Before I launch into whatever it is I’m about to say, a quick personal note:
Been a while since I posted… lately, I’ve been feeling that I’ve said everything I really want to say, that to post more would be getting a job at the Department of Redundancy Department.
And, more interesting (to me) is how affected I was by something said by the physicist Steven Weinberg when he was interviewed by Richard Dawkins. Weinberg’s comment was, “Most of my physicist friends are so disinterested in religion that they don’t even qualify as atheists.”
While I often enjoy examining, and cross-examining, New Age and religious thinking, and the errors within them, I’d rather be the New Age version of one of Weinberg’s friends — someone so disinterested in the “law” of attraction, manifestation, enlightenment, personal development and all the rest, that I don’t even qualify as a critic.
Frankly, I’m not sure what new social circle I’d need to cultivate to stay insulated from the veritable tsunami of self-help (remember 25-30 years ago when there was NO self-help section in the bookstores but, instead, there was a tiny psychology section?). Maybe Weinberg’s friends, if they’d have me. But that’s no guarantee… the collection of crap-slinging physicists on the New Age circuit proves there’s no amount of smarts that permanently protects you from being stupid (seriously, dudes, just because the math suggests the wave function has no limit, doesn’t mean that “quantum physics says we’re all one!”).
Anyway… with that preface, onto a bit of repetition, followed by some 3rd party validation:
Of all the possible workshop themes in the New Age, from clearing imagined “blocks to success,” to channeling information from disembodied beings living light years away who have a remarkable grasp of Earth’s current events (but still can’t pick lottery numbers worth a damn), to how to dress your dog in colors that match your aura, the workshops that mystify me the most are the “life purpose” ones.
Ignoring the sheer arrogance of the idea that you’re here for some important mission — okay, wait, let’s not ignore it. Let’s take a look:
How many people from history can you remember?
Out of the ONE HUNDRED TWENTY BILLION people who have ever been alive, how many can you recall?
Not many. And, some that you can recall will be forgotten soon enough.
So, seriously, folks, can we drop the “I’m here to change the world” crap finally?
“But Steven,” I hear some say (because I’m psychic and can do remote viewing in the future), “my purpose isn’t about changing the world, it’s just doing what I was put on the planet to do at the highest level I can do it.”
Hmmm… boy you got me there… until I start thinking. For example:
What’s a lemur’s life purpose? Or a virus? Or a gorilla?
Seems like it’s simply to be a lemur, or a virus, or a gorilla. As far as I can tell, they can’t do it wrong.
So how’d we get so special that it’s possible to not be/do what humans are/do? As far as I can tell, if you’re a human — no matter what the circumstance — you’re living your purpose. No way you can’t.
Also, this “doing what I was put here for” idea still has an air (make that, stench) of self-importance. I mean, have you ever heard of anyone going to a “life purpose” workshop and dancing out the door singing, “My purpose is to be a mediocre temp worker who gets mostly word processing jobs at medium sized ambulance-chaser law firms!”
Here’s another thing to ponder. What’s a baby’s life purpose?
Don’t know, it’s just a baby… hard to tell. What if the baby dies of some genetic disease, or illness, or accident?
“Well, then,” the LP gang would say, “the baby’s purpose must be to teach us about _______ (fill in the blank with something saccharine).”
Hold on, sparky, you can’t just add the story that suits you in order to keep the “we have a purpose” theory alive. If the baby didn’t have a definable purpose the moment before it “transitioned to the other side” (why can’t we just say “died”? Really?), then it doesn’t the next moment either.
We almost always assign this purpose thing AFTER THE FACT… and that doesn’t count because it’s just a narrative laid on top of a cherry-picked selection of history.
But I digress (believe it or not)… my whole inspiration for writing this post, is the confluence of two events (oh, no, wait, it was synchronicity!): my pondering the absurdity of this whole purpose-thing for the umpteenth time, and a great TED talk by Mike Rowe of the TV show, Dirty Jobs.
Mike starts with a great story about one of his shows, and at the 11-ish minute mark, launches into what he’s discovered about “life purpose,” “following your bliss,” “doing what you love and having money follow,” and more. And, Mike also gets to show off the fact that hiding behind his cheeky TV host persona, is a really smart guy. Check it out at http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/mike_rowe_celebrates_dirty_jobs.html
BTW, a quick story about the “Do what you love and the money will follow” idea:
First of all, most people don’t know that this concept was made popular by a book with that title.
Secondly, most people who know of the book have never read it.
Third, most people who own the book haven’t either!
Fourth, most people who HAVE read the book have forgotten that the majority of the book is about what to do when the money ISN’T FOLLOWING!
Fifth, most who remember that don’t remember that the book doesn’t say that the money will come as payment for doing what you love (If you love doing underwater yodeling, that might not bring in the big bucks).
I have a friend who is a literary agent who was asked to represent this book… she said, “Only if you can give me an absolute YES to the following question: In this lifetime?” The silence that followed made her decide not to represent the book… and collect the cash from what became a perennial best-seller; I love a woman with integrity.
Clearly, I’m not at the so-disinterested-I-don’t-qualify-as-a-critic stage in my life. But, the day is still young and Spring has sprung.