Writer’s Workshop: Purposes and Porpoises

Harbor porpoise. Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Do you ever see a word and immediately think of another word that kind of looks like it, and you just have to follow it? I saw that today’s prompt was "purpose" and immediately thought "porpoise." Porpoises are similar to dolphins, except they have a shorter beak and different teeth. And the weird thing is, their closest living relative is the hippopotamus. Go figure.

You’ll be happy to know that I’ve dealt with my sudden need to learn everything there is to know about porpoises, which was the purpose of the last paragraph. Let’s move on.

The big question, it seems, is "what is my purpose in life?" What is the meaning of life in general, and specifically what’s the meaning of my life?

The first thing that came to mind was the Baltimore Catechism, which was the fundamental training we received in Christian Doctrine when we were in first and second grade. It has this to say about it…

God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in heaven.

And this…

To gain the happiness of heaven we must know, love, and serve God in this world.

All of which sounds wonderful, and they’re certainly things that I strive to do. The question is "How?" It doesn’t really say. Then I remembered my Religion textbook, and these two pictures that stood side by side. One picture showed a man and a woman, he in a tuxedo, she in a wedding gown. Under that picture was the legend "THIS IS GOOD." The second picture showed the same two people (ostensibly), he in a cassock with a Roman collar, she in a nun’s habit, with the legend "THIS IS BETTER." Okay, so the big push that started in Catholic school was to join the priesthood or religious life. I’ve kept up with my classmates from St. Ignatius School, Class of 1970, and as far as I know, no one became a priest or nun. Two guys went to the seminary for high school, and both were home within a couple of years; both are married with families today. We all seem to have opted for good rather than better.

So, I did what any self-respecting adult in the 21st Century would do: I Googled it. (Except I used Duck Duck Go, a search engine that doesn’t track you.) I found this page on the blog of a man named Mark Manson, who calls himself "Author, Thinker, Life Enthusiast." The post is titled "7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose." It’s a pretty interesting essay, which you can read on your own. One question on his list was this:

What is true about you today that would make your 8-year-old self cry?

I thought back to 1964, when I was 8, and thought about what I liked to do back then.

  • Draw
  • Listen to the radio
  • Watch TV
  • Make noise with the guitar I got from my cousin Tim (who was Teddy at the time). I couldn’t actually play the thing, but a lot of the things I did by pounding on it and slapping the strings are actual techniques that people like Tommy Emmanuel use today. Willy Cusick, my friend, had a ukulele which he played kind of the same way I played the guitar, and the two of us would make noise together. We even wrote dumb songs together, with names like "I want to go crazy over you" and "Green and yellow bubble spider" and "I like to eat." Which reminds me,
  • Write dumb songs
  • Wander the neighborhood, on foot and on my bicycle
  • Etc., etc., etc.

And I realized, the only things that I do now are "listen to the radio" (the 21st Century equivalent, anyway) and "watch TV." I let 8-year-old me down. No wonder the kid’s crying. I feel like crying myself.

I needed that article when I was 8, you know?

12 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: Purposes and Porpoises

  1. LOL, you didn’t let your eight year old self down; you’ve done a lot besides listen to the radio and watch tv in the time since then and now! I’m not sure about my eight year old self, but my fifteen year old self would be proud of some of the things I’ve done, shocked by some others, and yes, let down by some things.

    Kim

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    1. I never thought I’d spend 30+ years in the software business, but then using computers in business on a grand scale was new when I was 8. So I suppose you’re right. I guess I’d have to explain that people and their interests change, and reality sets in, but even so I feel like I gave up on a lot that I would have liked to continue, but didn’t because I didn’t think there was room for them, when it was me that wasn’t allowing myself, for whatever reason.

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  2. This is so sweet. That’s a good idea getting in touch with the inner child. Maybe get back to drawing or sketching or coloring in one of those adult coloring books, writing songs—doing anything creative is the best way to free the child within and make them happy.

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    1. I found a graphic a while ago that says “I tried to embrace my inner child and the little a****** bit me.” Which is probably closer to the truth than anything…

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  3. It’s never too late to write more dumb songs. 🙂 I’m sure there are apps for that and you probably wouldn’t even need the guitar!

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    1. I’ll give it some thought. I had an idea for my own version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” titled “Have yourself a codependent Christmas”…

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  4. You mentioned Teddy who became Tim. I never knew that “Ted” or “Teddy” was an English nickname used the same way we would call someone “Bud” or “Buddy.” I learned this just a few years ago in a conversation with cousin Tim. He disliked being called Teddy so we all had to overcome years and years of calling him Teddy.

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  5. When the purpose of life comes up, I resort to the same memory.: the Catechism. And for the same reason. I will read the Manson post. I try to write on this topic on ‘Dispassionate Doubt’ occasionally. It is a good/difficult one.

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