Do you feel beauty in your life? Do you feel love in your life? Not, “Do you have purpose?” I’m hoping that you could see the stark contrast between those two approaches. Do you have beauty? Do you have Grace? Do you have love? Do you have intelligence? Do you have intuition and feeling? Do you have all or several of those things, where you notice them and they mesmerize you? They take you out of a merely functional perspective, merely purposeful viewpoint. To me this is a very important question. And if you have beauty, if you have love, are you aware of the context in which it arises? Do you understand why love arises and serious purposefulness does not arise as a substitute?

So, you have to ask yourself, “What is beauty? What is love? What is goodness?” not “Do I have a purpose?” To me that idea of purposefulness is a cover-up for things like anxiety. It’s a convenient scapegoat, which incorporates into itself things which we don’t really want to admit to ourselves like, “I am in a state of anxiety. I am in a state of disturbance. I am in a state of unhappiness.” Instead of facing those things and feeling into them we say to ourselves, “My life lacks purpose.” Someone has put those words into our mouth. A religionist or an economist has put those words into our mouths so that we can be dissuaded. We can be persuaded from asking the right question about living, about life, about living on a Planet which is alive, living in a Universe which is alive.

To be living is not to be situated in a position of duality, this kind of duality that is suggested by purpose, this profound separation from the human from the rest of nature. The human hardly reflects the way animals and plants and species function. In certain ways it does. It eats and it builds houses like birds build nests and birds eat. Fish have different homes in the sea. Some live in the open waters. Others live under coral beds, which are quickly dying out all over the planet due to human influence, human poisoning of the oceans.

But even though we resemble other species, which are not so dominated by this kind of intellectuality that demands reasons to live, we don’t resemble them enough to understand that everything operates and lives and breathes only in exhilaration, in thill, in love, in Grace and in beauty. We have forgotten that. So, we ask ourselves questions like, “Am I living according to someone else’s idea of meaning?” “What constitutes meaning in somebody else’s vocabulary?” usually provided by a culture, a religion, some authoritarian source that wants to make sure that we’re in line, that we’re kept in line, that we’re not really breathing freely and in open regard to one another and toward everything else. So, that to me is the way beyond the suffocation of duality, the strictness of purpose.

This is a wonderful talk, but it’s more difficult to bring into one’s life, into one’s moment-to-moment existence, to transcend the artificial solutions we are given, to actually turn away from them in intelligence. We’re always provided with quick fixes to our problems from somebody who’s making profit somewhere instead of actually finding the organic solution to a problem, which has to do with the cultivation of bodily happiness, intuition, pure knowledge, direct knowledge of life and so on. So, to talk about that is one thing. To do it is another. To do it requires that you understand your agony and suffering, that you understand it really and truly, not transcend it the way the Buddha said. No, that was all wrong.

So, when we look at this topic we can really go into it sincerely if we say no to all the quick explanations that are offered by human beings who are confused, and we begin to look directly at our moment-to-moment existence. Make sense of it, not necessarily fix it, but make sense of it so that we can move toward an understanding, resurrect our understanding in Grace, intuition, but not just our understanding. The body, the emotions, the senses follow. And so, one is at least invited into this miraculous viewpoint, which brings exhilaration just to consider and itself is the open door into the reality that we are speaking about now.

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