Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Jack Is A Dull Boy

Purpose.

Purpose is an interesting word, because its meaning changes depending on the individual’s circumstances. When people in the Western world talk about purpose, it is usually about adding a sense of meaning to one’s life. A so called higher purpose.

This definition reflects the average Western person’s life situation. The middle class of the West has achieved an astonishingly high standard of living, so it can afford to give purpose a different meaning than those who are not as fortunate. People who are worried about food, shelter, and other basic needs, have no other purpose than to survive. In other words: the poor do not have the luxury to nourish their souls, because they are too focused on nourishing their bellies.

I’m willing to bet that all of you reading this are feeling pretty good. You may have the sniffles, or a crushing college debt, but there are still far scarier things that you really would not like to happen. In comparison to that, you are feeling pretty good.

But for many of us that doesn’t seem to be enough. For even the most affluent parts of the world are set on achieving ever more. Which raises the question—why? Why, if we have the wealth to feel safe, do we not play more often? Why does work still take precedence over play?

Because work is still seen as a burden that must be carried.

I’m reminded of the insights of the American psychologist Maslow, about how the Protestant work ethic lies at the foundation of all American (and, thus, many Western European) endeavours. Because we’re all supposedly born with ancestral sin, we must fearfully work for our salvation without tiring. Silliness and play are frowned upon, and hard work and self-sacrifice are cherished.

If we’re still being moved by this Protestant ethic, play only serves to keep us healthy so that we may stay productive. But playing in order to become a better labourer is not really playing. To play for real means to do it for its own sake. Playing has no point. Playing does not matter. Sadly, we are made to believe that all our actions must serve some purpose, or we run the risk of wasting our lives.

I’m writing this to remind you that everything without utility, is Holy. Just like how all our holidays are actually: Holy-days. It’s during these days that we finally choose to live for real and do the things we truly enjoy. Which usually seems to involve doing something pointless, such as listening to music, dancing, hiking or some other hobby. If you have the feeling that work is supposed to be a burden, these brief breaks from work keep you from going mad.

But why—if we have the means—don’t we arrange our lives in a way which is less maddening?

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach