There was a piece on the internet yesterday about having a goal in life. I think I found it on the iOS News app. It was one of those aggressively cheerful screeds that swans insouciantly from assumption to panacea via gross generalisation. Apparently the thing that separates the lost sheep of this world from its forward-moving goats is having a purpose to one’s life. Presumably, the kind of goal is important. Wishing to belittle or injure someone every day is, after all a goal. The piece wasn’t very helpful in that respect. It seemed to assume that anyone going for a goal will automatically pick one that is self-improving or outer-directed in a good way.
I don’t have a goal. There is nothing I want to change. At least, nothing that I have the remotest hope of changing. I’d like to change me, perhaps. But into who, or what, I don’t know. A more loving parent. A more reliable supplier. But is wishing to address character ‘defects’, if that is what they are, the same thing as having a goal in life? As a reductio ad absurdum, I could refine my two goals in life to ‘breathe in’ and and ‘breathe out’. As long as I stayed true to both of them and followed them in a strictly alternating sequence, I’d be all right. Hungry, smelly and homeless, but all right.
As humans, we are cursed with a sense of meaning. People talk of seeking a ‘higher meaning’ in life. No, I can’t analyse that in a minute’s thought. Higher than what, exactly? Higher than shopping? Surfing Twitter? Achieving Level Eleven, gold-plated, fur-lined, ocean going enlightenment? Don’t I vaguely remember from Buddhist primers that enlightenment is a process of letting go?
Somehow, clinging tenaciously to a goal doesn’t sound the right way to get there.