I am not religious. Although I was raised in the Mormon faith, I currently hold no belief in a personal god or any other type of intelligent creator. I don’t pretend to understand how the universe and everything in it came to be (although I’ve read some pretty cool theories), and I’m (usually) okay with the mystery. I love this planet and this life just as it is and derive meaning without any need for supernatural forces.
I realize many Fake Plastic Fish readers hold different beliefs and that’s fine with me. I only preface my post this way because what I’m about to share and the questions I want to ask you are normally discussed within the context of religion or other spiritual system. But to me, knowing our place and purpose in this life is basic, simple, and completely natural.
So here goes. A few days ago, I was walking home from the BART station very late at night and feeling tired and overwhelmed once again. I’d finished a day at my accounting job and was contemplating work I still needed to do for the Oakland Earth Expo. The thought crossed my mind, as it has many times in the last two years, that I could just stop. Quit. Give up blogging and activism and reaching out to strangers. I could go back to my private little life of watching movies, playing with my kitties, and hanging out with Michael. What’s wrong with that?
These kinds of thoughts come when I’m tired and usually dissolve as soon as I’ve had enough sleep. I know that, and was in the process of reminding myself of this fact, when I was stopped dead in my tracks by an inner voice that said, “You can’t quit because this isn’t yours to quit in the first place. The blog… the activism… the reaching out… you don’t do them; they do you.”
I’ve heard this voice before — once on top of a peak overlooking Death Valley and once during last year’s all night vision fast — and I absolutely trust it. If I were religious, I’d probably say it was God. Since I’m not, I just think it’s something we all have inside us that knows precisely who we are and our place in this world, something preverbal and very primal, that can’t be fooled by the machinations of our left brains. The part of us that understands how ultimately, there’s no separation between us and anything else.
I had all kinds of other realizations that night too. It was kind of like being on acid, actually, except without the cool hallucinations. I understood that my eco activism, and this blog in particular, are expressions of my ultimate place in this world, my purpose, and that to quit right now would be a rejection of who I am, in the largest possible sense. I also realized that the parts of me that I perceive as character flaws… jealousy, perfectionism, obsession, even procrastination… are part of what make me perfectly and uniquely suited to carry out that purpose. And finally, I realized how much I love Oakland and that in addition to finding my place in terms of life purpose, I’ve also found my place geographically… the place where I feel truly at home.
When I tried explaining these things to Michael, he thought it all sounded pretentious. And maybe it does. But to me, it feels like the opposite of pretention… like total humility. Because there’s nothing in it I can own for myself, in the small sense. Nothing for the ego to grasp and claim for itself, try as it might.
So, if this makes any sense at all to you, I’d love to know what you think. Do you know why you’re here and what your purpose is on this planet? Do religion or spirituality play a part? Are you searching to figure out who you are and what you should be doing? Are you content to simply be?
If you came here looking for advice on living with less plastic and would rather not deal with philosophical questions, check out my post on Blogher.com. But if you’re in the mood to wax pretentious with me, please share.