Purpose

Purpose is an orientation toward accomplishing some sort of expected task, which requires presuming that task can be accomplished.

All things in the universe, barring a Creator, has no inherent purpose or meaning. We impose that onto reality from stories we create in our minds. In fact, we can only perceive reality with a purpose first, with the only “true” perspective coming from training ourselves to be scientific.

A self-determined purpose, usually involving survival, is a major indicator that something is a living being.

One of the key differences between humans and any other animal is the sophistication of our purposes. We can make elaborate purposes based on trust in very long-term estimations of the future.

Our purposes make endless decisions that slowly form into habits we want, and those purposes are the clearest observable indicator of what a human soul is driven toward.

Every purpose we make is a response to our environment:

  1. Reality demonstrates something, which we construct into associations to remembered things into a story which has an ending that generates a feeling.
  2. That feeling provokes us to engage in a type of inner conflict over a need or want we presently don’t have.
  3. We continue to perceive that thing as a “problem” until we make a decision that we judge as sensible and rational.
  4. We then search for a means to “fix” that problem.

Thus, we’re only find satisfaction when we’re facing conflicts, of any sort, that we believe we can achieve. For this reason, most Utopian societies are downright impossible: people would find them utterly boring and would probably break things just to see what happened.

Focus

As we learn and mature, our purposes shift around. They start simple when we’re babies, but by the time we can talk we’ve outpaced the complexity of any other living being we’ve encountered.

At our very beginning (i.e., infancy), we start with nothing but raw curiosity, which is itself a combination of several elements:

  1. Knowing we don’t know
  2. Desiring to know, which likely comes straight from our soul
  3. Finding things we can use so we can know

Very quickly, within moments, we start forming habits of thought and action which create certainty (and, therefore, removing our curiosity). Those habits are the creative output of many elements including raw feelings, reasoning, and environmental trauma, which means they’re a mess to untangle later. Pain, for example, can mix with pleasure in strange ways.

We tend to pursue our physical needs, then move to psychological ones. Often before we can talk, all the physiological needs are subsets of psychological needs, even though we’re not aware of the transition:

Our stubbornness is how much we maintain a purpose and refuse to relinquish it for another purpose. It can often be magnified by our ability to detect others’ desires that contract ours.

Needs are often easy to detect and find motivation to pursue, and wants are extrapolations off those needs. Wants are generally far more difficult to fulfill because they have higher requirements than needs and may not be as closely connected to the results someone may wish to attain.

To the degree we love and fear, we are driven to accomplish, and this is heavily defined by our personality. When love doesn’t drive our purposes, especially of other people, our actions will feel hollow and meaningless. However, we more often choose fear over love.

As our decisions to keep pursuing things become habits through repetition, they slowly become unconscious (i.e., “ambition”).

As we grow, our purposes accommodate others’ purposes as well. The power dynamics of living in society often creates strange conflicts of interest:

When we’re young, our lack of knowledge means we don’t understand the challenges we may have to face, which means our feelings from how daunting a task can be won’t interfere with imagining what we wish to build. Unless we maintain a habit of constant curiosity (which keeps our passion alive), this burns off as we age, but we become more effective because our purposes have less grounding on feelings.

At some point, later in our life, we start questioning the purposes we’ve been following when the results don’t reflect what we expected from our decisions. Most notably, we start confronting our fears of death. This is a good thing, but often scares people, so it’s called bad things like a “mid-life crisis”.

One recursive form of purpose is to self-motivate: solidify our purpose against things that scare us, both real and imagined. It’s very useful to get a “running start” on things we would otherwise become discouraged over.

Revisiting our purposes is healthy self-maintenance, but people often avoid it because it’s so destabilizing to our view of reality. If we wait too long, we end up facing it in huge destabilizing chunks instead of small increments (e.g., mid-life crisis). We can practice it with self-awareness techniques, but mentally well people tend to naturally perform re-purposing without provocation.

