Root of Purpose
Personal Reflection (Sermon)
By Erik Miller
When I was a young child, I asked my
mother, “Where is God?” Mom gestured to the green canopy of trees
surrounding our home, as if searching for an answer, and gave me the
kind of spontaneous reply that flows from the heart, rather than from
books or rote memory.
“God is in every thing!”
Seeing the trees sway in a sudden gust
of wind, I sensed a soft green aura emanating from the sunlit
emerald leaves. I realized then that Nature radiates a Purpose beyond
mere human consumption.
The forest was never meant to be a
The Earth is sacred, and has a destiny
of its own. The sooner we appreciate this fact, the better, for us and
for our children.
We face mounting evidence of
environmental catastrophe, and yet the human species fails to
comprehend, or even care about the level of damage it has already
inflicted upon the other life-forms that depend on this planet for
The global economy today is built on
money rather than on values. Therein is the problem. In our system,
capital is the end that justifies almost any mean, any cost, even the
extermination of ecosystems.
The false profits of capitalism claim
that we need nothing, that “progress” and hard work will solve all
our problems. But what is the purpose of breaking our backs from nine to
five if it leaves us little time for our families, and our dreams?
Indeed, to find your personal purpose
in this lifetime, seek it out in your dreams! As you move through the
mythical fields of your sleeping mind, greet the people and note the
sights. Bring a camera with you so that you may remember your journey on
the way home.
Awaken from your dream!
Know thy desire and thy need. Then
sing the story so all the world can hear it. Your purpose will resonate
in the quality of your voice, and in the beating of your heart.
The English word “Purpose” stems
from the Latin root “to put forth”. So purpose means putting forth
an intention to do or accomplish something. Purpose penetrates
the world from within. It springs forth from the deepest recesses
of our heart.
Purpose sets an agenda and then
strives to achieve it, no matter what. It is an energy that must be
In the heart of a loving person,
purpose focuses into determination and steadfast resolution.
But in the hands of the loveless,
purpose hardens into stubborn zeal, the kind we see in radical religious
groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and Al-Qaeda, and anyone else willing to
maim and kill for their cause.
Children are murdered in the streets
everyday because men with bombs think they are following the purpose of
So-called religious leaders have
killed many more children, in their mind and spirit, by teaching them
guilt-ridden doctrines like original-sin, eternal punishment, and blood
The Judeo-Christian-Islamic word
“sin” derives from the Hebrew verb chayt, which means “to
miss the mark”. It is an archery term. Metaphorically, it simply meant
to miss an opportunity, or to fail at attaining a certain goal.
Originally “sin” meant to make
Mistakes are a part of being human.
They are the scrapes on the knee that we endure while learning how to
walk. Mistakes are a natural component of the learning process. The
point is to learn our lesson, correct it, and move on.
What right, then, do these priests
have to accuse our children of sin-guiltiness?! Why do they focus their
sermons on “getting right with God” if not only to line their
pockets with the faith of the masses?
“Blessed are the poor, for their
financial and spiritual poverty justifies our purpose here on earth”.
It seems that the law of supply and
demand applies equally to the
and Church, the Mosque and Synagogue. Without the problem of
moral/mortal sin, what purpose does organized religion have to exist?
If the criticism herein seems too
extreme or harsh, consider all the wars, conflicts, and battles raging
across the globe right now. What is the common denominator?
Whether we are referring to the Indian-Pakistani arms race, or the Irish
civil war, or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or the Russian-Chechen
struggle, or the Kosovo massacres, or the Sudanese slave-trade, or the
Bali bombings, or the Taliban’s persecution of women, or the American “War on Terror”, and the events of 9/11 that
provoked it, we are referring to horrors inspired by religious
Where is the outrage?
One can brush this aside and claim
that these examples are just people “using” or “hijacking”
religion for their own twisted purposes. Or one may argue, as many have,
that anyone who murders in the name of religion is not “truly” a
Christian, Jew, Muslim, or what have you.
But what is the purpose of these
arguments, other than to avoid the difficult truth one doesn’t want to
face or admit – that there may be something fundamentally wrong
with the belief-system itself!
Arguments that try to separate
religion from the violence carried out by religious fanatics are
desperate attempts to cover up a long history of bloodshed committed in
the name of God.
