I always struggled to understand what "they" meant by meaning and purpose in life, and I always lost the struggle. It always sounded like, once we find our purpose, we find meaning. But the concepts always bewildered me. How do we find our purpose? What does "meaning" mean? I had always thought of purpose in a somewhat mechanical way, as in, the purpose of a car is for transportation. And I always thought of "meaning" in a somewhat mathematical way, as in an "A" means "B."
However, the below link, to a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article (of all things!), clarified these concepts for me. By meaning they do not mean meaning but meaningful--that is satisfying and fulfilling--something entirely unmechanical and unmathematical in concept. Furthermore, we do not arrive at meaning as a result of pursuing and discovering our purpose. Rather, when we discover that which is meaningful and therein we find our purpose--I had it backward. Now it all makes sense!
This understanding makes sense of all the Communion and Liberation expression of the topic. It also dovetails with what the church and C/L teaches about our desires. Desire is very close to what is meaningful. We desire things that our hearts see as potentially meaningful. This understanding also underscores the importance of experience, since we really need to experience things before we can truly say they are meaningful (or not).
It has taken me 62 years to figure this out. I feel like I can now consider myself a mature fellow traveler of C/L (a flip comment of course). I also feel relaxed and happy as a result of this epiphany. And funny--that is charming-- that I had this epiphany on the Feast of the Epiphany.
I've understood for a while that I've always overthought things. And I do realize that some people might consider me an idiot--low emotional intelligence or something like that--for not previously understanding meaning and purpose. I realize that many people have got this figured out, at least intuitively, by age 8! I just wasn't built that way.
From the Harvard Business Review:
You Don't Find Your Purpose--You Build It, by John Coleman, Oct. 20, 2017
As an aside, I do realize that many people in the contemporary culture passively accept the notion that life has no meaning. However, I believe that the human need for a sense of meaning and purpose in life is innate. I wonder if at least some of the culture's talk of purpose/meaning (this HBR, for example) is actually a backlash against, at worst, the nihilistic tendencies in the culture or, at least, of extreme materialistic utilitarian tendencies. It is significant that HBR and Psychology Today are talking about this. I think that people in jobs like teachers, nurses, social workers, and police find meaningfulness in their work without even trying and even taking it for granted. But while the world of business, especially at the elite level, which HBR represents, seems to be increasingly in-human and utilitarian, I contend that so many of the people working in those kinds of environments are eventually confronted by their innate need for meaning and purpose.
As well, Psychology Today has this, on meaning in the world of work:
Can You Help Others Find Meaning in Their Work, by Michelle McQuaid, Jan. 8, 2016