I read two books by different authors earlier this year that discussed what they considered to be the major contributing factors to success for businesses, churches, or life in general. Both authors stated conclusively that success and/or failure was inextricably connected to and in direct proportion to “purpose” or lack thereof. And both, with slightly different phraseology, said that the business enterprise, church or person without purpose is “lost”.
Hugh Morehead, supposing that the intelligentsia of his day would have the answers to the meaning and purpose of life began an interesting hobby. He sat down and wrote to famous scientists, writers and philosophers and he asked all of them the same question; “What is the purpose of life?” I have listed below, just a few of the responses that he received.
Joseph Heller, author of “Catch-22” replied, “I have no answers to the meaning of life and I no longer want to search for any.” Isaac Asimov wrote, “As far as I can see there is no purpose to life.” Renowned psychiatrist Albert Ellis said, “As far as I can tell, life has no special or intrinsic meaning or purpose.” Philosopher Thomas Nagle added, “I’m afraid the meaning of life still eludes me.” He added the late Frederick Nietzsche’s view which was, “Life is an unprofitable episode that disturbs an otherwise blessed state of non-existence.” Finally, with just a slight hint of optimism, famous psychiatrist Karl Jung wrote, “I don’t know what the meaning or the purpose of life is but it looks like as if there were something meant by it.”
I don’t know if you are surprised by the responses of the great minds. If so, you may be equally surprised if you ask people you know (or yourself) if they have an established understanding of and definition of the purpose for their lives. I think that you will find that a defined, stated belief or statement will typically be unarticulated and unavailable.
This is both remarkable and tragic! Without a purpose, we’re simply marking time until our expiration date. As Thomas Carlyle said (and it seems a logical thought), “A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.”
Perhaps Hugh Morehead would have found a better answer in Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is a book, comprised of 12 chapters and 222 verses, tucked away in the poetic section of the Old Testament and it cuts to the chase of the purpose of life. It catalogs the emptiness and vanity of life and human endeavor, but then it ends with a powerful summary statement. It says, “Everything…can be put into a few words: Respect and obey God! This is what life is all about.”
FAITH & REFLECTION