2 min read

Via Negativa - Purpose

My theory is that creativity will come if you follow Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.  But since it’s hard to define these concepts, it’s easier to avoid their opposites.  

I’ll be discussing all three over the next three weeks, but today we’re going to focus solely on Purpose.  

The opposite of Purpose is boredom.  After surviving the Holocaust, Viktor Frankl said, "Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.”  We’re not nearly in the same circumstances, but the reasoning holds.  Having a ‘why’ generates intense interest - it’s antithetical to boredom.  

In December, I decided to take on a challenge by Jibran to write 100 words for 100 weekdays in a row.  I wanted to create enough of a body of work where I could see the themes of my writing.  The first few essays were tough, but after a few iterations, I decided to “lower the lift” - I didn’t care about the quality of the writing, I just expressed a clear idea in 100 words each day.  The challenge forced me to change the premise to something sustainable while maintaining what was interesting.

It sounds counterintuitive.  Doing something 100 times sounds like a slog.  But it forced me to identify the important aspect - I wanted to know what ideas are interesting to me.  Doing something 100 times forces you to strip away everything you find painful and you find something interesting inside.

This is just one way to explore Purpose without focusing on Purpose.  Seeking Purpose directly is self-defeating.  When I became disillusioned with my job, I started looking for something with a purpose.  I looked for opportunities to volunteer, to donate.  There are an infinite amount of ways to “give back,” but I eventually realized that I wasn’t satisfied because I was more concerned with filling a hole in my soul than actually having a Purpose.  Pursuit corrupts.  What was in my head didn’t match up with reality.  I was looking to fulfill an abstract concept - I put Purpose on a pedestal.  

Do without doing.  Seek without seeking.

This sounds paradoxical - which is why I will return to the idea of Via Negativa and using the idea of overcoming the opposite of Purpose, boredom.

Although there are many ways today to temporarily divert ourselves, avoiding boredom sustainably is easier said than done.  But what’s a more sustainable way?  Find things that you’re interested in.  Follow curiosity.  

Go down fractals by doing things.  Once you learn something, do something with it.  You will find that your understanding doesn’t fill all the cracks of reality.