March 2019 – What is the Purpose of Life?

March 2019 Inter-Belief Conversation Café

What Is the Purpose of Life?

  Monday, March 18, 2019
  7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
  Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul
1671 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55105 (View Map)

Is life as Shakespeare’s Macbeth states “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Is it a quest for meaning and a search for the authentic life? Is it all about us or should we try to fit in an interdependent web of relationships? Is the simple life best or are we political and economic animals who are defined by the society in which we live? Are we islands or part of a continent? Or are we taking ourselves too seriously and should go with the flow? Are we the heroes of our lives or just extras in someone else’s story? Do we actually get to make these decisions? Are we headed for a teleological goal or just trying to do the best we can?

To Confucius life was about knowing our place in a family and culture and striving to be a just and faithful participant. Taoists sought to cut away this complexity to the underlying simplicity of existence. Who is right? Are we seeking salvation from a personal God or ending suffering by being in tune with the basic rhythms of the universe? Should we see ourselves per Nietzsche as artists striving to create a masterpiece from our lives as opposed to the equivalent of Elvis on a black velvet background? Do we try to be one with nature or embrace science and modernity? Will some final judge look at our lives and say we did well or poorly, or do we make our own final judgment? Is it true that the one with the most toys wins or is that a symptom of a disordered life?

What do other people have to do with our purpose? Do family, friends, and duties to humanity fulfill us or are they barriers to self-realization? Like Buddha should we abandon family to find truth? Like Gaugin should we abandon them to find artistic expression in Tahiti? Was St. Francis of Assisi who stripped off the clothes his father gave him an example of one seeking a higher purpose or a misfit? What do we owe to others and which others? If we sacrifice ourselves to them, should we expect gratitude or do it because it is our duty? Are the casualties fighting in an unsuccessful war our martyred dead or wicked losers? Should we maintain monuments to Confederate soldiers? Is patriotism the last refuge of the scoundrel or sublime sacrifice?

Is freedom our goal or is freedom just nothing left to lose? Do we seek a flourishing life carefully avoiding extremes to find a golden mean? Do we seek intense experience in pleasure, natural beauty, great art, personal attainment, or drugs? Do we want inner peace and how do we get it? Is it from meditation or action, from hedonism or ascetism? How can we be all that we can be? Should we want that if so many can’t have it as well? Is one person’s perfect life another person’s monument to selfishness? Do we set our own goals or are they set by a divine order or some other person? Do we want the approval of others or does an authentic person have an internal compass for guidance? If we follow the beat of a different drummer are we to be praised or feared?

On Monday, March 18 from 7-9 PM at Interfaith Action for Greater St. Paul, 1671 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Inter-belief Conversation Café will seek the purpose of life. Our agreements of open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality hopefully will help keep this a good purpose. However this all ends up; we will have treats!