What Are You Put on Earth to Be and Do?

I understand the president of a large city university once told incoming students that he would consider them and the institution successful if they complete the following sentence before graduating: I was put on earth to ___________________________________________________________________.

Try to complete the sentence for yourself. And when you complete the sentence ask yourself if your current life situation, especially your job, fulfills your life purpose. After years of asking this question to my students, I am sorry to report that while many can complete the sentence, few believe that purpose is being fulfilled in their current jobs. And in this country’s economic doldrums, few believe they can find a way out, most citing the need to pay bills and kept their health insurance. And so, it seems, we are creating a situation where many live lives of quiet desperation (to quote Thoreau).

The current emphasis in much of so-called “higher education” is to create programs to meet the needs of the market. Often this is done at the expense of the liberal arts. After all, what good is literature or philosophy or music if you’re unemployed? A fair question, but I have a different one: What good is a job if you are miserable and fail to find the joy of living? It’s one thing to get a job; it’s another to get a life–and getting a life means truly enjoying who you are and gifts of music and art and literature

I am not sure there is an answer to this dilemma to fit every situation. To paraphrase Luther: Each person must do their own living as each person must do their own dying. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to your vocation. All I can respond is what I have discovered in my lifetime. I am hardly a wealthy man, but I am a rich man in many ways, thanks to pursuing a life and not a job.I have learned, not always easily, that the most precious things are close at hand–a few good friends, a family I care about and who cares about me, a walk in the Spring morning, time to reflect. I have read and written many books, listened and enjoyed music, loved to appreciate nature and animals–all things never encouraged if I had focused on a job alone. I had paid the price of not having a new car or house nor a bankroll so I can retire in luxury. But I have found a vocation, a calling, which has made me whole and given me joy money can’t buy. To paraphrase Thoreau: When it comes time for me to die, I can say I have truly lived. 038

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1 Comment

Filed under animal companions, Careers and Callings, Living and dying, Philosophy and Ethics, Self care, wisdom

One response to “What Are You Put on Earth to Be and Do?

  1. About twenty years ago I remember a famous writer saying that if he hadn’t succeeded in his vocation he would have done away with himself. I think it was Naipaul, but I can’t remember for sure. . I think a lot of writers etc, wouldn’t go that far, but on the other hand Naipaul’s commitment impressed me. I think the liberal arts are important but a lot of universities seem to be dropping them down the pecking order. I’m not sure what’s to blame for that.

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