The Power of Purpose (Written-May 31, 2004)

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Written by

Deolu Akinyemi

In order to make an appointment to the celebration of a thanksgiving service of a seventy seven year old man, I left my house a few minutes to the time I was supposed to arrive at the party. I left the house in a serious hurry, and in what seemed a unanimous vote, I was asked to drive. We were five in number, my wife, my younger brother and two childhood friends. I started the car and backed it out from the compound in what seemed a seamless slide, I announced to the crew onboard “fasten your seat belts”, we were going to do everything except fly. Accelerate, trafficate, overtake, that was the sequence of thought on my mind. My mind could scarcely process any other information. All of a sudden, I had to grind the brakes to a halt as I saw a queue of cars on the expressway, obviously dodging something. There he was in the middle of the highway, his blood painted the breath of the road. He was clouded in white apparel, most likely his Sunday’s best. He lied there across the street, lifeless. A shadow of his former self.  One look at the environment around him, and the story was clear. A car on the wrong side of the road hit him. In that split second, a man once bubbling with strength, life and vitality, lies lifeless in his own blood at the center of the road. Just a while ago, he was careful where he sat, taking effort to ensure he stayed clean. Now he lied in the middle of the road, with no cares in the world, dead and dirty. In the center of this little transition is the fine thread that holds the strips of life together. Purpose!

Purpose is defined as the intention, aim or function of something, the thing that it is supposed to achieve.

The man that laid lifeless on the street was there only because order was broken- a car decided to follow the opposite of the direction it was meant to. It moved contrary to where it was designed to move. The manual of the operation of the road was violated. Something was taken out of its defined intention and aim! It is because order exists that disorder can be identified, as darkness is revealed only by light. In the same vein, except we assume a God, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless. It will be chaotic and illogical for man to exist in a world where he makes nothing without a purpose to assume that the entirety of creation was created without much thought. A man once painstakingly constructed a small model of the planetary orbits. With the right arrangement of magnets and some carefully hidden strings he came close to a good representation of the solar system. This design was really a beauty to behold. Along came an atheist who looked at the piece for a long time and really liking the looks and the effort it must have taken, asks the maker, “How did you make this?” To which the maker responded, “I didn’t make it, I just heard a big bang, and saw it right beside me.” Strange isn’t it? That is how strange it is to assume that this neatly arranged entity called the milky way, came into existence by anything short of organized thought. The first reality in the power of purpose is the existence of God.

The second reality about purpose, is the fact that the entirety of creation was well thought out, that every member of it was created for a purpose- a defined aim, intention or function. Purpose is not designed, it is discovered. The world did not bang into existence, if there was any bang, then it was hammered into existence. Only in the line of purpose is the full use of any item, only in the line of purpose is the risk of risk minimized. When life is lived in the center of purpose, peace reigns, when purpose is ignored, life is a chaotic rumble of one accident after another.

He was dead, and his dreams with him! Dead to the teeth, lost and gone, hope and promise. Potential remains forever potential. As I gazed at the lifeless body of the twenty plus youth on the street, my speed reduced and I could not help my mind from thinking about him. Who was he? From the look of his clothes, he must have been in church this morning. How he must have danced? He must have danced like someone unaware that it was his last dance. Suppose he knew that today was his last? Would he have lived his last 24 hours differently? Would his smile have been broader? Would he have stayed at home with his family? Would he have told someone how much he meant to him? How much he appreciated her? Would he have dedicated more time to any particular activity? What would his answers be? I’m sure he would have done some things differently, had he been slightly aware, Unfortunately, death does not specify his day of visit, nor sickness his month of arrival. Death happens to us all. Lying there with this young lad, is every talent he never used, every smile he never smiled and every skill he never developed. Embedded in the purpose of a life are its potentials. Having a purpose instills the will to develop one’s potentials, for the moment a man dies, so does his purpose. A tea bag is not different form a tissue paper with grains of sand until its used for its purpose. Its potentials are invisible until it enters its world –hot water. Abilities need responsibilities to show their capabilities. Purpose is the fertile ground that breeds the development of potentials.

