The Purpose of Life

How many of us live our lives never knowing what the purpose of them is supposed to be. When I was a kid life was simple: stay out trouble and out of my dad’s way—especially on weekends.

As I grew older, I didn’t need to stay out of my dad’s way anymore but most likely still had that pattern imprinted on the DNA of who I was becoming. For years I cleverly avoided ever making a real commitment to becoming anything more than what I was at that moment of realization.

And that’s making the assumption that becoming “something” is what life is really about. Or becoming “somebody”—I guess it is all about the same.

I will admit up front that I am from the “Father Knows Best” generation—a time when there was still a semblance of a plan for our collective lives. It was easy—you went to school until you graduated and then got a job, got married, had kids and when your kids had kids you became a grandparent who spoiled your kid’s kids.

Church was a big deal at that time in history and when you got out at precisely twelve o-clock you came back home and ate the pot roast your mother had put in the oven just before you left for Sunday school.

Kids still wanted to be police and firemen and doctors and soldiers when they grew up—as if the purpose of life was to figure out what you wanted to be and then plan for that. For me, that ideal was shot to smithereens in my freshman year in college when the professor told us that what ever we believed we knew about life was changing so fast that by the time we were ready to retire we would have had 10 or more jobs than our parents had had.

At some level I guess I really do know what the purpose of life is although if it was really at the forefront of my mind I probably wouldn’t be writing about it now.

I was what psychologists label a late bloomer in that I didn’t really come of age until I was twenty one or so. I even remember the day and the events surrounding it. I was a disc jockey at an AM (as opposed to FM) radio station and had just purchased a copy of the first “Whole Earth Catalog”. I would say it was the fall of 1979 and my life and how I looked at my future changed that day forever.

According to Wikipedia: The Whole Earth Catalog was a sizeable catalog published twice a year from 1968 to 1972, and occasionally thereafter, until 1998. Its purposes were to provide education and “access to tools” in order that the reader could “find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested.”

After thumbing through it the first time I knew that I had just captured the ability to do and become anything that I desired in terms of understanding and knowledge—if not something substantive like a direction in life—which at the time lacked focus and motivation.

Not to make too much of the catalog but a real shift in thinking about my life took place at that moment—and in effect I matured almost overnight—going from a direction-less teen to a twenty something overnight.

Here is a picture of that first catalog.

<img src="/images/49366-44812/Wh_earth_69_cover.jpg” border=”0″ height=”504″ width=”368″>

But I digress. Surely the purpose of life is not about access to tools and finding inspiration and shaping our environment—although much of that will no doubt take place at some point in our journey.

The reason I began this blog was to explore the concept of “looking for the long ride” which had stayed with me for over 30 years since my days of hitch-hiking through Europe and the United States in the late sixties.

My purpose in doing this was to begin to unlock the me that was left behind in the rush to become who I never became—or something to that effect.

In the process my purpose in life changed many times. One of my first goals was to become a good husband and then a good father and a good provider—that was enough for those times. There was joy in the journey so to speak. I went on to become what I thought was a good Christian and a good friend to maybe one or two people. I worked a job and showed up on time or earlier everyday and did my best to earn a decent wage and add value to the companies I worked for.

All good reasons to get out of bed in the morning and look forward to vacations, kids marriages, retirement and beyond.

But as we grow and get older, what was once so very deep and meaningful seems, upon inspection and reflection, not as deep as when we began the very trip we find ourselves a passenger on today.

I know that I am not going to finish this thought tonight—but what I began to ponder earlier today as I drove home from work was this: the answer to the purpose of life is probably very simple in statement but difficult in application.

As stated in the Westminster short catechism of 1647

Question. 1. What is the chief end of man?

Answer. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, [a] and to enjoy him for ever. [b]

[a]. Ps. 86:9; Isa. 60:21; Rom. 11:36; I Cor. 6:20; 10:31; Rev. 4:11
[b]. Ps. 16:5-11; 144:15; Isa. 12:2; Luke 2:10; Phil. 4:4; Rev. 21:3-4

Until next time……

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4 Responses to The Purpose of Life

  1. ded says:

    I hadn’t thought about the The Whole Earth Catalogue in while! What I have thought of lately is just what you describe here…growing older and how it seems to alter your perspectives to the very core.

  2. ded says:

    I hadn’t thought about the The Whole Earth Catalogue in a while! What I have thought of lately is just what you describe here…growing older and how it seems to alter your perspectives to the very core.

  3. Carey says:

    Once again I thank you for reminding me that I am a part of a great fellowship, with a great quest.I wonder…if there is a 21-year-old “Terry Henry” type guy out there now, today, November 2007…what would the catalog be that would today inspire him as deeply as you were inspired by Whole Earth Catalog in ’79? And what would it take to assemble and publish such a catalog? Might be a significant project.Keep up the great writing!Carey

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