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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

What's the Purpose

I’d like to see the results of a survey that asked American high school students to define success. My guess is that a preponderance of the definitions would be something on the order of: the attainment of wealth, prosperity, position, prosperity, fame, or the like. Most dictionaries have that as an alternative to the primary definition: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

One’s aim or purpose certainly might be wealth, celebrity status, etc. But the attainment of those things often leads to anything but happiness or a sense of satisfaction. Ask Elvis Presley. Or Marilyn Monroe. Or Michael Jackson. Or Robin Williams. Of course, having the resources to provide the necessities for life, with some left over for toys and personal pleasures, is something for which almost everyone strives in order to experience some sense of well-being. Yet it is empirically observed that if the base aim or purpose of one’s life is to acquire more and more and more, one can almost expect joy and peace to diminish in direct proportion to one’s over-abundance.

Having the aim or purpose of one’s life focus on such goals as joy, peace, respect for others, caring for the whole community, and the like will much more likely lead to a deep-seated sense of well-being.

One of the best translations of the Hebrew word shalom is well-being. Shalom means a sense of wholeness and wellness physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Money helps by the bills, and plays a role in how we experience life, but it cannot foster the center-of-being contentment for which the human psyche longs.

Over the years I have been to Namibia several times. Virtually all of my time there was spent with very poor people who lived most of their lives under the draconian military occupation of South Africa. These people were some of the most joy-filled, gracious, loving, and hospitable that I have met in my life. Their goals did not include a million-dollar house, a country club membership, and a Hummer. How could they feel that way as they lived under such oppression and in poverty? The beginning of an answer lies in their aims and purposes in life. If you ever get the chance to go to Namibia, head out into the small communities and villages and meet the people. You will see what I mean.

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