Nothing has done more to spread
atheism, nihilism, and the existential sense of purposelessness, than
the example displayed by organized religion’s history of witch-hunts
and suppressions, crusades, inquisitions, and jihads.
No, this is not a finger-pointing
No religion is exempt from these
charges. This is a human problem, and it is our collective
responsibility and obligation to fix it immediately.
In light of this, the hard question
arises again -- what purpose does religion serve in the modern world?
Do we really have good reason to
cultivate faith in a higher power, or should we just throw religion out
with the holy water?
And if we devote ourselves solely to
scientific method and mechanical reductionism, do we not risk loosing
sight of our soul, that is, the meaning of life beyond
Is there a middle ground?
Is there a neutral zone where
the two armies of our modern day, secularists and the religionists, can
meet and discuss matters civilly, rather than resorting to physical or
If nothing else, language is
the buffer zone we seek. Both religion and science are built on
language, as are all areas of human scholarship and discipline.
Language, as a sonic technology that
uses sounds to represent meanings, has made it possible for humans to
communicate, and through communication, to form communities and evolve.
The purpose of language is evident in
the words you now hear. It is our way to express feelings, thoughts,
hopes, and beliefs with each other. By sharing, we grow in love and
appreciation for the other.
The true “holy communion” occurs
when all creatures communicate using one common language, when humankind
joins together to participate in the group-project of healing the world.
But this goal will seem idealistically
beyond reach as long as religion and science consider themselves
opposites/contradictions towards one another, as long as they speak
Religion speaks the language of
metaphor, meditation, prayer, faith, morality, and revelation. Science
speaks the language of measurements, rationality, reason, mathematics,
and methodic questioning.
Dualistic philosophies have duped us
into believing that these two realms of thought have irreconcilable
differences, and that the child must choose one or the other.
We have a left and right hemisphere in
our brain. Why must we choose one over the other?
What science and spirit do have in
common is a mutual urge, a purpose, to learn about the nature of
the universe, and understand how humanity may best live and thrive in
Think about it….
We want to find our purpose in this
lifetime. We want the empowerment, the tough determination, and the
positive feeling of personal fulfillment that purpose brings, do we not?
But the two reigning authorities on
this subject speak two different, seemingly conflicting languages.
So we want a common language, a lingua
franca on the meaning of life, whether it exists at all, and if so,
what we may do to realize it in our own lives.
I implore the reader-listener to open
his or her mind and listen with a humble heart to what is about to
Hebrew, the ancient language of
, serves as the master-key that can unlock the meaning of purpose in
terms agreeable to both science and spirituality.
The power rests in Hebrew’s unique
ability to translate forwards and backwards in a consistent teaching.
The reason why this special
language can unleash the power of purpose will become clear soon. First,
we need to briefly cover some history…
Hebrew, while not the first language
per se, was the first alphabet. Where possibly older tongues --
like Egyptian, Sanskrit and Chinese -- possessed thousands of
word-pictographs understood primarily by the priestly elite, Hebrew was
special because of its versatility and user-friendly interface.
For the first time, an entire culture
was able to communicate in a coded system of “letters” that exceeded
no more than 30 characters. This system can and does re-present every
sound imaginable through near-infinite combinations and variations of
the basic code, similar to how DNA or a computer-programming language
The native Canaanites who possessed
this language lived and thrived in the
long before Jews or Arabs, Israelis or Palestinians, were even
The Canaanites, or the Phoenicians who
later inherited their culture and speech, sailed the high seas and
traveled to many lands in search of trade and adventure. One of these
, where they taught the people there how to use the alphabet.
Indeed, the Greeks attribute the
source of their alphabet to the Canaanites, in the form of the mythical
hero “Cadmus”. So the Hebrew aleph changed into “alpha”
(A), as beth morphed into “beta” (B). The very word
“alphabet” derives directly from the first two Hebrew letters.
Greek evolved into Latin with the rise
, and later gave birth to the familiar “romance” languages,
including our own English. Today, the world regards English as the most
important and only cosmopolitan language, the lingua franca of
the Information Age.
Hebrew’s influence reaches far.
In fact, Hebrew is not only a
qualitative language of meanings, but also a quantitative language of
numerical values. In other words, each letter is also a number, so
Hebrew is a mathematical system based on the power of 10.
