Why Here, Not There?

Who hasn’t experienced moments when things seem to be drifting no place in particular, and our efforts to establish a firm direction seem in vain? At such times we may turn our attention to life’s meaning and our purpose for being here.

There’s no shortage of explanations designed to address these questions. Some think of our experience on earth as a test to see if we deserve the keys to our own great mansion in the sky. Though I admit having once accepted a version of this, I struggled trying to reconcile the disposition required of one who would devise and administer such a test. It’s like a person afraid of spiders drops one into the toilet bowl to see if it can escape. If it makes it to the rim, the spider earns passage to the great outdoors. If not, it gets the big flush.

I passed through an even longer period believing the earth is a school and we’re here to learn lessons designed to advance our soul’s condition. Now, however, this makes no sense. What lessons could a soul learn through a body that shuts down 99% of its capacity? And we’re supposed to believe that we jump from one body to another for as long as it takes to remember what our soul already knows? It’s the body that makes us forget.

If we start with what we actually know, we can reach a couple of practical conclusions concerning our purpose for taking on a body. First, we’re here because we can’t be anyplace else. Most of us have tried all our life to escape from here, but no one has succeeded. Try as you may, you have an eternal arrow pointed at you with the caption that reads, You Are Here. No one has an arrow with a caption saying, Finally, You Are There. Regardless of where you might want to be, you are here. Walk across the room and you’re still here. Fly around the world and you’re still here. Walk on Pluto and call your mom.
You: Hi Mom, I’m just calling to say I love you.
Mom: Where are you?
You: I’m here, on Pluto.
Mom: What’s the weather like? Did you bring your coat?

The next thing we consider is what we mean by the word here. For most of us, here is our body and our physical surroundings. Why am I here in this body surrounded by this particular set of circumstances? But a little thought reveals that here is more an attitude than a physical location. Let’s say your here is a deserted tropical island in the Pacific. If you’re vacationing on this island it’ll mean one thing. If your plane crashed in the ocean and you, the lone survivor, finally drifted to this same island, it’ll mean something completely different. One mindset sees the island as an escape. I can’t believe I’m here! The other sees it as a prison. I can’t believe I’m here!

If we conclude that here is more an attitude than a set of circumstances, we’re confronted with a choice. Am I here on this island of circumstance because my plane crashed, or am I here by choice? There’s no right or wrong answer, but there are consequences to the choice we make. I’m either a victim of these circumstances or I’m the adventurous vacationer. The fact is, I am here. Now what do I do with it?

Let’s add another item to our list of things we can say we know. Without a body, we can’t talk to another person. We can’t enjoy a cup of coffee or make a pina colada from all those coconuts on our island. We can’t even pick up our cell phone.

To my personal list I add another item of things I can say I know. I know that the existence of my soul is not dependent on my body. The existence of my body is dependent on my soul. My body is a perfectly designed vehicle that allows me to interface with the material world. My soul was not forced into this body. I took it on because I wanted to have this earthly experience, and there’s no better way to do it.

Which of these many earthly experiences did I come for? All of them—the conversations, the coffee, the pina coladas, tinkering with cell phones and all the other things that make up this experience. My purpose on this earth is not found in any specific mission or goal. My purpose is to experience here through the vehicle of a body. When this body drops dead, I’ll still be here, and I’ll still have the power to choose what I want to do with it.

As a castaway on our island, we spend our days focused on survival and scanning that endless horizon for rescue. Our purpose is to signal that tiny dot that may be the ship that will finally take us to that magic somewhere over there. If, on the other hand, we’re on our island by choice, we spend our days exploring the wonders of our world and let those tiny dots pass unnoticed.

I don’t think our fulfillment of purpose is not found in people, places or things on this earth. I’ve come to believe that being here on earth to experience these things as only we can through a body is our reason for choosing this particular adventure.