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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

The Existential Question

At some point in our lives, most of us will find ourselves asking the existential question: what is my purpose, why am I here? It may happen early in our lives—teen years are frequently when this question arises for the first time—and it is often accompanied by a youthful angst. For some, it is later in life as career, life experience, and circumstances bring us to a place where we question our values or accomplishments—reckoning up our so-called legacy.

In Falling Upward, author, Richard Rohr, writes about this as a period in which we become aware of a higher plane of existence—one in which our egos, as defined by job, family, possessions and other worldly concerns take a back seat to a search for our true purpose. This search may lead us to significant change as we begin to gain a sense of our higher selves, and may even alter our relationships with those we encounter or hold most dear in our lives.

Not everyone will pass through this stage, or do so at an early enough age that it will have any impact on their lives. Some individuals go through their lives blissfully—it would appear—untroubled by the question why do I exist. They exist unto themselves and do not require further insight or explanation.

I doubt anyone reading this post shares that perspective. I say that because as any reader of this blog knows, God plays a central role in what I write about, in my life, and I believe, in how we relate to one another. If you acknowledge this, even a tiny little bit, you have already accepted the response to the question why am I here.

Recently, I retired. Actually, it is the fourth time I have retired. I am getting better at it all of the time. Practice makes perfect they say. I’ve already started my next job so I know there will be at least one more retirement—or many more for all I know. Each time, I learn and grow, and bring what I have learned to my next engagement. We are always retiring and starting a new job in life, and hopefully we bring the accumulated experience and knowledge we have gained along the way with us to the next thing we do. That’s the practice part.

So, when people ask me that existential question, why am I here, what is my purpose, I have an answer for them. We are all here for the same purpose—to learn how to be a better us. Yes, you heard me right. We are all here to practice and learn how to become better versions of ourselves so that when God calls us to be with him we will be worthy, and able to understand and enjoy all he has in store for us.

Those of you who believe in reincarnation, or those who have not yet accepted the idea of a next stage of life may struggle with what I said above. I understand; it is hard to accept as truth something that, however much we may desire it, seems just too fantastical to be real. Those who believe in reincarnation will be less uncomfortable because they accept a next life as a given, but they may not be as comfortable with the idea that there is a finite terminus, a one time and done outcome to life as we know it.

You might want to know what evidence I have to offer for this bold statement. I am not going to lie—I do not have any evidence—at least not in the sense you may mean. I have instead, faith and observation. As we have discussed before, faith is believing something that cannot be seen or demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt. If it were provable it would be fact, not faith. Observation, on the other hand is at least something we can convince ourselves, if not others, is real—it is demonstrable. So what exactly are these observations?

Let me give you two. First, prayer works. I know, I am way out there stretching your credibility, but bear with me. When we earnestly desire something, assuming we have a relationship with God, we pray to him and ask him to grant us what we ask for. Often he does, and sometimes almost immediately. Other times, our prayers seem unanswered. But are they? Western scripture says that if we ask we will receive. So what’s the deal—is it conditional? Well, yes and no. Not conditional in the sense of being deserving, but conditional in the sense that what we ask for may not always be what we need or what is best for us or for others. To be blunt about it, God knows what is in our interests even when we do not. Sometimes what occurs hurts and deeply so, but also brings unforeseen blessings in our life. That is God’s doing—not ours.

The second proof—if you wish to call it that, is works. By that, I mean the work that God does in our lives. When we make the decision to lean on God and not our own understanding, when we trust him to steer us, our way becomes richer, and if not easier, than certainly more fulfilling.

So there you have it. Tangible evidence that God is real, that he loves us, wants what is best for us and will deliver on his promises time and again. Knowing this, and knowing that he is preparing us for a life of joy and abundance beyond our human limitations we are left with just one task—to practice being the best human beings we can be.

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