June 25, 2015 admin

PURPOSE: Holding On To the Biggest Questions

by Zachary Krowitz

Age 21. Stamford, CT

As I read the answers to your challenge, “Do you think you have found the purpose to your life, professional or otherwise? If so, how did you find it? Was there a person, experience or book or sermon that decisively helped you get there?” I struggled with how many were about work or day-to-day activities. Yes, I understand you teased such responses by asking about professional duties in your prompt. Further, your first column about the essays you received to your questions focused on the small life, about how content people centralize their lives around seemingly small issues within a complicated and demanding world.

Unfortunately, based both on the essays written in response to your column and common experience, such meaning is often lost as one travels through life, emotions becoming duller and less clear.


However, older people wrote the essays you focused on in your column, and the essays promoted often on “The Conversation,” albeit with some exceptions. As a twenty one year old just graduated from college, I found it difficult to relate to many of the concerns expressed in such essays. It may be cynicism, or in fact clarity, that internal queries about jobs and the journey of life seem trite. If four years of studying hard have taught me anything, it is to challenge conventional notions of life’s trajectory not through the abstract sense of a journey, but in a more linear path of what one wants.

In his novel The Master, Colm Toibin wrote about fictional Henry James’s thoughts on the death of a friend. Toibin wrote, “Her words haunted him so that saying them now, whispering them in the silence of the night brought her exacting presence close to him. The words constituted one sentence. Minny had written: ‘You must tell me something that you are sure is true.’”
This desire for something that is surely true is present in all of us, and reflects an attempt to know what we really want. This is the journey of life, not abstract but wholly tangible. Unfortunately, based both on the essays written in response to your column and common experience, such meaning is often lost as one travels through life, emotions becoming duller and less clear. Thus, the search for truth, not as a sentiment but as knowledge of one’s inner life, becomes a more difficult endeavor with more experience. Such a search is not limited to a small or large life, but rather applies to the conflict between inner and outer life among people of all different backgrounds, with different interests and ambitions.

As I enter the “real” world after college, I lie awake thinking not about my job, or even my interests, but about what I truly know and feel, and how to act on that knowledge.

You highlighted the letter of Terence Tollaksen, who wrote that, “‘big’ decisions turn out to have much less impact on a life as a whole than the myriad of small seemingly insignificant ones.” I cannot help but disagree, or at least attempt to complicate. The distinction is not between big and small decisions, but rather decisions of impact on internal wellbeing, on real emotions, and decisions of ephemeral interests like jobs, location, and money.
As I enter the “real” world after college, I lie awake thinking not about my job, or even my interests, but about what I truly know and feel, and how to act on that knowledge. I imagine such late night thoughts do not change throughout the course of life, but rather become more obscure as additional responsibilities are piled on. Holding on to the meaning of one’s emotions, and learning how to act appropriately on them, thus must be the driving force in one’s life.

 

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