Over the course of a few days last week I was in the company of very different friends from many parts of the world and whom I love for various reasons. They all seemed to have something in common with each other and also with me. They are very sure of themselves in at least one specific area of their lives. A couple of them are very religious. Another couple of them are very spiritual. One is not spiritual but extremely practical, the ultimate realist. I am neither religious, nor overly spiritual, nor indeed very practical, although I do not reject either domain.
With such an array of interests, with such varied points of view (I would not like to be in the company of all at the same time!), what is then the commonality? I have pondered this for the last couple of days. Just as an exciting extra, the spiritual couple also put forward the ideas of reincarnation, traditions being lost or growing old into superstitions.
At first it seemed to me that the answer might be that all these people subscribe/commit to something larger than themselves, be it religion, a different form of spirituality, “real life” or people as a species. But does that explain the number of believers who are nonetheless feeling lost? Or the ones who mortify their bodies and souls in vain? Or the very practical drowning in a sea of “real life” details?
Maybe it is the sense of purpose. Praise the Lord comes to mind. So does chanting or meditating. So does volunteering or gardening. Or seeking enlightment. You could add to this the “pre-packaged meals” of study, reading or travelling.
The self-assuredness of these people seems to go deeper than a purpose though without seeming to diminish. So that leaves me with another thought. As certainty goes, it tends to derive from (and be confused with) knowing of yourself and your place in the world. Sometimes your reasons to be in the world. Sometimes it translates into a purpose, as above. But it is a knowing. I have not met anyone who can be sure of themselves without first thinking long and hard about who they are and why they are and in what way they are.
I consider myself lucky that I have a part of this knowing. It has always seemed written in my very blood. It makes life easy in as much as I don’t have to “find myself” (although I still like to read, study, travel, garden and meditate). I know I am in this world for a reason and it gives me no pleasure to deviate from it. It seems unfair sometimes that it has been given to me without ever having to fight for it. Every little bit of information that passes before me is filtered through this lens, from science (evolutionary anthropology, anyone?) to arts to crafts and the choices I make in politics.
My reason is people.
Did you find yours? Will you share?