There is a difference between having a purpose and acting out of purposelessness.
Acting out of purposelessness is an act of spontaneity. Behavior that isn’t goal-directed is often seen as genuine.
We’ve all seen that little boy who acts funny without the goal of being funny. When he finds out that people are laughing about his behavior, he repeats it. But now it’s considerably less funny because it’s not spontaneous anymore. It’s goal-oriented. The kid’s goal is to get attention.
An act of out of purposelessness is quite unique and possesses a magic of its own. It’s novel, unpredictable and coming from a place of uncalculated spontaneity. There’s no anticipation for a reward, validation or to impress anybody. It’s a form of doing which comes from the innate drive of pure pointlessness.
Spiritual entertainer Alan Watts was the first person I heard coining the term purposelessness. He based it on a Taoist concept called Wu Wei. Wu Wei can be explained as “non-doing” or “effortless action.”
He tells us about a hunter who tries to kill a bear with his ax. The bear, however, can read the hunter’s mind, so it knows exactly what the next move of the hunter will be. This makes it impossible for the hunter to make a deliberate effort to kill the bear.
But as soon as he gives up and swings his ax out of frustration, it’s head breaks off, swings towards the bear and kills it. Because the hunter did not intend this move the bear couldn’t predict it.
Ask yourself this. Does water have a purpose? Water always follows the natural course and, thus, always seeks the lower places. When it’s allowed the flow, it flows. When it’s allowed to be still, it’s still.
Water itself does not have a purpose nor has it a goal. Still, it nourishes everything that it passes and its softness erodes what’s hard and sharp. It’s the source of life.
Purposeless also lies at the roots of a paradoxical activity called meditation. The act of meditation has no purpose. The only thing you do is watching your thoughts without getting entangled in them.
People often meditate to calm their minds, but if they force to calm their minds because that’s the ultimate goal, they find out that meditation doesn’t work. You cannot will yourself to relax. The secret is to not force anything, to forget the goal and to just do it.
When a meditator has forgotten the goal of his or her meditation, the mind starts to calm down spontaneously.
The same goes for creativity. Ideas are often born out of purposelessness. They just pop up. Most of the times this occurs when you are in a state of relaxation.
For example, during a long walk in the forest or when taking a shower. You can’t force creativity, but you can create a situation in which a sense of purposelessness can ignite creativity to grow.
A musician might discover the right tune for a new song, while he just intended to strum his guitar a bit without any specific goal. A paintress might create a masterpiece while she was just freestyling a bit without much expectation.
What can we say about life and purpose? Is life about purpose or is it purposeless? Are we here on this planet to strive towards a collective goal or is life completely meaningless?
If there is a collective goal, then what is that goal? And who decides what that goal is? Is it written in the Bible? Or perhaps in the Quran?
Should we take the Kierkegaardian leap of faith and become religious or embrace the belief of Albert Camus that life is meaningless and completely absurd?
Are we humans looking for meaning in a meaningless world?
If we would all embrace the meaninglessness of our lives, would our behavior become way more genuine? After all: we aren’t doing good deeds to have a good afterlife or something, are we?
Will religious people stop praying when their attempts turn out to be meaningless or will they keep doing it just of the sake of doing it? Is there meaning to find in the things we do when we leave purpose out of the equation?
Yes, perhaps we are modern-day Sisyphuses condemned to pushing a huge rock uphill just to let it roll down again. Maybe our existence is not from point A to point B but cyclic. So, what´s the goal of our existence in this universe then? Could it be existence itself?
There has never been solid undisputed proof of a collective purpose of mankind or the universe. But if we do have a purpose, what will happen when we reach it?
Will we be assigned to another purpose and who would do the assigning? And if God would give us that purpose then what is the purpose of God?
Purposelessness means living life without asking yourself where it’s leading, and completely immersing yourself in the present moment. It’s about not worrying about the future and not ruminating about the past and not fleeing from your thoughts in addictions.
Will a purposeless life be safe? No. Will it be secure? No. Will we grow millionaires and pass away with a big fat bank account with our names on it? Probably not, but who knows.
The thing is: when purposeless living leads us to die poor we can at least say that we have lived rich, instead of dying rich after having lived poorly.