On what page exactly, was he on his book of life? It’s so frightening how death puts things in perspective. In some few hours, people that know him will see him. Then comments will begin to fly. “ He almost completed his university education”, “His wife only just got pregnant and is expectant”, “ He was going to buy a plot of land” and so on. Just as you cannot measure with a ruler without calibration, it is impossible to access or measure progress without purpose. Every now and then, a ship captain uses his compass to access his direction from base and his alignment to his destination. The compass with which a man tracks his location on the sea of life is purpose. When death punctuates life’s journey, the only measurement that exists for all eternity is where on the conquest of purpose did it all end. Life is not a function of duration; it’s a function of donation. It is not how far, it is how well. Ironic isn’t it? Here was I, rushing to the celebration of life of a 77 year old man, and here in the middle of the road is the end of that of a 20+ year old. I listened with awe as the 77year old man narrated his story. He had missed death by the hair of his head. He spoke of death like an appointment only the old were entitled to. He had traveled overseas for an operation with little chances of success and had made it back alive, and with his memory intact. I listened to him with uttermost respect, and knew that right there and then, he had entered another face of life. The demands of purpose an octave higher. He recounted the years past, his dreams, aspirations and achievements. His progress was clear and measurable, his life purpose was very clear. Purpose helps to evaluate progress.

Somewhere in my mind, I was wondering where exactly the driver of the car that hit the young man is. Knowing the response of people in this environment, he would probably have been lynched. What on earth was he looking for on that side of the road? While I will not want to make a quick case for insanity for this anonymous driver, it beats my imagination why someone will attempt such a feat. Doesn’t it then beat your imagination when you see a full fledge man, completely ignorant of what his life’s purpose is? “A life without purpose, is like a ship without rudder, a waif, a nothing, a no man” -Thomas Carlyle. No purpose directly infers, no direction. An adage says that the fool is a man who doubles his speed even when he knows that he has missed the direction. No matter how fast you run in the wrong direction, it can only take you further away from your destination. Purpose gives direction to life. Life is too short to play jack-of-all-trades, we must be master of one. Once the ultimate is defined, the immediate runs like its preprogrammed.

Was it all a coincidence that the events of the day unraveled like this? Did it just happen that a car hit the young lad? One young boy was asked to give an example of a coincidence, he said “my father and my mother got married on the same day, same month and in the same year”. Coincidences do exist, no doubt. When a life is dead set on purpose however, the coincidences assist the forward resolve. No wind blows in the favour of a ship without rudder. Coincidences are only helpful when a direction has been set. To an individual whose eyes are set on purpose, nothing just happens. Every adversity, every failure, every pain and every ache all move a soul whose purpose is clearly defined towards its goal. Someone once said “the harder I work, the luckier I become”, I fully agree. Purpose has power to make lucky. Unfortunately, many live lives devoid of purpose, without standards to say this is what they stood for, or this is how far they went. For a man to live without purpose is not good.

As I ponder on the events of the day past, I think back and reexamine my own belief system. I can recall how for days on end, I denied myself of food, and spent hours in meditation. Only one question was on my mind, “why am I here?” I believe, that every human born, is a response of divinity to humanities need, that nothing threads the surface of this earth without a clearly spelt mission. I believe that one of life’s major discoveries are not gravity, space or anything esoteric, I believe that life’s greatest discovery is purpose and its power. I recount how life seemed meaningless without a particular direction; I remember how progress had no evaluation when there was no standard. Why should I run fast in a hazy maze? Every life was made with a purpose in mind, and in the midst of that purpose does the soul of man have strength. Imagine I used an electric bulb for the game of soccer; it certainly would not last very long. The design and the concentration of strength bear the signature of purpose. I remember how for days, I had questionnaires in hand for my friends, asking them for feedback on what they believed were my strengths. I recollect how after weeks, I could put my finger on it. I had come to realize, that life’s purpose couldn’t be separated from humans. One does not have to think long to discover, that life cannot be lived for self. Its either you are spending hours working for somebody or working to feed somebody. Life’s purpose is hinged on a contribution to humanity. The reason why I exist has to be linked to someone else’s needs. This personal search was really helpful, as it did not leave me without answers. It’s an exercise that I recommend, a must for anyone who wants to live a meaningful life. In my own search, I discovered that I’m here for one course- people development! As small as that sounds it’s a phrase that can only be measured in eternity, for that is the true measure of life’s purpose. As long as I am in the center of this purpose, my happiness is guaranteed, as long as this purpose remains my priority, even death can be defied, for death has no business with one whose plan for tomorrow is of value that exceeds his duration on earth. Purpose has tremendous power; its power exceeds death’s, gives hope beyond the present, brings potential to life, secures direction and makes progress measurable. To leave the power of purpose untapped is to live in perpetual risk of an aimless life. Life is short, and without purpose, inexistent.

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