March 24, 2011

On Purpose

Oh how easy to drift along allowing things external to ourselves to determine what we do. People will become agitated if you tell them they lack agency, for we all wish to be our own masters; and yet common-or-garden frustration is borne precisely from a feeling that matters are beyond our control. Whether it be work, geography, money, relationships, family, friends, dependencies, or just the bloody weather, a moment’s self-reflection often leads to feeling of smallness and futility, immediately followed by a kind of fatalism. We are but small boats on a big ocean, and we daily curse the moon.

I’m not about to turn around and tell you that all of this is not the case. But I do maintain that the feeling can be managed, and that what we identify as the fates can be defied, at least in spirit. Fundamentally, each individual needs a purpose: a reason to go through life. It might be a duty of care. It could be a pursuit intellectual or physical, or perhaps political. It is probably not reducible to the acquisition of money, for mere accumulation still begs the question ‘what for?’. Likewise, ambitions are not purposeful, for what happens if you realise them? The process itself must be the reward. For many men out there, the process of self-betterment is their purpose. Whatever comes their way, this resolve steers them straight. But whatever be your purpose, if you hold fast to it you will be able to endure and surmount the circumstantial obstacles that seem to block your way. The challenge is part of the actualisation of self. Capitulation, after all, is never partial. To give in is to abnegate the self.

Illustration by Bill Ross

My purpose is to write, for to write is to engage. It is an end and a means to other ends: discussion, education, learning, entertainment. The where, what and how of the writing process is up for negotiation, but the object is constant. Of late there have been many obstacles to pursuing my purpose – funding being not the least – but to hell with them. My wants are, after all, meagre. Consider this a re-statement of intent, albeit with many of the details omitted.

What is your purpose? What keeps you going? And by what means do your steer your craft, in defiance of the tide?


  1. The strange hope of the accidental optimist.

  2. I must admit my purpose for a fair amount of years, was, searching for a purpose. Around Christmas & New Year I fully committed to jumping on any vessel sailing by, that was heading toward Albion. My Albion. Anyone's Albion. Through literature,Vintage style, music & more importantly taking up hobbies like Pipe smoking I believe I am heading toward my Albion!

  3. In that we may well have something in common.


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