So it makes sense that if we grasp the
meaning of ancient Hebrew roots, our investigation will shed light on
the essential meanings of our own language, including the concept of
And when we realize the nature of our
native language, we realize the nature of our own thoughts, because
language is a verbal _expression of our cognitive processes, and vice
And when we realize how to think
clearly, then we become masters of the mind, which means that all
things, purpose included, should clarify itself before the mirror of our
These are facts that even the most
skeptical scientist can not easily dismiss without violating historical
record and common-sense.
As for the religious among us, Hebrew
already exhibits a long-respected reputation as a spiritual language.
This was the language, after all, that gave us the Bible.
The Hebraic stories embodied in the
Bible gave birth to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all three major
religions which claim the Hebrew texts as their foundational scripture.
This means that Hebrew colors our
collective paradigm in ways both obvious and subtle.
Hebrew, according to Jewish tradition,
is not only a holy language, but the holy language,
the Code, by which God uses to speak, and by speaking, to create
the universe and all that exists.
Each letter is an archetypical symbol
that represents a frequency or type of energy.
Yes, on the surface, Hebrew appears to
simply be the national language of the Jewish people. But on a deeper
level, Hebrew is a universal language that opens and teaches everyone,
no matter culture, creed, or ethnicity.
The only thing required is the
willingness to learn.
Thus, people in both secular and
religious camps, and all those in between, should rest assured that
Hebrew is a valid source for understanding “purpose”.
Now that we have established the
necessary connection, let us move forward and test the verity of this
Yes, we must think critically,
question our own beliefs and challenge our own arguments, if we hope to
hear the soft whisperings of the TRUTH that speaks only when man
The word PURPOSE has at least three
equivalents in Hebrew. For the purposes of this short sermon, let us
examine only one: Kavvanah, which often means “intention,
intentionality, and devotion”.
Already, this teaches us something
beautiful: when we live our lives ethically, never harboring the
intention to hurt other people, but rather an intention to give, to
learn, and love……then does our purpose transform itself into
Kavvanah stems from the root-verb Kun, “to stand firm, to be
established; to be firm, steadfast, faithful, sure, reliable, fixed; to
be ready, prepared, determined”.
Purpose is what makes each person
stand out from the rest. You are precious to the world because you are
unlike everyone else, and your contribution to this world is equally
special and necessary.
But sometimes the mass consciousness,
the status quo, works against individuals who realize, or begin
to sense, the embryonic purpose budding in their heart of hearts.
Sometimes the sheer charisma
that emanates from a purposeful individual marks that person as
suspicious to others, because that person becomes a threat to the
Sometimes we must stand firm
against outside influences that try to convince us not to “live our
bliss”, as the great mythologist Joseph Campbell had interpreted
Sometimes these pressures come from
our loved ones, the people closest to us, like mothers and fathers,
lovers and friends, who fear for our safety, who fear change.
I once knew a woman who would
unconsciously feed her overweight boyfriend ice-cream every night,
despite his declaration a month earlier that he was going on a diet.
Certainly, she didn’t want him to
suffer, but subconsciously she had associated the experience of their
“ice-cream outings” with his love for her, so that her own
attachment and fear got in the way of his deeper purpose to change his
habits and regain a healthy lifestyle.
The man later explained to his
girlfriend that their relationship transcended food, and that ice-cream
was merely a symbol, one ‘vehicle’ among many that they could use to
express devotion for each other.
They now ride bikes together!
We can love and respect the advice of
our loved ones. But if we know our calling in life, then we would do
well to follow it, even if it’s not completely understood by everyone
Surely, even if we don’t
fully grasp the purpose of our lives (who does?), we can at least y_konain,
“set up, establish, make firm, build, prepare, direct” our energies
towards a future goal, according to the dreams that inspire us, and the
visions that make us feel most alive.
Kavva’n means “a cake for offerings”.
To reap the benefits of this language,
we need to think metaphorically, we need to use imagination as children
How do we make cake? First we mix
flour, liquid, eggs, and other ingredients, and shape it into a rounded
mass. Then we bake it, and decorate it with sweets and icing. Finally,
we serve it to eat.
Likewise, before we can enjoy a
purpose-filled life, we need to draw together all the various
“ingredients” at our disposal; our interests, our talents, the
experiences we’ve gained over the years, the lessons we’ve learned.
