In the interest of full disclosure, I am an atheist, but this is not intended to mock religion. It’s more an exploration of how I would approach these ideas if I were to believe in God.
Are you feeling lost and alone, like your life has no purpose? Welcome everyone to Kalin’s imaginary church where we want you to know that God loves you regardless of who you are or what you believe.
But I’m sure you’ve heard that line so many times it’s lost all meaning.
And that’s what I want to talk to you about today–meaning. Purpose.
Or maybe it’s the lack of meaning and purpose that concerns me such that I feel the need to write this.
People keep talking about the mental health crisis. We all know it’s happening. We hear about skyrocketing use of psychological meds and demand for therapists, but this epidemic is about much more than the effect on the economy or our medical system. We are seeing the effects in our friends and family. We see it in their decisions, in their beliefs. We see it when they can’t get out of bed in the morning, when they post sad and cryptic messages to social media or when they sacrifice opportunities or friendships for seemingly no reason.
Or maybe many of us are not seeing these effects because we are feeling them ourselves so intensely.
Well I am here to say that God loves you and is here for you. There is a great plan and a purpose to all of this.
— but what does that even mean? To so many people those words just feel empty. Religious mumbo jumbo that’s been spoken so many times it’s lost all meaning.
And that right there folks, is the point. That’s what we must do, is find meaning and purpose. You want to be happy? You want to come out of the mental health epidemic stronger and healthier than you were before? Then you need to find meaning and purpose to your life. You need to reconnect with God.
But what is meaning and purpose? What does that even mean to reconnect with God?
Well I can tell you that sitting around praying all day, in and of itself, is not going to get you any closer than playing video games. Blindly seeking pleasure isn’t going to do it either. Seeking approval or doing whatever people tell you to do? Nope, that doesn’t work either.
It seems every time we really find something with joy and meaning, it fizzles as soon as we really get into it. What gives?
Because God wrote into our programming a tricky little game where our own meaning, purpose, and joy is constantly fleeting and confusing. It seems cruel, but it’s actually humanity’s greatest strength. So the trick–the magic trick they forgot to tell us is to focus on the meaning, purpose and joy of others. Your life will never work if you make it all about you. You must focus on the people around you, or in some cases the animals or the nature that is around you. That is the way to form a truly satisfying connection with God. Contribute. Make a difference in the world. Find something you can put your name on, that you can be proud of, that makes the lives of the people around you better. This thing you do can be physical or abstract. The people you help can be right there in front of you, or maybe they won’t even exist for a thousand years. It dosn’t matter as long as you’re helping someone.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but most successful people became successful not by taking but by giving. That’s what God keeps trying to tell us and we just won’t listen.
A plumber might visit a house and fix some pipes, never even meet the occupant, never get a “thank-you”, but nevertheless feel a very real connection to humanity, to their commmunity, and to God. Because they know that fixing that pipe means someone now has running water, which has meaning and purpose. Likewise helping a friend through hard times is a valid and real contribution. Working to convince the people around you to accept concepts of compassion, understanding, communication, inclusivity, consent, logic, and science is of tremendous value and also facilitates a true connection with God.
But one thing that does not facilitate that meaning and connection is tearing others down. It may be necessary on certain rare occasions to tear other people down, but those occasions are even more rare than they may seem and will never provide satisfaction or meaning, no matter how awful those people may be. In other words, vengeance in any form whatsoever, even in the form of a tiny sarcastic remark is going to stand as a barrier between you and your mission to find your true meaning and purpose in life.
It’s all about bringing positivity and building a better world for the people around you and the people who don’t exist yet, be that by fixing or building physical things or by spreading knowledge or joy.
Anyone who gets to know me knows that I am obsessed with spaceships, satellites, and the space industry. Watching a rocket launch with humans on board is one of the most beautiful things I can imagine. For me it’s a religious experience. Sure, it’s physically very beautiful, but the true beauty of sending humans to space is how it represents the hard work and entire careers of thousands if not millions of people all dedicated to this common goal of fulfilling God’s mission of building the human race into something positive, beautiful, and amazing. They’re building something bigger than any one person or country. It’s teamwork and comraderie on a scale so epic it’s possible this universe has never seen anything like it before.
This is God’s mission of spreading life and building nature into something even more beautiful and amazing than it already is. Because each and every one of us needs meaning and purpose in support of God and humanity just to be happy, but even that won’t sustain us unless we have meaning and purpose as an entire species. We must all come together and agree to build something better for our children and for this universe.
Likewise I see the youth coming together these days to rewrite our culture. I see people identifying and fixing many of the social problems humanity has faced for thousands of years that we’ve all just accepted. Thanks to engineers, scientists, businesspeople, teachers, philosophers, and everyone else working century after century for the benefit of this collective, we finally we have the time and luxury to step up and make real changes to the way we do things, to make our society more compassionate, peaceful, inclusive, and fair. This is exactly what God wants to see. Real, tangible progress, in both society and technology.
But it’s not about the genius scientists and social revolutionaries. Anyone can make a difference, even if you’re just making cat videos or being emotionally supportive to random strangers on the internet. We are all part of this collective. We just need to find our place.
So have you found your purpose yet?
Yeah, it’s not as easy as just hearing a sermon and feeling God’s guiding hand. That’s what so many of us are waiting for. We’re sitting there on the couch with our video games and streaming television, waiting for the vision of what to do–and I do this too. I’m not trying to judge anyone. I’m preaching to myself as much as anyone–which I guess was obvious because most of the seats in this church are empty.
But anyway, television is not going to tell you how to find purpose, nor is society nor your parents or friends. Even God isn’t going to show you the way toward meaning and purpose in your life. If God was going to hold your hand through the whole process, you wouldn’t need free will or intelligence. Instead, you must find this meaning and purpose all on your own. No one is going to help you. No one is going to show you the way. They may reap the benefits of your work, but you can’t count on them to help you. But that’s okay, because they are on the same journey as you and they have their own way of contributing to the beauty of this universe.
But when you really think about it, you know you can do it. You know you have some unique skill or perspective you can leverage. Ask yourself, “how do I contribute to the community, the future, God, or to Mother Earth?” If you have an answer, ask “how can I be even more effective?” If you don’t have an answer, don’t feel bad about yourself. That’s okay. Meaning and purpose is never about feeling guilty about what you haven’t done in the past. It’s about taking joy in what you will do in the future. It’s about recognizing that the little everyday things people do to help are genuinely meaningful.
Just make a plan to get out there and start experimenting. Try everything. Don’t worry if you fail repeatedly. Failure is a necessary part of the stories of our lives. Find out what you’re good at. Find out what you enjoy. Figure out what the people around you appreciate. Find out where your skills lie and start to use them for the betterment of humankind.
And if we all do this, or even just most of us, we can find our happy and fulfilled place in this world. We can break out of this mental health epidemic. But more importantly, together we can build the human race into something so succesful and awe-inspiring that we can’t even fathom it right now.
So go out there and build your own destiny.