Rumi has a beautiful passage on meaning and purpose:
“There is one thing in this world you must never forget to do. If you forget everything else and not this, there’s nothing to worry about, but if you remember everything else and forget this, then you will have done nothing in your life.
It’s as if a king has sent you to some country to do a task, and you perform a hundred other services, but not the one he sent you to do. So human being come to this world to do particular work. That work is the purpose, and each is specific to the person. If you don’t do it, it’s as though a priceless Indian sword were used to slice rotten meat. It’s a golden bowl being used to cook turnips, when one filing from the bowl could buy a hundred suitable pots. It’s like a knife of the finest tempering nailed into a wall to hang things on.
You say, “But look, I’m using the dagger. It’s not lying idle.” Do you hear how ludicrous that sounds? For a penny an iron nail could be bought to serve for that. You say, “But I spend my energies on lofty enterprises. I study jurisprudence and philosophy and logic and astronomy and medicine and the rest.” But consider why you do those things. They are all branches of yourself.
Remember the deep root of your being, the presence of your lord. Give yourself to the one who already owns your breath and your moments. If you don’t, you will be like the man who takes a precious dagger and hammers it into his kitchen wall for a peg to hold his dipper gourd. You’ll be wasting valuable keenness and forgetting your dignity and purpose.”
There is a beautiful idea at the heart of this passage: that each of us is made for a unique purpose. We are put on this earth to complete a task. Our life is not so much what we want to create as a work we are called to complete.
Each of us in being born in this human form is ‘gifted’ or endowed with certain specific and unique talents and capacities that have been given to no other in quite the same configuration. We are ‘seeded’, in addition to our abilities, with particular interests and passions, thing that we hold to be important or significant, that draw our attention, that inspire us, and to which we want to give our lives. It is our task, and that of society, to nurture and grow these latent energies within us so that they may flower forth into the world, to enrich the earth.
The greatest untapped resource in the world is the creative energy in human beings that unfortunately is largely blocked or unexpressed. “We know what we are, but not what we could be”, wrote Shakespeare. It is an obligation upon each of us to seek to share our inner riches with the world and seek to facilitate their nurturance in others around us.
The fundamental questions in this inquiry are:
What am I good at? What do Love? What do I care about? What brings me alive? What cause would I like to serve? What contribution would I like to make to the world? What kind of person would I like to be remembered as?
What good might be released into the world if we allowed our lives to be guided by these questions?