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  • Writer's pictureDan Thompson

Purpose in Place: Meaning, Work and the Relationship to the Absolute

            Purpose and meaning are often used interchangeably, but are in fact quite distinct. Purpose suggests a more pragmatic or active approach, while meaning resides more in the realm of thought, idea, theory. 

    Meaning is mental, it includes beliefs, ideas, worldviews, theoretical positions etc. while Purpose is physical and takes the form of an occupation, an event or a Place that one inhabits.

Meaning, as in the meaning of life, are the things that give it meaning, while purpose is how one does these things, or what one does with them (talent, resources, opportunities etc). Success is not a measure of the value of the work. Success is relative, one cannot influence and control how their work is received, they can only continue to do the work that they believe in (for what it’s worth i.e. work/ employment).

    Sometimes we don’t really seem to get much at all. It’s just the journey. What at first seems bad, but turns out to be good. What at first seems good, but turns out to be bad.

Purpose doesn’t result from work. It doesn’t matter how hard one works; if it did, there would be no such thing as slavery. Work as the majority of us know it is simply a means to an end. An exercise in selflessness, because if we can actually give our lives and our time to something that we don’t really care about, we should be able to transfer a little of this vast experience in selflessness to becoming enlightened.

Enlightenment, of course, is also equated with meaning and purpose. But more associated with the not-doing of purpose, where we arrive at the realization that we are already It. From this position one can perform almost any type of work and be calm, because, as we have said, work doesn’t provide purpose; one must already have purpose in order to do purposeful work.

Without purpose life and the things that make it up, don’t feel right. It doesn’t matter if you have a great job and are getting paid a lot of money to do it. You still have those eight (or so) additional hours after work to fill. People say, if you don’t have a good job, you’re wasting eight hours of your day, but if you take your job to be your purpose, what about those eight additional hours? I guess you’d have to have another purpose. Which brings us to the idea that there are various kinds of purpose. Purpose as an individual and purpose as a whole. Purpose as a ‘species’ and purpose as a planet. But when has any of us ever felt these things? Dreams, desires, beliefs, personal stories, sure, but when was the last time we saw or felt a common human or planetary purpose? How do we know it if we’ve never had it? It’s hard enough to have one for ourselves.

Therefore, to discover and begin to embody this purpose at the being and emotional level (as opposed to the intellectual level) one must understand and become involved in the world in which one lives. This invariably involves going behind the surface of the visible, whether in politics, culture, media, or science. These things operate both implicitly and explicitly, or esoteric and exoteric. The exo/ explicit is what we see and is disseminated to us in short clips, hour-long specials and magazine articles. The eso/ implicit is where lines are drawn and patterns emerge.

An underground stream that runs from the source, to its destination and what we behold are viewpoints from along the bank. Isolated moments that present themselves to us before they disappear around a bend. What we take for verity and certainty are the limits of knowledge, the limits of what we can know or learn within this span of time; a moment or one’s entire life. Beyond this is uncertainty.

Most of us have experienced this uncertainty and this is the source of the anxiety we speak of. This uncertainty however is not flux. It’s not that the universe is in a state of flux, because we have already refuted this with Plato, what we are saying is that all appears to be in flux because we have not yet reached the source.

What was below is now above.

We are no longer dealing with the small or hierarchical levels of what comes before or after. Instead what we just said was below is just a manner of speaking, because at this ‘level’ the smallest, ‘lowest’ level becomes the top (see: Ourobouros). It is neither above nor below, but beyond the limits of such conceptions, which are merely the limits of what we can perceive or measure.

            This is the transcendent; the level of Truth i.e. the forms, principles and constants. A domain where time, space and size become irrelevant and all that remains is information. The point of reference or ego loses track of where it is in consciousness. What is on the top and what is on the bottom no longer matters (see: Roger Penrose, CCC). This is what is called the absolute in the Vedic tradition or the hypostases of orthodox Christianity.

            The Absolute is further broken into the unknowable and the knowable. The unknowable is simply what hasn’t happened, a field of pure potential that the universe is expanding into, while the knowable is the informational universe that we can access through the will and intention of the transcendental ego; that part of the absolute that we call the self or atman. 

People will say that this aforementioned domain is inaccessible through measurement, therefore it doesn’t exist. But this is only because we are a subset of a greater superset and the instruments that we use to make the measurements are themselves a subset of our conscious awareness. In non-dualism the insistence of the conclusiveness of these experiments would be like using what we’re not to find out what we are. Which is what we do when we repeat the same mistakes or claim that we know something when what we ‘know’ is simply the best explanation we have so far. This is our relationship with the absolute.

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