Thursday, May 26, 2011


by Scott Bradley

If you have been reading these posts somewhat regularly, you know that I have a 'thing' about purpose. I don't believe in it. And I shy away from any mention of it in 'spiritual' writing.

Why is this so? I have an answer to this question but rather than answer it, I'd first like to think about it some more. I'd like to know what motivates me here.

When I say I don't believe in purpose -- or anything else -- this does not mean I disbelieve in it. I am not saying there is no purpose for my apparent existence, but simply that I know of none and see no way of ever knowing of one.

Could I mystically perceive a purpose? I suppose. But the very 'way' by which I approach the mystical is through apparent purposelessness. It is through the lack, as acceptance, not as seeking, that I approach the mystical. Have I said this clearly? I do not seek to fill my lack of purpose through the mystical, but seek the mystical through the lack of purpose.

This is parallel to the use of not-knowing to 'know' what one cannot know. But when one 'knows' what one cannot know, one still does not know it in the sense that one could say anything about it. It remains unknown. And so it is with purpose. One does not realize purpose by passing through the gate of purposelessness.

Can one find 'purpose' in the use of purposelessness? Of course. This hungry self is a sneaky little bugger, no doubt about it.

This I know!

I find 'purpose', no doubt, in writing this post. I put 'purpose' in inverted-commas because I have found it out -- I know that it is a false purpose. How so? It is false for the simple fact that it hasn't a leg to stand on; it is peculiarly unfixed, as Zhuangzi would say. It is superficial in the sense that it really gives no true purpose to my life. It only massages my sense of self, which likewise has no legs to stand on.

Our lives are filled with these many 'purposes' and they are probably a necessary part of living in this world, just as 'knowing' that one exists is necessary. This is not a problem, whether we are happy enough just being so, or seek some form of transcendence. In the case of the latter, seeing these 'purposes' is to discover signposts along the way: Behind this empty 'purpose' will be found a gate.

Have I answered my question as to why I have a thing about purpose? I'm not sure. Somehow, I don't think so.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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