It’s always like this when the semester comes to a close. More pronounced at the end of spring than fall perhaps, but the feeling of relief, of pride in completing another segment of both my educational and career aspirations and of inching ever closer to that next big milestone equates to far more than just mere satisfaction. The day before yesterday, when asked by friends how I was doing, my response was, “Better than ever; I can’t remember when I’ve felt so good,” and I might have even let slip out, “Best day of my life.” And although it’s all true and accurate when placed in proper context, by that same context, yesterday was even better and today promises to be better still. To fully understand why this elation is so pronounced at this particular moment, it is important to take a step back to gain a broader perspective.
First, and probably most immediately, I have what I need. I have a roof over my head, a car, food in the fridge and I have enough to keep the electricity on and pay for the other essentials – not stuff that is necessary for survival in the broadest sense of the word, but arguably essential for survival in today’s industrialized West. Those and other similar goods and services are the tangible needs I have. I am not by any stretch of the imagination financially well-off, but I’m not starving either and though not all of my wants have been met, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I have much that I certainly do not need. I have these things do to fortune, grace and my own hard work - I do not discount the help I have received, but I must not minimize the work I have done either. Indeed, the grace and work seem to go nicely together.
But there are other things that we, as a species, as a society, as a people, also need. These are things that cannot be bought or sold – they are priceless not because they are so astronomically valuable like a Picasso or a Rembrandt, but because they literally cannot have a price. If one has enough money – everything material is for sale, if it’s not, it has value beyond its molecular appearance and therefore is priceless for other reasons. Reasons like love; friendship; loyalty; faith; and a host of other intangible elements that I would argue people need just as much as they need food and shelter. We need a purpose. I need a purpose.
The subtitle of the 25 Year Plan is Perspectives, Purpose and Opinion. When I titled it almost five years ago, I really didn’t know where that middle element in the subtitled came from. It just seemed to fit and although I knew at some level of consciousness that I was discovering a sense of purpose, I had no idea or any real intention of articulating it. The main title itself is laced with sarcasm in some respects and irony in others. There was no plan – it does not represent where I want to be in 25 years, it looks backwards and though a plan certainly was never formulated by me… well, let’s just say it’s funny how things work out.
Apparently there is a purpose, then. Some know much more about the many preceding years than I share here, and others can read between the lines. The point is rather simple, though, even if all one knows is what has appeared here for the past several years. It has to do with the journey. I am nowhere close to realizing my full potential; I don’t even know what it is. If I were asked five years ago where I would be in five years, I would have sold myself way short. The ancient Greeks believed that it takes an entire lifetime to reach eudemonia – a word that doesn’t easily translate, but it loosely means “happiness,” or “the good life” or “a fully formed (or informed) inner self.” It is a balance of reason and passion, the ability to wisely decide what the right thing to do in any given situation is. It is about knowing truth, beauty and goodness.
We are not robots. It takes more than food, shelter and comfort to be truly content with life. Indeed, many have found that elusive good life in decidedly bad times. This whole life thing is way bigger than me or anything I can imagine, but as it applies to the here and now – in this fluid moment between the future and the past, it seems that although I know not what it is in any specificity, I know that there is a reason, a purpose, a telos, and that the quality of life is a direct reflection in the success of fulfilling of that purpose. And today, qualitatively speaking, looks like it’s going to be even better than yesterday.