SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 160: Everyone Has A Purpose

I’ll spare you the travel-log today and jump right to expressing the words of today’s friend, Jerry.

I do this to allow space for the depth of Jerry’s experience and power of his comments. Even in meeting him, during a visit to Starbucks, the scope of 365 is acutely brought to my attention.

Why does he accept my invitation? “I’m a reader of your blog,” he tells me, “I even know Charley” (FYI: Charley, “The Parable of Charlie” is one of my 365 strangers turned friend). At 160 days in, I’m starting to see this happen more and more often. This alone is a strong indication that we are getting our message out.

Twenty minutes ago I finished setting up my account at TED. Phase one of working to get 365 into the TED conferences (I quick promo for 365, can you go to my TED profile, and if you can join and comment, that will surely help to get 365 seen, thanks, here is the link Radstone at TED). In registering my profile, TED asks a series of questions, one of which is freakishly linked to my discussion with Jerry.

That question asked me what I am passionate about.

My response:
“’We all have purpose. The value of the individual is a powerful tool in understanding one another. An ambassador of sorts, I have one agenda, ‘Facilitate unity in both society and professional cultures.’”

I’ve lately been battling with words like passion, excitement and enthusiasm. Words as great as they are have the risk of trembling to heavy resistance. For example, say we are passionate about mountaineering and are passionate about cresting a difficult summit. The trek begins and the initial passion is a high, adrenaline is powerfully flowing, but four days in and the oxygen is getting painfully thin, the mind and body start to fight back; legs, lungs and desire waiver. And even more distracting we are nowhere near summit and are beginning to witness others in our company struggling in their movement towards objective summit. At that moment, passion, although convincingly high at the inception of the climb, can quickly turn to fatigue, regret or, worse, be redirected to a lesser resolve; we’ve climbed as high as we want to… good enough.

Perhaps you complete the ascent, perhaps not, but for the sake of experimentation, let’s replace passion with a deeper reasoning, a purpose that is core motivation to the mountain challenge.

With that, let’s look at another contrived scenario, replacing passion with a purpose. How about we come up with a noble purpose, say, honoring all the men and women lost in warfare, and our climb is an effort to place a mountaintop banner to honor and stand strong as global tribute for the legacy they left behind – a grand purpose indeed.

Now lets re-examine the same moment, this time looking at it with the above mentioned purpose, a purpose with a greater depth than that of the emotions of passion. Four days in, the oxygen is getting painfully thin, the mind and body are fighting back, legs, lungs and desire waiver, others are struggling, and we are not anywhere near summit. Yet we have a powerful purpose to move us forward, a purpose beyond emotion and physical trial. With this I ask a self-question, “What will your resolve to fatigue be?”

Enter Jerry’s opening statement, and I assure you I did not coach for this response, “Everyone in life, regardless of their circumstances, has a purpose, and everyone has to find and follow that purpose.”

First words out of Jerry are an exact mirror of my reflections of only twenty minutes past, my reflections of purpose. I know he and I are meant to be speaking this evening. Too many factors are making that persuasively apparent.

Jerry elaborates, “In the process of finding that purpose, you have to be self-sufficient. Unless you have a mental or physical condition that prevents you from sustaining yourself. Even then there is still purpose.”

What Jerry is talking about is destiny, sort of a pick-up of Valentina’s concept of Maktub: destiny that is a result of a personal point-of-view. A point-of-view that is core to the depths of our psyche or spiritual self, and one that can become the purpose to our existence. And what Jerry is saying is that we need to grasp the journey and be responsible for how we support ourselves in attaining, or finding, that purpose. That is, unless we are unable to sustain our living due to extreme mental or physical conditions. Basically he is saying, and I know some of us don’t want to hear it, “No free rides.”

But Jerry is compassionate in this reality check, “Every successful person has had hardship.” He suggests as he warns us of a few stumbling blocks to self-awareness, “Don’t be envious of other people because they are pursuing their purpose – learn to admire them as inspiration to model in finding your path, and don’t put other people down because of what they achieve.”

At sixty-nine Jerry is accepting his wisdom and through his willingness to share his history steers us toward green horizons.

“Today I am celebrating an anniversary,” he tells me.

I have to ask, “What is that anniversary?”

Jerry tells me of his forty-one years of dedicated service working in the auto industry as a high level accountant. He tells me of many interesting and poignant experiences, of his early retirement, and the difficult emotions he bore in the process of this life change.

“I was not ready to retire, but 365 days of unemployed reflection has changed me for the better. I feel very fortunate to be where I am,” Jerry shares.

Strange I should run into a man who follows 365, knows one of its friends, and I meet him on his 365th day of personal growth. Not sure if there is meaning in this, but it is pretty cool to think that perhaps there is.

Jerry talks of his learning: “I used to think work meant earning money to buy materialistic things rather than appreciating my family. My life was spent working, and I know I was a workaholic. I know now that material things are not what is important in life. It took me many years to figure that out. I can reflect back on my life and see that all the time I was working I was loosing much.

“It’s like this,” he says, “Just imagine having a beautiful house, an expensive car and being totally alone?”

So Jerry is a workaholic; at least he was working.

Sure he was, but at what the cost?
Two marriages (I won’t even go into the depth of the pains he went through, I promised privacy to Jerry)
No children
One pituitary tumor, threatening life and almost taking his eyesight
One pace maker
Seventeen daily medications
A forced retirement at the peak of his career

Yet, Jerry is a survivor, both physically and mentally.

“I’ve always looked at the brighter side of life and never lost my sense of humor. That has carried me along; you can’t take things too seriously and you have to laugh. And you have to accept that you cannot control everything in life”– more wisdom from Jerry.

I’ve sat with Jerry for about two hours; time to change gears towards the future, and Jerry has a lot to express.

“We live in some interesting times. Technology is changing so rapidly, with computers, mobile devises, smart phones. Even though these are wonderful gifts, they do not replace human interaction.

“Thinking back to my childhood, I remember we had to use our own hands, minds and imaginations to play. I am concerned that the future will get lost in technology.”

Jerry is brave, open and thoughtful; he proves this by opening up with a political voice, “Our government has lost touch with the average citizen, us, the middle class voter. Like the huge bills that the Obama administration continue to pass; they speak of transparency, yet what they write is so complex and large. So large that the populous as a whole cannot absorb what Washington is doing. The government needs to find ways to communicate what they are proposing in a legible format that the populous can absorb.

“I’m not knocking the system our forefathers set up – it is a good system. But now the government is running like a choir and everybody is singing a different song. I’m not blaming the Republicans or the Democrats, but something has to be done. If not, and I’m not sure exactly when, added to the out of control spending, we are going to hit a wall. I’m all for helping the world, but we also have to take care of ourselves and repair our problems.

“As a country we are at a turning point; we can grow stronger or begin a terrible downfall, and I put a lot of responsibility on the government’s terrible communication with the citizens.

“I’d love to talk about world peace, but we need to take care of our country before we can do anything.”

We have talked of much with Jerry, and I’m not sure how to wrap up this entry. But seeing that we have spent quite a bit of time defining purpose, may I interject this. Is there a greater purpose in simply reaching-out to listen and trying to understand those around us? And if we listen, do we hear?

As Jerry cites, “Everyone in life regardless of their circumstances has a purpose, and everyone has to find and follow that purpose.”