The Purpose of Life

By Engr. Carlos Borja

Sigmund Freud, famous Austrian founder of psychoanalysis got it wrong when he said the purpose of man’s life is pleasure.  Alfred Adler another world-renowned Austrian psychotherapist is likewise wrong when he said man’s purpose is to seek power.  It took another Austrian psychiatrist and a Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, to get it right when he said the meaning of man’s life lies in seeking for a purpose.  He calls it the logotherapy.  He discovered his school of thought from co-prisoners in the Nazi concentration camp who were determined to survive amidst the most horrible conditions man could experience.  The ones who endured the Holocaust were those who still had a purpose to live for, such as hoping to see their family after the war.  Those who did not have something to look forward to, gave up hope and stopped following the rules of the concentration camp and were shot.

What is the point and purpose of life? Why are we born?  Why are we living?  What’s it all about?  Science has no answer to these.  The Catholic Church’s answer to these questions point to the three Theological virtues namely, Faith, Hope and Charity.  Faith answers the question, “What should we know or what is the purpose of life here on earth?”.  Charity answers the question, “What should we do in this life?”.  And Hope answers the question, “What should we expect as a reward?” Faith is all about knowing God’s word, which contains the plan of God for us or His purpose for us.  And so, what does man need to do to accomplish that plan of God for him or to have a share of God’s happiness?  By loving God and one’s neighbor; which is the theological virtue of Charity.  And what can man expect after fulfilling that plan?  What can he hope for?  Gladness without end and the perfect happiness of possessing God in the eternal reward of heaven, which is the theological virtue of hope.  Faith fulfills the deepest quest for truth, love or charity fulfills the moral will’s deepest quest for goodness, and the hope of heaven fulfills the heart’s deepest quest for joy.

Rick Warren said in his famous book “Purpose Driven Life”, “The search for the purpose of life has puzzled people for thousands of years. That’s because we typically begin at the wrong starting point—ourselves. We ask self-centered questions like, what do I want to be? What should I do with my life? What are my goals, my ambitions, my dreams for my future? But focusing on ourselves will never reveal our life’s purpose. You did not create yourself, so there is no way you can tell yourself what you were created for! If I handed you an invention you had never seen before, you wouldn’t know its purpose, and the invention itself wouldn’t be able to tell you either.”  Only the Inventor of the invention could.  And He surely would inform us of our purpose.

That longing for knowing our purpose was placed by God Himself in our heart for us to embark on a personal quest.  Theologians would call it the “divine discontent”.  Philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal would say, there are three kinds of people here on earth.  Those who seek God and have found Him and is serving Him are wise and happy, those who seek God and have not found Him yet, are wise and but not yet happy, and those who do not seek God at all are not wise and not happy.  It is the seeking that matters.  Unfortunately, some of us would fill the divine discontent with earthly things such as money, fame, power and pleasure thinking that if we just have more of these, we will be finally be happy.  But our hearts have been made for the infinite that can only “The Infinite Being” can satisfy.  It is that discontent that led St. Augustine to say when he finally found the answer to his quest, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”