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What is to be the aim of life?


Happiness is often assumed to be the aim of life — that state of being where life is at least fine, if not blissful. But is it?

Too often people, even the wisest among us, assume happiness is this idyllic bubble where you just change your mindset and your problems either go away, or you overcome them with a choice of the mind.

This is illusory. Life is often much harder than that for most everyone. And especially for people who have been abused, tortured, or been through experiences of inhumanity done to them or loved ones, they will never be able to simply think positively, and life will become happy for them given the inimical experiences they have endured.

Some things cannot be forgotten, nor can we shuck off the perennial pain done to our heart, mind, body, and soul. Attempts by us to be grateful when we are traumatized are overwhelming; and suggesting for another to count their blessings in such a circumstance adds to the cruelty of the situation, as does suggesting that they be kind and generous to a world that has been mean, uncaring, and abusive, or when the ravages of existence have left them depleted and hopeless.

Happiness then is not a goal, nor should it be; as it is beyond realistic comprehension, and merely heaps unnecessary expectation upon an already pillaged soul.

Maybe happiness, or at least the quest for it, is not what any of us with troubles need. Maybe what we need is simple remembrance of what we once trusted could be, and an obstinate determination to find our way back to that place where hopes seemed like possibilities.

Maybe we need a penchant for goodness, beauty, intelligence, peace, justice, faith, hope, courage, and/or love, whether or not they are ever attained, as the motivating reason for being in our lives.

Maybe what we also need is the commitment to confront and not deny the hardships, sufferings, and tragedies, of ourselves and others, honestly with the sincerity of crying, disillusionment, heartache, depression, and despair; and then resolve “anyway” to resiliently, even defiantly, work for positive change despite the obstacles, struggles, and failures of doing so.

Yes, maybe we need to relinquish the notion of the need for success and achievement, and embrace the notion of the necessity for resolve and perseverance.

Happiness is often fleeting for even the luckiest among us, and may be like reaching to touch a star. There is, no doubt, beauty and grace in that; but rarely enough to sustain us over the course of our lives.

But a resolution for making life and the world somehow better than it is now, of doing our part, however insignificant or inconsequential it may seem, is the life-force that can inhabit even the most wounded soul. It is an intractable determination to defy all odds in an attempt to find purpose, if not also meaning, to our time on this tiny planet orbiting a small sun in a one in a million galaxy that is but a speck of cosmic dust in the universe.

Happiness sounds grand, but perhaps our wiser target is imagining, beyond the capacity of our reasoning, that we can find or create purpose in the infinitesimal smallness of our beings in the time and space in which are adorned with consciousness. Maybe that is to be the aim we are to have in this thing called life.

What do you imagine the aim of life to be?


~ Rev. Bret S. Myers

First Congregational United Church of Christ
Waterloo, Iowa


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