Problems

Anything we’ve deemed needs changing is a “problem”, and all problems are values in our imagination driven by how we feel about what we perceive. All purposes in life string themselves into a never-ending sequence of problem-fixing.

The severity of our desire to fix problems comes from two factors: how much it affects us, and how much we believe we can do something about it. Broadly, they fall into 4 classifications based on complexity:

  1. Needs are things we must have, and correspond to reality.
  2. Interests are how we meet needs. If we feel like having it, they’re often what we “want” as well. Interests often combine multiple needs, and typically require predicting what will happen.
  3. Strategies are elaborate mental constructs designed to meet interests. They are often so complex that we can’t easily communicate them.
  4. Position is the power we have to make the strategies happen.

Problems are always a disruption. They can either disrupt a principle (e.g., many moral issues, bureaucratic thinking) or disrupt someone’s peace about something they expect.

Whether the problem is real or not is irrelevant. An artist will find a problem in a blank canvas as much as an accountant will over one discrepant number. It’s a conflict between the environment we wish to see expressed as results within reality, and gives a mental workout for the trust-based portion of our minds.

The clearest problem, across everything, is the concept of scarcity. There’s only a limited amount of anything (e.g., time, money, energy), so we must constantly consider how much is left of everything. It’s a major component of how we assign value of one thing over another.

No two people see the same problem. They will both gather mostly the same facts, but will make slightly different conclusions.

One major problem with a problem-based way of perception is that we get distracted from Problem A with Problem B, and it can keep going. For that reason, we typically need frequent reminding. When we repetitively remind ourselves or others across large spans of time, we are “virtue signaling”.

Without a problem we face utter, crippling existential crisis. No matter what, a good life requires the constant cycle of interpreting problems, looking for rational solutions for them, then succeeding (at least somewhat) at fixing those problems.

Far too frequently, we fall into dysfunction when we don’t understand the consequences of the solutions we use for our problems. We’ll try to fix things, then notice they’ve changed but not improved, and keep using that approach because it’s familiar.

Large/Complex Problems

The larger the problem, the more it scares us and the more it drains our willpower. Huge and devastating large-scale events drive us to either action or cowardice, and often with a religious/political attitude mixed in.

Further, if we don’t fix problems, they get worse. Taken far enough, not fixing problems can create an existential crisis.

Most large problems are simple, little problems that piled together. The vast majority of the time, fixing many smaller problems is far easier than fixing one large, interconnected problem.

Across time and with more people involved, problems become complicated:

  • We’ll often do things we hate, but will start liking them out of familiarity as we build habits.
  • We’ll often find meaning through the methods we use to fulfill a purpose, which will often become part of our identity.
  • As we age, we often forget we can’t do things we once could have done.
  • To the extent we follow others, we want what we imagine others expect from us and what we “ought” to do. We also fear failure, so we’ll trust others’ opinions from their reputation, sometimes merely because they wrote a book.
  • Sometimes we want something we ought not to and will try to maintain the appearance that we don’t want it while we pursue it.
  • If we believe we can’t do something but still want it, we may detach from reality and let our imaginations run free.
  • Most of the time, problems create consequences that create other problems, and by the time we’re aware of them they’ve become so nasty that we have to ask “why” multiple times to get to the original cause.
  • We tend to compare and compete with others. To the degree we care about appearances, we’ll often do things we really hate for the sake of others’ approval.

The universe is made of certain forms of inherent structure, so “problems” are always a type of disadvantageous structure. Most skillful problem-solvers focus their efforts on the weakest point in that structure:

  • Most work for spies is finding weak points that were covered up by an image of strength.
  • Before aircraft technology changed war strategies, invaders always attacked city gates.
  • Religions approach powerless people who feel discouraged by how their life has been going.
  • Leftism makes appeals to people relatively uninformed about history or politics but discouraged by how their life is going.

