The Dereliction of Purpose

The late, great Jim Valvano asserted that there are three things that we should do as human beings: laugh, think, and cry.

I find myself spending more and more time doing the second of this triad: Thinking. I do not believe it is coincidental that my level of critical thought seems to be positively correlated to the amount of time I spend with my nose in a book.

Side note* My current reading selections are “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand, “Call an Audible” by Daron Roberts, and “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan. “Atlas Shrugged” might be the best piece of literature I’ve ever encountered. If you have book suggestions, please send them in!

A recent passage in a book brought the concept of Purpose to the center of my attention. From David to Aristotle to Einstein to Bieber, the preeminent philosophers of every age have weighed in on the purpose and meaning of life. But today, in a world oversaturated with information and overpopulated by things, we are at a crisis of purpose.

All too often, we derive our identity from the material objects we surround ourselves with. Cars. Clothes. Gadgets. Homes. But let’s take it a step farther. Job titles. Accolades. Reputations. Relationships. We are looking for meaning in all the wrong places.

The sources of our purpose have been contaminated. We have come to construct our identity using the material and immaterial creations of our own hands. I cannot help but feel that we have it all backwards. Man is meant to breathe purpose and meaning into the works of his hands and of his mind, not the other way around! Objects and ideas that are the fruit of Man’s considerable capacity for innovation and progress are meant to serve him, not to be served by him. These Things that seem to control our existence, would have no meaning were they not given it by their inventor. We impart purpose to things. We DO NOT derive purpose from things.

As my mind careened down this path of purpose, identity, and meaning, I stopped short. This line of thinking, with its celebration of the spirit of man, may be inspiring and stimulating and beautiful, but it’s so… Secular. Where is God in my rationale? Is this not a direct contradiction to my belief in an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God?

In the height my existential crisis, the answer hit me. Like finding the missing corner piece in an intricate puzzle, a sudden realization gave me unbelievable clarity. I had been thinking about it all wrong.

“Man and His Inventions”

Instead

“Creator and His Creations”

This paradigm shift made all the difference in my understanding. GOD, our Creator, endows Man with a distinct purpose, and then Man, in turn, creates for himself and bestows purpose upon his own creations. But purpose flows downward, from a sovereign God all the way to the inanimate byproducts of Man.

God ⇒ Man ⇒ Objects/Ideas/Words

In the above diagram, the arrows represent the purposes given by God and Man, which may not always be the same. The first arrow cannot be flipped, for we are incapable of forcing an omnipotent God to serve our purpose. But the second arrow can, and when we allow our own meaning and purpose as men to be taken from the things of this world, we will find ourselves consistently unhappy. We find ourselves at our most content when the arrows themselves are identical.

When we align ourselves with God’s purpose in our own lives, and then in turn manifest that same purpose in the material and immaterial things that we create, we will have found that we are in the center of His will.

TD

4 thoughts on “The Dereliction of Purpose

    1. Former Sooner Trey Millard recently sent me it, and I am planning on starting it soon!

      Ty Darlington
      Administrative Fellow for the Student-Athlete Experience
      University of Oklahoma
      Office: (405) 325-2959 | Cell: (352) 551-3703
      Email: tydarlington@ou.edu

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      1. My roommate and I had to read it for a bible study we are in and we complained everyday we had to read it but it’s a really good read on who God is and helps correct a lot of the incorrect ways we see God

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  1. Rand’s objectivist philosophy as she presented it is entirely atheist. However, I believe that a person of faith can embrace objectivism without abandoning religious belief. It does require separating Rand the person from the philosophical viewpoint.

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