Thank you for your service - we say to army men. They make the sacrifice of risking their lives fighting for what they think is their country's values. Sadly, this is often untrue because modern wars have been more about gaining power and economic resources than protecting our communities, but this is a subject that I do not wish to enter here.
It is rare to say "thank you for your service" when we encounter someone who works as a fireman or an ambulance driver.
For the first few weeks of the pandemic, we have been grown accustomed to saying thank you for your service to nurses, doctors, healthcare workers. Indeed, that was a great thing, for their service was of the utmost importance (and still is!)
This has passed, though, as our memory is very short and our attention retention even shorter. Nevertheless, many people work as a service to our society in ways that are more or less direct and more or less dangerous.
Of course, a fireman's service is explicit. He risks his life every day, battling dangerous situations to save our lives. This is truly heroic. Thank you for your service!
When is the last time you said thank you for your service to a garbage collector?
Probably never, unless you are a small child fascinated by the truck.
To all the garbage collectors I have encountered and asked the question, 0.00% of them has ever received a "Thank you for your service" when in garbage collecting uniform.
This begs a significant amount of thought, for I remember when I was a child, the garbage collectors went on strike in my homeland of France. It was an absolute nightmare.
Rats invaded the streets in plain sight during the day, acting like the rulers of the cities.
The smells were rancid (it was in the middle of a heat waved summer).
People started getting sick. I am pretty sure that, had that strike lasted more than a week or two, our communities would have suffered severe and long-lasting health repercussions.
And so it begs the question:
Why would we say "Thank you for your service" to an army man most of the time, to a fireman practically never, and to a garbage collector, never?
I don't believe that there is a correlation between danger, usefulness and gratitude.
There are no rational, objective reasons why we consider the job of an army man of bigger service than a fireman and a garbage collector.
This is simply another excellent example of our reason being corrupted by hallucinated societal symbolism.
When I sat this morning with my coffee to write, I had no intention of writing about societal hierarchies and even less to fall into any political debate.
But, you see how the mind works and how the thoughts hop to places we didn't expect? Fascinating.
Let's step back for a moment. What I wanted to write about today is Purpose, or living our lives with purpose.
I was asked recently in the comments of a video, can't I just be without purpose?
And the answer is, of course, yes.
Why not? You can survive like this.
But can you thrive?
Can you be in a state of constant joy if you live your life without a purpose? If you renounce your duties constructed on what you must do and what you do well?
The challenge when talking about purpose, or finding one's purpose, is that the ego always tries to creep in and get involved in the process.
You've heard that voice in your head: "I am destined to do great things! My purpose is to become a rock star! My purpose is...." fill in the blank.
I am all for positive reinforcements.
Why not, if it helps (beware of blind optimism creeping in!). The trap here is that our Ego tends to believe that things are entitled to it.
The ego thinks he deserves this and that. What he already has, he takes for granted, as opposed to as granted. And as we discovered and will talk in-depth during the course, we are NOT that voice in our head commenting on our lives, inventing unwarranted thoughts and emotions.
Why my mind derived to talking about service in the first part of this article is simple:
I genuinely believe that our purpose needs to be about other people. Too often, in the personal development space or the spiritual growth space, we are influenced to recluse ourselves to think deeply about our purpose, about who "we" are, and what "we" are supposed to do with our lives.
To experience joy, one must be of service to another. This perspective has created many aha moments with my students.
It goes like this:
What is my duty --> What am I good at? --> Who do I serve? --> this is my purpose.
If you take it the other way around, it doesn't work because it is blocked:
What is my purpose --> what am I good at --> What is my ego entitled to? --> This might be my purpose, but I am not sure it will make me flourish.
This last loop cannot create joy.
It will simply not work because although it tries to fool you to think it is, your ego is not your true self.
Satisfying your ego and perceiving it as "I" cannot fulfil your true self.
And again, if we would study enlightenment, that is precisely what it is about:
Realising that our ego defines who we are, and guides our existence, separated from all other forms of consciousness, is an illusion.