Most problems are simple and we fix them habitually, but we tend to only focus on the largest ones. Some of those have many elements with a relatively straightforward solution (e.g., a messy room), but the problems that really ruin our happiness have many sensible solutions we must decide between. Our indecision about problems we need to fix comes mostly through a calculation of how much pain we’ll experience.

Sometimes, problems merge with other problems to become unbreakable through any direct approach. When that happens, the only solution is to attack one of the core problems:

  1. The causes are hard to discern from the effects.
  2. Everyone involved with the problem has competing views and strong feelings on what the problem even is.
  3. Nobody can agree on a decent set of solutions to fix the problem.
  4. Nobody can agree on a clear, measurable “finish line” to track if the problem changed.

One of the most prevalent interpersonal human problems pertains to freedom. We’re all born with the near-unlimited ability to think and a broad ability to do, but must honor social standards that create many interpersonal conflicts. How and why we resolve it determines its morality.

Some of the largest problems are absolutely impossible to fix (e.g., death). The only way to resolve them is to release control of them as the Unknown, which is the most significant use of religion.

Recreation

We tend to cycle between phases of doing work or creating, then recreating and resting when we run out of things we need and want to do for that day. Typically, we’re alternating how much energy we use from one to the other.

Recreation is a variation of the curiosity we had in childhood. However, because of our need to work, we often have interests that go beyond anything other people will pay us to do.

Recreation and work are both necessary for the good life, and should flow through a small resistance cycle. However, addiction can disrupt that cycle by keeping us perpetually purposed toward one thing without regarding diminishing return or the power we’re sacrificing.

While we recreate, we tend to only relax a few specific ways, usually dictated by preference and culture:

  • Creating and consuming stories through various media
  • Creating and consuming humor
  • Low-energy activities like fishing, camping, or drinking alcohol
  • Playing games

When we feel perfectly safe, our recreation represents different levels of focus and engagement:

  1. Absolutely no producing, only consuming (e.g., movies, lounging)
  2. Relatively mindless productivity toward a purpose (e.g., organizing stamps, decorating)
  3. Challenges that require an implied deadline (e.g., solving a puzzle or Rubik’s cube)
  4. Competitions with others on a completely level test (e.g., a footrace or time trial)
  5. Competing with others where each competitor can influence each other (aka, a “game”)

Games

Every game is a type of story with a few components:

  1. A setup where everyone has a limited amount of at least some resources and must honor some rules.
  2. Everyone has a definite purpose, or “win conditions” that provide a reward or prevent a risk, though they may not always be the same. Those purposes are usually against other players’ purposes, directly or indirectly.
  3. Each person has to make decisions that anticipate what could happen and consider others’ decisions in light of theirs.
  4. At the end of the game, each person either wins or loses immediately without much waiting to find out.

Games start from childhood. Most of the time, they’re simplified games that recreates real life. Most people outgrow this, but some will convert it into careers in performance arts.

Games always have certain outcomes and, usually, math. The math is necessary because it maintains an extremely high sense of order.

Beyond sports, board games, and video games, most of life is a game, with a few distinctions:

  • Purposes keep moving around as people act.
  • The only reliable math to keep score is through arbitrary things like money or time.
  • Because of many additional complexities, it’s harder to discern others’ motivations and thoughts than in a game.
  • The “end” of the game isn’t very clear, since it may be during old age, attaining “the good life” through happiness or success, or whatever comes after death.

To recreate reality while not precisely reproducing the most unpleasant parts of it, games adapt reality along a few dimensions:

  • Luck – Reality has many elements that are completely random, but games tend to distill the luck down to specific predictable actions like a dice roll or card draw. Casino games like roulette and craps do this the least.
  • Challenge – Reality requires hundreds of hours of tedious practice, but games make simpler and easier challenges. Skill games like sports and strategy games do this the least.
  • Immersion – Reality requires prolonged exposure and research, but games limit the involvement to understanding the rules and lore of the game’s backstory. Role-playing games and simulators do this the least.

