On what seems to be an upswing of a rash of suicide attempts, ____ is spending less time in bed, more time out of the house.  One of the major rationales for his suicide attempts is that he doesn’t’ feel like life has any purpose. Today, he wandered around a local Smith’s grocery store, approaching random people and asking:

“What is your purpose in life? I’m lost, and maybe if you told me yours, it would help me find mine”.

Some people interrogated him for 5 minutes before they would answer his question: “Why do you want to know? Is this a trick? Am I on some TV show?” etc, etc, etc.

Many people asked him if he was on drugs.  I believe he was the most sober person at the store that day… the only person TRULY living and truly breathing the air and the ether.

Nobody had an answer.

One man in particular had been in a severe accident and spent 11 months in a coma. He should have died, but somehow was spared – he credited God for preserving him, because he still had work to do here.  The man who defied death and was handed a second lease on life answered ________’s query:

” I have no idea. I ask myself the same thing every day. I just go to my work at ICON [a boring factory job], come home, and smoke cigarettes.”

“WHAT THE FUCK is going on here? ________ incredulously asked me.  “How is it that nobody knows? You would think that everyone would have this figured out by now. You would think that everyone would have figured this out not long after leaving the womb… BUT NOBODY KNOWS.”

He was both disgusted and delighted.

Disgusted that, in a whole afternoon of randomly interviewing people in a city full of people who supposedly have a superior understanding of the purpose of life (tip ‘o the hat to the predominantly LDS community), NOBODY had given this enough thought to have an answer.

Delighted – perhaps relieved – to find that he was not the only person that didn’t understand what the point of life is. I am not sure if this discovery gave him more reason to live, or more reason to leave this world of blindness.

As we spoke, I realized that I know very clearly what my purpose in life is.  I can answer the question quickly and clearly, in a handful of words.  I felt blessed and different. I did not always have such clarity.  I had to be abandoned in virtually every way before I would achieve clarity.  My children and conventional father role were stripped from me. The God that I had always known ceased to exist. The love of my life betrayed me at the deepest level.  I was financially and professionally destitute.  I was profoundly alone.

The words of Charles Bukowski come to mind:

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”
Charles Bukowski

Perhaps Bukowski was right. “Isolation is the gift…”  Is this why the story of every spiritual teacher involves them experiencing  isolation as an integral part of their enlightenment?

Siddhartha sat alone under a tree and eventually became The Buddha.

Mohammad retreated for several days in isolation into a cave.

Moses retreated to a mountain top.

Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days.

Many tribes around the world have vision quests, in which a youth goes into the wilderness alone for an extended period of time, and does not return until one’s purpose in life has been discovered in an epiphany.

Is there an important pattern and lesson here? Have you endured isolation and seen the face of GOD?  Do you believe that it’s possible?

And what about all of these people at Smith’s grocery store… has their fear of isolation kept them from transcending the darkness to find the light?

____, even though you think that you are in the depths of worthlessness – I believe you are in your wilderness. Stay the course, brother. You will see the face of GOD.

Leave a Reply