Someone emailed me a link to a short essay on the Secular Buddhist Association site, "What's your calling or purpose in life?" I like the author's conclusion: there's no reason to feel that you have a special calling.
After all, where would that come from?
The notion of a calling or purpose in life presupposes that such exists somewhere outside of the person's own mind, that somehow we're supposed to identify what we're meant to do with our life as if that was a law of nature akin to gravity or electromagnetism.
Or maybe a better analogy is finding our life's compass, which would point us in the direction we're meant to go. But again, this presumes that there's a "magnetic" purpose that is separate and distinct from our everyday choices about what to do.
Here's an excerpt from the essay that makes a lot of sense to me.
I feel fortunate where I am now in life. I have no desire to look for purpose in my life. I don’t feel the compulsion of a calling. I am content to follow this journey we call life and see where it leads moment by moment. It is a feeling of peace, of openness that I didn’t have while being driven by goals, by a calling, by a purpose in life. I’m relieved to have dropped such notions, and for me they really were notions, and instead just be in whatever life brings each day.
I worry when I hear “spiritual leaders”, people regarded as sages and full of wisdom, speak in terms of finding purpose, finding your calling. What if there is no purpose? What if you don’t have a calling? Are you going to be the dog chasing his own tail? Do we have to have a purpose? Does our life have to have “meaning?” I think we should asks ourselves what we really mean by all that. What is driving the need for meaning?
That’s not to say there is something wrong with goals or direction, intent. Having short term goals and direction is useful, as long as we aren’t clinging to expectations, as long as we are open to changes and shifts that will inevitably occur. Life can throw a rock in the waters of resolve at any minute. Expect change, because change is the norm.
Maybe it’s ok to be without purpose or calling and see what life hands you.