Because of human nature, every single game will have cheaters, including in life. People find creative ways to break the rules to win, usually by arbitrarily changing them to fit their desire.

While the cheaters may enjoy it, everyone else will stop having any more fun with the game because it’s an abuse of power and doesn’t feel very fair. However, at that point it’s not wrong at all to cheat back, and some games (e.g., cybersecurity) become meta-games from everyone trying to win the “game-over-a-game”.

Note, however, that some people who are far more creative will find ways to stay inside the rules while taking advantage of facts that require experience or perceptiveness to exploit. They can distort appearances, imply they’ll act or think a certain way, or force their opponent to misuse their power.

With technology, we can recreate the experience of most things, which means we can give a very similar experience and feeling of reality:

  • The experience of running errands or doing tasks.
  • Trying to accomplish multiple smaller goals at once.
  • Achieving and overcoming challenges, especially unlikely ones.
  • The proxy character learning from prior experiences (often simulated with “experience points”).

Like humor, games help us to cope. It’s a small system designed to symbolize the greater reality we’re in. It creates a type of closure in the unfamiliar reality that surrounds us. However, while humor is a deconstruction of disorder, games are an extreme form of order.

Group Purposes

If a purpose isn’t driven strictly by a principle, it’s driven strictly by culturally-established habits.

While this doesn’t make any difference for any specific purpose, they create severely contrasting results when confronted by an opposing cultural standard. Often, the principled person will either become a counter-cultural leader or will be rejected by the group, depending on how much the trend or cycle has developed.

However, every person is at least somewhat influenced by others around them. Most significantly, our close friends can alter how we decide and, ultimately, our quality of character.


Application

We’re never entirely free of stress. Stress itself creates purpose, and cycling between peace and worthy endeavors (caused by stress) is necessary for living a good life.

Stubborn people are going to do what they’re going to do. You can either be their antagonist and break them, or save the resources and let them do it. Sometimes, you can outsmart them, but there is no other option, not even for children.

There will never be an end to the things we can do, so the quest for meaning and purpose never ends until we stop living. Even near death, we try to build something beyond our lives or prepare for anything after it.

Often, our problems aren’t as bad as we feel they are, and the problem may simply be judgments we’re making about information we already have.

We will always do more if we desire something specific than if we dislike something we presently hate.

We are only purposing when we’re conscious, but most of the time our purpose carries itself out subconsciously, whether evil or good. Most of our purposes are habits, so our “present” self is mostly not responsible for our actions, even while it creates all of reality’s results.

To face a challenging problem, do not skip out on a healthy diet, and try to do it when you’re not sick. Foods with a low glycemic index are healthiest because they give a slow, steady flow of energy for the brain.

If you’re not sure what you want, that’s okay. Most people don’t know what they want most of the time, even when they look like they do.

Since human purpose is driven by a problem-based mentality, unresolved problems really get in the way of our satisfaction. Mysteries, unfinished business, and paradoxes plague us much more than solved issues unless we learn to release them.

Young people tend to explore, while older people tend to exploit.

Without awareness, our purposes tend to override reality, which is why we employ so much faith in so many things.

As we age, our purposes become more intentional and less inspirational. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, but means we’re more likely to stop hoping for good things and run the risk of pushing against social progress.

To maintain and grow willpower we must rest regularly, set small goals, and never give up.

The “5 Why’s” is a series of asking questions to get to a root cause, and it works because it links back through certainties to find an original cause. We must understand where we desire things to know how to best meet those desires.

Everyone sees different aspects of a problem, so groups of relatively dumb people are always smarter than any individual genius.

Finding purpose is relatively simple when the current purposes or solutions don’t work. Just break apart your interests into their base wants, then find different interests that meet those needs.

Playing and games are excellent training for reality, but never quite capture the real thing. It can fool our subconscious, though, which boosts our confidence in reality and helps build “soft skills” in a thing. It can also foster overconfidence.

To live the good life, we must find friendships with people who conform to the ideal purposes we wish to maintain.