Whenever I hear a question about “higher purpose,” the meaning to one’s life, or what one was born to do, I equate all of these to one idea: fate. Discerning one’s own purpose is a tricky business. Many will claim revelation; that is, they believe they have come to know their purpose in life through some experience which they have taken to heart and have found meaning in their actions. Others have contemplated for their purpose and have yet to find an answer. Some, like Liz Gilbert, have had an instinctual desire and decided to go out and fulfill it. I believe this desire can be equated to the need for God in life, among other things.
I’m not sure as to the source of this quote, but it goes something like this: “I believe a man does what he can, until his fate is revealed to him.” This answer was given in response to the question, “Do you believe in fate?” Whether it was produced by Hollywood or not there is much insight into the idea of higher purpose here. Even if one does know (or believes they know) what their role is in this world, we can only do so much before we either realize with absolute certainty the path to be tread, and I do believe everyone’s purpose is revealed to them sometime in their life, perhaps multiple times. I, like Gilbert, have this maddening desire to travel (my destination is Japan) but I do not go there intending to have such a radical experience as hers was. Regardless, I will go and it is not that I intend for something to happen, but if it happens I want to be there for it.
Back in grade school when we were contemplating our futures like the promising youths our parents claimed we should be, my friend responded to my question with, “I want to be comedian.” Rather than the typical reason of, “Because they’re funny!” that I had heard this idea accompanied by, his reason was, “I like to make people laugh.” Truth be told, the idea of entertainment for self-gratification’s sake baffles me; I entertain my friends because I love to see them truly happy. Is the goal of making others laugh a higher purpose reserved for a specific few who choose to make their livings by this ideal like Jerry Seinfeld, or can this purpose have elements in the lives of all? Especially in our social situations today there seems to be a great need for laughter and good times, and while I believe the counterculture of pointing out the tragedies of the world has become THE culture there remains a definite necessity for stress relief. While Descartes may have been incorrect in his gory-lungs theory the concept of the mind and body needing relief was absolutely true.
I believe that no matter what the higher purpose one has revealed to them, this is true: we all have a responsibility to form bonds with the people around us, and that these bonds make life truly worthwhile – to truly connect with people, and for the mutual benefit of all increase the effect our lives have on others and our world. Causing laughter for the sake of laughter, the custom of the joke, and the wonderful enigma we call humor all contribute greatly to the nature of everyone’s purpose including all the non-comedians out there.
Now, whatever anyone says about Gilbert’s authenticity, I find it hard to doubt her experiences; in fact, sometimes it borders on rudeness. Yes, travel is expensive and time-consuming, and while there are numerous arguments and counterarguments it comes down to the will to make it happen and the openness to experience. Traveling to Spain, I was lucky to stay with a student by the name of Fabio. His father took me down to his office one day and pulled out a guitar. After a spectacular performance of a flamenco ballad, he pulled out an honest-to-God copy of the CD he produced and wrote in silver Sharpie “A mi amigo y tu familia y tus amigos.” I didn't plan on meeting a flamenco artist on my trip, but I did. Be open to the possibility that crazily wonderful things can happen, like, say, falling in love while writing a travel book.