May 3, 2011


Recently, I was invited to speak at a luncheon given by a civic group. The organization is dedicated to charitable work and my topic was “The Purpose of Purpose.” As I began to jot down my thoughts the words of Buddha visited me:

          “Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart give yourself to it.”

(Pieter Verelst: “Old Woman Seated at Table”)

It occurred to me as I remembered this admonition that so much of what we do comes to us in the form of obligation. Given the demands of family, society and of our country, the tasks can seem overwhelming, but they are not to be confused with purpose. Purpose, as Buddha implies, is work we chose because it fulfills us and is not to be confused with desire… wanting a new car or a new house.  Usually, purpose involves doing well by others. Everyone can remember a kindness given freely and how it felt. It warms us both inside and out and encourages us to do more. But obligations, like a Tsunami, come crashing in and sometimes all we can manage to do is survive. Sometimes we reward ourselves for our efforts. We buy a new DVD or a second scoop of double fudge ice cream. But of course, these fleeting pleasures are nothing compared with those derived from doing a good deed. Like gold, that feeling never fades or tarnishes.

Everyone knows the truth of what I’ve written so why need I struggle for words that will inspire? Words do not change behavior. They do not bring enlightenment.  Each of us must find our purpose and we will know it by the way it makes us feel. We will know it by the lightness of our being. I say this not as poetry but as a truth for I have had a brush with death and there is nothing sadder than to look back on one’s life and feel it has been wasted. Dying pales by comparison.