For some of us when we think about Life, the Universe and Everything, the answer 42 comes to mind from the popular book Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Just like in the books, defining our life and life purpose is more than just the answer. It involves also knowing the questions behind our purpose.
Consider when you meet someone new. How do you introduce yourself to help the other person understand who you are? Many of us define ourselves by what we do or who we are connected to. What happens when those things that have defined us are suddenly gone? How many, even recently, have lost their jobs? Many that I have worked with have lost their family and community. And many have lost the person who defined who they thought they were. Suddenly the way we define who we are and what our purpose in life is can be pulled out from under us.
I thought I would approach this subject in a slightly different way and continue the art of storytelling by encouraging you to watch the video attached to this post. Hopefully, I will do justice to Joseph Campbell while I recount the journey of our hero, as she finds her purpose. Here is the story of Karry.
Fruits of Labour
Karry grew up travelling around the country planting fruit trees from seed with her family and community. This was hard work and they walked many kilometres every day. When she was young, she would question why they constantly did the same work. One day she asked, “Why do we plant fruit trees every day? It is so hot today and I would love to sit under a tree and learn to weave or do something more than just planting fruit trees. I would love to sit and read one of those books that I see everyone reading as we walk past.”
The elder responded, “This is the most important work that we can do because the fruit trees need to be planted. Without us, this would not happen.” That was the only explanation that Karry ever got.
As she grew, she reasoned with herself that because so many people continued to do the work, day in and day out, then it must be important. There must be a greater purpose that she was just not worthy of seeing yet. So, she dedicated herself to her work and put aside her desires to learn new things.
Wings of Change
One day as her group was walking, Karry noticed a promising patch of ground way off in the distance. She decided to leave the safety of the group and go investigate the quality of this soil. When she arrived at the patch of ground, she found that it was perfect. As she was about to plant her seeds, she heard a voice.
“Hey, what are you doing there? You don’t belong here. Go away.”
As Karry looked up she saw a man approaching.
“Sir, I will only be a moment. This ground is perfect for this fruit tree seed that I have, and the work is so important. Please just let me plant the seed and I will be on my way.”
“NO! I told you to go.” And with that, the man waved his hand over his shoulder as if to beckon someone over, “Take her away.”
From behind him, a large bird swooped in and scooped Karry up from the ground. In the shock of being grabbed by the bird, Karry lost her bag of seeds. As she rose higher and higher, she saw her community still walking below, not even noticing the bird and oblivious to her plight.
The bird flew and flew and flew. They soared high above the ground and deep into the day. They flew over country that Karry had never seen before. They flew up over mountains and across valleys. Karry was amazed and terrified as she had never seen mountains before and hardly had words to describe them. As the light of day was dimming the bird finally started to fly lower and lower. Finally it landed her gently into a valley that was surrounded by huge mountains.
Karry watched the bird as it rose back into the sky and flew away in a totally different direction.
Karry had no idea where she was. She lost her seeds. She lost her family and community. All she felt she could do was cry. So, she sat and laid her head in her hands and started to cry.
There was nothing else that she felt she could do. Everything that had prepared her for life was gone. Everything she knew was gone.
She then heard a voice beside her asking, “Hello. Are you Ok?”
When she raised her head, she saw a fox sitting beside her. Startled, she tried to shuffle away from the fox. “You can talk?”, she asked.
The Fox chuckled and said, “Of course I can talk. What has happened to you that brought on all these tears?”
“I have been left in this valley by a large bird. I lost my seeds and I can no longer continue the work of planting the fruit trees, which is the most important work in the world. There is nothing I can do. That was all I ever knew how to do. I have lost my family and my community, and I don’t know what to do now.”
“It sounds like a lot has happened to you today. Now that your slate is clean and you can do anything, what do you think you would like to do?” said Fox.
Karry had never been asked what she wanted to do before. She sat there for a moment and stared at Fox. Eventually, she said “I don’t know? “
Fox nodded to her knowingly and said, “It can be hard to know what to do when so much has happened. Just imagine you knew what to do next. What do you think would be most important for you right now?”
Karry looked up and saw the sun was setting. “Well, it will be dark soon. I guess it would be important to find a safe place to be for the night.”
“Ok,” said Fox, waiting for Karry to get up.
Karry started walking with Fox. During this time they talked, and Fox asked questions that Karry had never considered before. She learned so much about herself during this time that it amazed her. Karry spoke about the books she wanted to read and her fascination with all the activities that she had seen others do. She learned about the things that were important to her, what she was passionate about and values that were hers.
Eventually, they came to a small community.
As she approached the community Karry realized she knew now how she could move forward in life. She knew what she wanted and the direction she wanted to go.
There were people outside that noticed her and Fox approaching town. As she was greeted, Karry recognized that the people here shared the same values, dreams and vision as she did. That night they offered her shelter.
Over time they invited her to say with the community permanently and offered to teach her what they knew. She was free to choose what she learned and what she did.
Fox did not stay in the community long, only long enough to ensure Karry was OK. Just before Fox was about to leave, they had one last conversation with Karry.
“Karry, when I found you, you were lost in the wilderness and you wanted to find a place to shelter for the night.” said Fox.
Karry responded, “I found so much more than that Fox! I have found myself. I am so glad you brought me here.”
“I did not bring you here.” said Fox. “I only walked beside you for the journey. You took the first step in this direction and you changed your course a few times as we walked in the wilderness.”
As Karry recounted her journey she realized that in fact she had taken the first step. And she realized what Fox said was true.
Fox put their paw on their chest and said, “I would like to honour you for the courage it took to take those first steps after the harrowing day you had. Also, for sharing your journey with me. I leave you now to return to the wild.”
Karry watched as Fox trotted back into the wild. She realized that her ability to move forward had not started when she arrived in the community, but when she stood up and took that first step with Fox.
Similarly, in this story there are times in our lives where we can feel like we have been dropped into the wilderness. You can find your way by focusing on what is important to you. Then you can tease out what your values are, enabling you to create a MAP that identifies your authentic purpose.
To get support in finding your way through this new wilderness, please contact me about creating your own MAP.