With this ‘recipe’, we are able to
“form and shape” our sense of purpose in a way that suits our
tastes, and those of others too.
The “baking” stage is the time of
tests, trials, and tribulations where our formulated purposes either
burn up in the fires of reality, or rise up triumphantly like yeast!
If we followed the recipe correctly
(the one inside our hearts) then the “cake”, our personal mission in
life, will appear, and we can spice it up, decorate it, or stylize it
however we wish.
Finally, and this is the best part –
we get to eat it! We are able to feast in the fruits of our labor, that
is, realize (make real) our highest dreams and experience it in
every-day life, as countless celebrities and great figures have done
To return to the word kavva’n,
“cake offering”, there’s the quiet reminder here that the greatest
part is actually yet to come -- the true goal of realizing our purpose
in this lifetime is to offer it to others so that they may
enjoy the fruits of our hard-work as well!
Note how the first letter of this
word, Kaph, is called “the curved or hollow hand, palm”.
Usually, the first letter in a Hebrew word determines the main theme of
Thus, Purpose, or Kavvanah, is
like a “curved hand” because a curved hand or palm, unlike an open
hand, has the ability to conceal something while holding it at
the same time.
Sometimes our Purpose in Life is not
so clear, but “concealed” by the momentary blindness we suffer in
the daily dog-eat-dog society we live in, or simply because we are not
yet ready, spiritually or mentally, to carry such a heavy burden as our
But the hand that conceals, far from
cruel, is a gift in disguise, because it also contains, or holds, the
surprise gift, the possibility of our future mission.
When it comes to purpose or intention,
what we don’t know also contains what we will eventually know, but
only if we remain steady in our creative pursuits, and prepare ourselves
to overcome whatever obstacles lie along our path.
As we see, the Hebrew answered our
challenge and taught us something consistent and insightful about the
nature of purpose.
While the point of this sermon was not
to teach the listener-readers a new language, it does at least offer a
new METHOD to unlock meaning in the mundane.
This is not so much an advocation to
take up Hebrew, but rather a Call to delve into your own heart and soul,
to re-discover the child within you, who was you, when you first
came into this world.
Did we come into this world with an
inherent purpose, or do we create it according to our choices?
Personally, I don’t know. But I’d bet that the answer is both.
Regardless, the proof of purpose
exists in the Vessel of the Child. Look at your own children, or your
niece, or nephew, or grandchildren, any one.
They are born innocent!
We are all born with dreams and hopes,
imagination and insight. We feel no shame or existential angst, until
it’s taught to us by adults already plugged into the “Matrix” of
No, this is not an advocation to
revert to an idyllic childish state. We cannot go back.
What we can do is preserve the
child-like spirit, the playful, curious youth inside our hearts,
because there rests our purpose, like seeds sitting silently in the
fertile soil, waiting to be born and blossom into maturity.
Equally as important, we must treat real
children with the same respect. We must encourage their strengths and
creative impulses, without making them feel guilty and God forbid,
“sinful” anytime they make a mistake.
As long as our society refuses to
treat the environment with respect, as long as we allow religions to
continue preaching accusatory doctrines meant to scare and control, we
betray our children, and the generations to follow.
What we need now is a revolution in
spirituality, a dramatic change in attitude. We need a common purpose
aligned with LOVE in the highest sense of the word.
Though we all have our individual,
unique purposes, whether self-created or God-given, whether based on
logic or faith, we all must measure up to the standard of LOVE, because
there is no higher calling, no greater responsibility, than that of
The purpose of LIFE is to live it, and
in the process, to learn how to love.
I know this because I remember the
wisdom of my mother, while observing the trees rustling in the wind on
that fateful day. I saw the green glow from the forest, as if the earth
was alive with vital energy.
I know this because I keep the root
within me alive, and listen…..
Feel the energy of your body!
For that is your identity.
Use your mind!
For that is your greatest tool.
Know your purpose!
For that is your legacy.
Now go, child, with love always upon
you, and discover the wonders of life….
** ‘amen **
Feyerabend, Karl Dr. Langenscheidt’s
Pocket Hebrew Dictionary to the Old Testament.
: Langenscheidt Publishers, Inc
“Purpose.” The American
Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Third Edition.
: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992.