What is your sense of purpose?
One of social media's currently top trending topics is Belle Delphine, a petite Brit who posts selfies in the lolling-tongued, cross-eyed style known in Japanese porn as ahegao, signifying female pleasure. Paying subscribers are offered "more." YouTube crackles right now with pictures of and reactions to Belle Delphine. Both she and her reactors want the same thing: clicks.
Mock them, but in one major way they win: They have a sense of purpose.
Yep: a driving reason to emerge from bed each day. A joy. A power-source. A plan.
I think it's worth considering that self-hatred, depression and anxiety can be fueled by having no sense of purpose: not that emotional struggles rob us of our sense of purpose, but the other way around.
If this means I appear to envy strangers who spend hours applying makeup in order to film their lolling tongues or who race to post misspelled memes about indignant cats — well, yes. I do.
This is because, however semi-literate or shallow we might call anyone else, however we might revile his or her passion as fleeting, gross or greedy, at least it's a passion. It might not be cleaning the oceans or ending bigotry, but any passion that drives inspiration, motivation, pleasure, power and connection is in principle amazing.
Such passions can slash like magic swords through torpor, terror, isolation and confusion.
We who lack such swords question everything — or nothing. Whatever we do — if anything — comes down to obligations, expectations, habit, debt. Gone is a guiding light by which we recognize ourselves and whose warmth makes us move.
If we are bored, we turn it backwards and call ourselves boring, as if being uninspired is our fault.
Granted, life offers built-in motivations. Grow. Have fun. Have faith. Find love. Learn. Parent. Work. Meanwhile, defaults: Survive, be nice, maintain roof over head.
But sometimes scenes shift. Trains waver off-track. History happens to us. Heartbreak, sickness, politics, ten million forms of loss.
Ask empty-nesters, the retired and the bereft. Those forces that fueled their sense of purpose vanished, replaced with what Hallmark cards call leisure time but which often feels wasted, lonesome, long. The horizons have changed, the sounds, the arcs defining days.
And granted, some passions are bad. I spent years squinting at numerals on a bathroom scale, feeling sometimes victorious, sometimes distraught. Both feelings made me resolve not to eat. Thank gosh that guiding light is gone.
But now? My child-self hoped to someday write colorful, useful books. Fate smiled: I did — but never dreamed that today I would feel irrelevant and obsolete. I would not want to write.
Yes, books and even essays (ahem) still exist. But they are less and less read, their stature eroding like coastal cliffs in a culture that prefers its entertainment and information interactive, instant, current, hyper-fresh.
But now? My child-self hoped to someday write colorful, useful books. Then the stars aligned and, astoundingly, I did — never once dreaming that today I'd feel irrelevant and obsolete. That I would stop wanting to write.
Yes, books and even essays (ahem) still exist, but ever less importantly. Their stature erodes like coastal cliffs in a culture that prefers its fun and information interactive, instant, current, hyper-fresh.
But this isn't just about me. I'm a mere illustration of non-motivation. Are you, too? Maybe something about our situations, currently or back then, quenched our guiding lights. We must not mistake lightlessness for worthlessness. Can we re-vision it as situational, conditional, external? Maybe circumstances not created wholesale in our minds but which happened to us, around us, altered our horizons or at least our view of those, thus our view of ourselves and what we're meant to do. Books, for instance, have been eclipsed. A friend committed suicide. I hate this town.
Yes, this is dark, but what would it take to find some light and attain a sense of purpose — for once, at last or again?
Should we start small? Commit ourselves to tiny yet accomplishable flares and feats such as, say, listening each day to two songs we have never heard before? Feeding birds and watching their eyes? Telling ourselves, occasionally: I am on a healing journey? Telling ourselves: Today I did not make the world uglier?
And/or might we inject newfound importance into our so-called defaults? Reclaiming kindness, independence and survival as actual choices, as legitimately sacred and creative paths?