The Self and The Purpose

Today we welcome a new author of our blog, @samuelrc (Samuel Rolon Cicciari) - meet Samuel!


By Samuel Rolon Cicciari

Content 16+ Nowadays the ‘achievement mentality’ in which we live saturates and exhausts people in such an enervating way that it can generate chronic mental illnesses that leave us feeling alienated and isolated. It alienates us from our true essence by stripping us of our intrinsic worth so we no longer matter for the mere fact of being human but for our capacity to accomplish goals.Sometimes these goals are of our own conception but often we allow them – and us  – to be defined by others.  Also, it isolates us by ‘saturating’ the individual with a bloated sense of his/her ability to do anything the achievement drive proposes, so that help from outside is no longer needed. Thus, to face the mental illnesses common to this time, product of the deprivation of our intrinsic value and purpose, we can appeal to a primitive tool: togetherness --to generate better connections with other people on both an interpersonal and a social level.

A big part of the problem is our tendency to go through our days in autopilot mode. It happens because we develop the conviction that in order to achieve, it is necessary to plan and therefore to create habits to manifest the idea into the material of real actions and so we end up, not with simply a blueprint but with a routine to give it support and, above all, consistency. At first, we understand why we are doing it; the goal is fresh in our minds, but as time passes the goal becomes blurry and the task becomes something we do without asking ourselves why. This phenomenon is hard to notice once we get deep into the routine, and the deception might last for weeks, months or even years until a doubt strikes us right in the face with the brutal question: What am I doing with my life? And, if the answer is unsatisfactory or indeed there appears to be no answer at all, the next question is: What can I do to change this condition? When we give place to those questions, a big horizon presents itself to us.

Basically, I am talking about the search for a purpose. But, sadly, a new problem then arises because there is a concept in psychology called ‘choice overload’ which suggests that having too many options to choose from can be overwhelming and lead to dissatisfaction with the final decision. As Westerners in the 21st century, we don’t have a purpose imposed by culture, unlike past centuries when most people had a strong attachment to religion. Some people think that this is due to old values having lost their prominence in modern life, but indeed it is more about expanding our options rather than being limited in possibility or chained to dogma. We still can choose religion, for example, but it’s just one of many prospects set before us. And although this seemingly endless variety suggests ‘pure’ freedom at first sight, it also can submerge us into terminal second-guessing and wondering fearfully if we have made the ‘correct’ choice. Confronted with a surplus of options but lacking clear guides on how to distinguish them in order of importance or desirability, we end up bearing a huge weight on our backs, not to mention a road strewn with stones within our minds.

There is a Native American tribe called the Pueblo Indians. They wake up each day and do a ritual to help the sun rise. Let’s forget for a moment the archaic (re: unscientific) belief that we humans can actually affect the elements in the sky, and instead embrace the powerful, more ‘spiritual’, notion of being the ones who help to bring the sun to all the creatures in the world. For the people of such tribes as the Pueblo there can be good and bad days but in the end they can rest serenely in the belief that they have contributed by doing good to others and that it matters that they did because it confirms the purpose of their existence; it answers the question: Why am I here?

Oh right, that’s only an example, but what can we do – or rather, what have we always done – that keeps attached to and faithful to the culture we are used to? Probably one of the most common things that, since earliest times, has brought purpose to people is parenthood, but that’s something that recent generations actively avoid or postpone to later years in their lives. Nowadays, people tend to search for meaning in their careers, sports, traveling etc. Others just spend their time going out with friends or meeting people from apps, and it works to keep them busy and maybe even entertained, but there is a problem with that: it begins and ends mostly with ourselves. So, in spite of having – supposedly – an infinite pool of purposes to choose from, many of these sporadic promptings are merely superficial and just  not that good.

It's essential for an authentic life goal to be based on a meaningful relationship with other people, which can be a single person, a small group or an entire community. As illustrated in the example of the Pueblo Indians, to have a motive attached to our own kind anchors our worth to a more solid base. Basically, it is because we are thus protected from the weakness of our state of mind that from time to time might wobble due to the vicissitudes of life. Since overcoming such moments is often not  possible on our own, it becomes indispensable to have something that provides us with the strength to help us get through. Even though humans no longer need to cooperate to survive like in primitive times, the need to generate connections is as valid as ever.

Still, people use the solitary path which leads to the neurological illnesses that devastate our society such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), borderline personality disorder (BPD), and burnout syndrome. Even issues related with violence often rise as a sign of something that’s working badly on the inside. Would we be less prone to these problems if we did a better job of attaching our lives, our purpose, to the people around us?

Maybe the answer is to build a strong community within our neighborhood, helping in an NGO or teaching. I don’t know, and most of us will have to try hard to find what’s most suitable for us. Maybe the search will take us most of our lives. I hope it won’t, but I think it’s necessary to find it, sooner or later. Yes, it would be easier if we got born with a purpose like the Pueblo Indians but that’s not the case. Instead, we have the freedom to choose it.

I hope the ones that struggle with the despair of feeling a lack of meaning in their lives will consider finding a way to bind more deeply the things they do with the people around them. And I hope to remind myself of these thoughts in the years to come.

@samuelrc about himself:

I am a software developer, a city explorer, and a hiking enthusiast. I started writing small texts about spontaneous thoughts at the beginning of 2023 as a therapeutic exercise, then gradually progressed to developing opinion essays. I am an introverted tech guy seeking to grow my humanistic side.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.