The poet Mary Oliver posed the provocative question: What are you going to do with your wild and precious life? We discussed this at length this week on the Open Deep and True – Basic Course training call. We talked a lot about life purpose and the whole concept of having a gift or a calling in life. It was tremendously thought provoking.
Life purpose is one of the most common themes in men’s work and the self improvement field in general. There are many coaches out there whose purpose in life is to teach other men how to find their purpose. Often though, the discussion or trainings narrow down to more of a right livelihood discussion. Meaning, that people who are working in jobs that are totally aligned with their hearts are living their purpose. These examples are clear cut.
Martin Luther King, Jerry Seinfeld, Frank Lloyd Wright: they do seem like they were put on earth to do the things that they do best. And they inspire others in the purity of their passion and mastery.
There is a problem with looking at life purpose only from this right livelihood/job as passion perspective. The reality is that the vast majority of people work at less dramatic jobs. Or are out of work or retired. So, if I have to be an accountant or salesperson or custodian, then I guess I’m not living my purpose and I should just shuffle on.
When we open the aperture of perspective wider, we start seeing that our purpose might be to grow through our struggles, or find peace, or help those less fortunate. These can be done in any job or any situation.
I am going to Sing Sing prison in an hour to facilitate a workshop. Many of these men will never have a job again. But they are still alive. They have volunteered for this workshop. They are finding a purpose in a bad situation of their own making. It is inspiring.
So maybe we need an addendum to Mary Oliver’s poem. Perhaps it should read: What are you going to do with your wild and precious life, Today?