What Is Your Purpose?*

looking for life's answers

Every reflective person sooner or later faces certain questions, and because I am a reflective person (at least in the sense that my forehead is sometimes shiny in photos), I have lately found myself asking the type of questions that can best be answered by the kind of wise person who might not necessarily know how to spell the name of a philosopher whom he is referencing, but who does have a regular opinion column in the New York Times, a platform which bestows upon all who reach it a level of moral certitude usually not felt by anyone who has not yet walked on water. 

But so, as I started reflecting on things, and started asking myself the questions that are inevitable for every reflective person: “What is the purpose of my life? How do I find a moral compass so I can tell right from wrong? What should I do day by day to feel fulfillment and deep joy?” And also, what exactly is meant by a “couture body” and how does that relate to “dadbod?” I realized that my life is bereft of all the old white men who used to guide people like me through my daily trials and tribulations as little as 50 years ago.

Whereas, once, reflective people like me could turn to Reinhold Neibuhr, John Dewey, Henry Abraham Fosdick, and Jean-Paul Sartre for answers, now all those men are dead, and we are forced to turn elsewhere when we hit a stumbling block whilst composing our moral bucket lists, which is something everyone does, I think, because I read about it  in the New York Times while wearing my monocle after having escaped from Brooklyn to live in LA.

But before I could feel too bereft at the thought of not having anyone out there to guide me through my reflections, I was truly lucky to realize that there is still one white man knight out there who is brave enough to tell women that their lives can be successful if only they abandon the freedoms of their youths—the socializing and partying and accompanying escapades—and embrace the only thing guaranteed to make all women happy: motherhood. Forget a career, and remember the words of Dorothy Day: “If I had written the greatest book, composed the greatest symphony, painted the most beautiful painting or carved the most exquisite figure I could not have felt the more exalted creator than I did when they placed my child in my arms.”

In fact, as both a reflective person and a woman, I was so pleased to discover that the Times‘s resident moral arbiter has plenty of life advice for women, which goes beyond just the standard nothing-will-fullfill-you-like-a-baby and into advice on how to be taken seriously (“change [your] appearance so [you can] become a more effective instrument” aka dress down ladies!) and that it is not cool to be “emotionally needy, falling for every man… and being rejected.” In other words, be “the cool girl” is the takeaway here.

But in case that’s not enough moral guidance for you, in case you need even more of a helping hand when it comes to answering the truly important existential questions with which any truly reflective person wrestles, i.e. what is your purpose?* The New York Times‘s resident sage is here to help you out, and will be better able to help you if you buy his book, which has a website to which he helpfully links in his latest column. Or, you know, you could just read some John-Paul Jean-Paul Sartre and call it a day. As a reflective person, though, I prefer my Francophone philosophy in the form of Frantz Fanon and Colette, because if there’s more to learn about this world than you can gather from The Wretched of the Earth or Gigi, I’m not sure I even want to know about it.

*Spoiler: Your purpose is to help David Brooks rise in the Amazon rankings.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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