In my never-ceasing struggle to stay up to date on stuff, I occasionally manage to listen to a podcast while doing something else. I don’t have any regular favorites; instead, I just grab whatever’s on tap and try to give it a slice of my attention while answering e-mail or writing markup. It’s not the same as sitting very still and listening with all my attention, but as Jack Bauer would shout, there’s no time!
So a couple of days ago, up came show #5 of Andy Rutledge’s Design View Show. It kicked off with some observations of two fine young chaps, Andy Budd and Derek Featherstone. From there it segued into some good observations on finding purpose and acting in a purposeful way and keeping focus in the face of distractions, topics of recurring interest to me. Things were rolling very nicely, with me nodding in agreement at various points—until, like Jeremy, I came to a jaw-dropped stop right here:
I suggest that if you cannot recognize and acknowledge that purpose in life can only be derived from God, by whatever name you call him, then I’m afraid you do not grasp what “purpose” is. And to you I’d offer my deepest sympathies.
Well, Andy, I’d suggest that you’re wrong, but to do so would be dishonest. There’s no suggestion about it: you’re wrong. It is absolutely possible to grasp the meaning of “purpose” as in “purpose in life” (the sense you used it both there and throughout the show) without relating it to a deity, as I do every day of my life. Unless of course your personal definition of the word “purpose” absolutely requires a deity, in which case, we can write this off as a case of subjective semantic incompatibility and walk away no worse for the wear.
Having opened this door, I feel I should be very clear about my theological placement: I’m agnostic. This is very different than atheism, no matter what some claim. I only bring this up because the vast majority of people reading previous paragraph would reflexively assume I’m an atheist.
Understand that I do not criticize, dismiss, or otherwise demean those who derive their feeling of purpose from a deity, by whatever name it’s called. I think that finding purpose is one of the most important and essential things any of us can do, and it’s not my place to dismiss the paths others take toward that goal… any more than it is theirs to dismiss mine. I’ve stumbled on that point in the past, even doing so once or twice here on meyerweb, and for that I’m ashamed of myself and I apologize.
For all this, I think Andy put together a great podcast with some very sharp, meaningful insights on finding and keeping purpose. I’d recommend it to anyone, especially anyone struggling to find their place or direction in life, with the caveat that there are a couple of bits—like the one quoted above—that should be taken with a shaker of salt. It is not a universal truth that one needs a deity, or even faith in some external power, to find purpose or direction in life. I, and several people I know both in the field and outside it, stand as living proof.
I debated myself long and hard about posting this. In the end, my impulse to challenge ignorance won out over my instinct to keep quiet and let sleeping gods lie.