Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The Human Longing for Purpose

TIME Magazine had a feature story a few weeks back entitled "Can Service Save Us?" I was immediately intrigued, as you may know, I'm a big proponent of serving others. I believe it's the key to life. That, ironically, the only way we can appease that insatiable drive to please ourselves is by forsaking our own needs and serving others. I figured the article would be about national service and the drive of a younger generation to be more intimately involved in tangible change.

I was blown away to see that the article was about all that, but even more, it was set in the context of combat veterans. While the article focused on some specifics of various groups, their history and future, I was blown away by the clear an concise message.

Combat veterans need some place to relax with people who don't treat them like heroes or villains and they need some continued connection to mission.

I posted a long way back about my conflicted feelings towards military service. This article, perhaps only by implication, helped parse those feelings a bit. There is a dichotomy between the ugliness of war and the valiance of those willing to wage it. Often, those element of the job are conflated. It seemed like this article took pains to keep them separate.

I think it's begun to hit on the core of our human longing for purpose. We search for it in any number of different ways, some healthy, others not so much. In the end, we want to be connected to others in ways that make us feel alive.

Many young people join the military because they don't have a sense of purpose or even much self-awareness. Often they find these things, but they're too closely connected to their job. When Soldiers leave the military, they have a lot of skills and abilities, but they often encounter the same personal issues they had going in. I love the idea of connecting people to a mission, not only one bigger than themselves, but bigger than their past and their position.

I do believe service will save us. I think it's a key component to salvation of every kind. I am ecstatic to see the quality skills and abilities earned in the military put to use for some purpose other than fighting.

The military does one thing the Church has lost - connecting people to mission. Perhaps the military falls short in too closely connecting that mission to military and diplomatic aims, but the Church often limits mission to preconceived religious boxes itself.

What we need is a broader, more open understanding of mission - something outside our job description or our religious preference our own personal identity - something that unites us in our common humanity and perhaps, in the doing, somehow makes us more human.

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