04 February 2011

Thinking about purpose

It has rained all day.  I've not been able to make myself do anything on the list sitting at the edge of my desk.  I did manage all the laundry yesterday after we picked up the dogs and arrived home.  But, today's been another story.

Just because "the list" has been ignored, however, doesn't mean the day has been a waste.  After breakfast I turned on the gas logs in the living room and settled into a chair nearby with a book I'd been given.  "A Dog's Purpose: A Novel for Humans" by W Bruce Cameron is likely not to endure as a classic, but it is a poignant and inspiring story.  And, turns out, an important one to me.

The question of purpose may be one of the basic driving forces of life, leading to the formation of religion, the institution of marriage, maybe even the waging of war.  "A Dog's Purpose" isn't that heavy.  But, it is the persistent question posed by the engaging canine as he (and she) considers life, and his (and her) life in relation to humans: what is my purpose?

Mr Cameron takes that question and, to me anyway, issues a second challenge, beyond finding purpose.  Bailey, one of the names by which the dog was known, learned things during his life.  He remembered them and used those bits, important bits, of knowledge as his life progressed.  And, by the end of the story, he not only put it all together, but he acted on it.

Paying attention to one's life and putting the pieces together into a useful whole.  And, knowing we're doing it.  What a concept. 

Bailey's quest for meaning was so strong and he was so conscientious about it.  Do we even know that it's a desire for purpose that drives us?  Are we monitoring our own lives, our longings, our preferences, our fears, our choices in order to put it all together?  Day-by-day?  Maybe it takes too much psychic energy.  Maybe it's easier simply to drift along.

The one thing I have concluded -- before Bailey, actually; he and this rainy day helped bring it all together, the one thing I have concluded is that relationship is the purpose.  It comes before vocation, before making a living, before doctrine, before anything.  The rest is important, but it's not the most important.  Jesus was right.  That's what loving God and loving neighbor is all about.

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