In Pursuit of Purpose

Mon 20 – Sun 26 March 2023

The long, dull weeks of winter are slowly dying particularly with the advent of the clocks going forward on Sunday. An hour less sleep but swapped for longer daylight – a good and fair swap to my way of thinking. My mind this week has been on looking for the purpose in my life – what is it that really gets me going and so gives me hope?

The purpose of my blog

Indeed, I suppose you could ask what is the purpose in writing this blog; in putting my thoughts and experiences ‘to paper’? Well I like writing and I take pleasure that others might get some value from what I say. It is also good to be able to look back on things in my life that have been and see if they can guide my future – see my previous blog here. And, sometimes, when I write I can help myself make more sense of things.

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”

William Wordsworth

Health and Efficiency

Gym

A definite purpose in my life at the moment is looking after my health. It’s something that worries us all as we get older and closer to death (though the latter cannot be postponed forever). And going to the gym is central to maintaining my health.

3 gym sessions well spaced on the mornings of Mon, Wed, and Fri. All good though I am aware that my knees are definitely a weakness I have to pay attention to. I am trying to do this by focusing on strengthening my leg muscles though this is difficult without putting pressure on your knees. Ah well, at least my hips are OK.

30 gym sessions since the start of 2023 divided by the annual membership = £16.50 per session.

range of dumbells

Jog-run and a rest

I’m also getting purpose through getting back to doing jog-runs – I can’t dignify this by calling it running. As part of the ‘Couch to 5K’ programme I am now onto periods of jogging without intermittent walking. Though outside of these sessions I have lots of long, purposeful walks as ever. Thursday saw me improving on my previous 25 mins jog-run in terms of distance covered so good news.

Jog-run

However, I decided not to do the planned jog-run on Sunday morning. Two reasons. First, it was pouring down. Second, I can feel an old injury niggling: my left achilles. Plus my knees were hurting. So I decided to have a rest day. It’s important to rest when your body tells you too. Remember the Roman saying, ‘Nothing to excess’.

Weight and INR – good news

Trying to lose weight is another aspect of me giving purpose to my life. It’s a great feeling sensing myself getting lighter. And that should reduce my chances of injury and heart attack / stroke / cancer. Down to 13 stone 7.5 pounds. Not always easy but you have to just ride with the desire for food and think about the good not eating is doing to you. Plus the hunger feeling normally disappears if you can find some distraction.

Also a good result on the latest INR test. Blood clotting levels are under-control with a perfect reading of 2.5. But still at a stage where I’m not allowed to go too long without another check. So back in just 4 weeks.

Bleeding finger

Art and Culture

Tate Britain

Dave had to go somewhere on Tuesday so I had the day on my own. Treated myself to a morning at this gallery. British art is definitely not the best in the world. But there is something lovely about just wandering around any art gallery or museum especially when it is not too busy. For me, a key component is inter-acting with the objects around me rather than just observing them.

That is the purpose of art – how it fits with and reflects our lives and the external world. I love taking in art but also dealing with stuff on my phone and even reading a book at the same time. Objects are beautiful and tell a story but I don’t just want to put them in aspic. That’s why I like antique programmes where you find out about the history of objects and their purpose in the past and present.

Flare: ‘Winter Boy’

As foretold in my previous blog, read it here, I went to see this film as part of BFI Flare (aka The London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival). Thurs afternoon on the main screen so not too busy and I could stretch out. Also, a French film is a chance to practice my French language skills. My verdict – an OK film but not brilliant. Indeed, I wondered about the purpose of it at points. Primarily it’s about how a young gay man responds to his father’s death.

Head in hands

Big problem for me was that the film went over 2 hours. It seemed to drift in places and lose focus. I suppose a bonus was that it had an optimistic ending. It was quite an angst-driven film and I was worried it was going to end in more death. Long films are hard work especially for someone with a prostate problem who has to make sure he doesn’t drink anything before or during the film to avoid an unplanned interlude.

Unfortunately most movies seem to be over long these days. There is definitely an art in creating a film of about 90 mins. Generally I think longer than that just exemplifies laziness and lack of purpose. Great article in The Guardian about the value of short films and short books – read it here. The latter I’m not too worried about as I can happily get lost in a book.

Books and Reading

‘Utopia Avenue’ by David Mitchell

Finished this wonderful book. David Mitchell clearly has a purpose in life: to write brilliant books and make people happy. This is a as good as any of his other books. It is long but a wonderful ride. In particular, the characterisation is great. People I really believed in and cared about. Such that I was genuinely sad to come to the end.

As I wrote in last week’s blog, it’s about a fictional pop group in the late 1960s. Fiction is wonderfully interspersed with real-life pop stars and celebrities. Plus there are elements of fantasy inter-weaved with real life as well as references to previous books by Mitchell. So bloody clever that you have to be in awe of his abilities.

‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

Strange that on Saturday, just after finishing the book, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ the film of the musical was on TV. The fashion, music, politics, and hair are all of the same period as Utopia Avenue. Late 60s / early 70s psychedelia and a time perhaps with more purpose than ours. People believed they could change the world and were optimistic about the future. The sixties turned the world from black and white to colour. But I wonder if ours is returning to black and white with the rise of China, Russia, and neo-fascism…

Family and Friends

Mum

Spent a lot of time with mum again last week. Looks like she has finally really started to get over the chest infection that has plagued her for weeks. She’s not 100% but a bit more like the person I know. Though she’s also dealing with other health issues and they cause her problems. I wish I could make things better but isn’t that how all children ultimately feel about their parents? Hopeless and wishing they could do more.

Friends give purpose in life

For both my friends and my family, I want the best for them. I would love to be rich simply to help people out more than I am able to do now. I’ve written before about how I miss my friend James who died of cancer in 2016. We had so much purpose in our friendship. We could talk to each other about anything, all our fears and worries. But we were always there to reassure each other that things would be OK even when we weren’t sure and, ultimately, couldn’t promise that.

Be happy and grateful about nice things

Helping Patrick not to worry

Me and Dave caught up with our friend Patrick on Thursday over a coffee. He is dealing with ill health and getting worried about arrangements in his flat. The important thing was that me and Dave were able to assure him that all would be OK. That he shouldn’t worry and that we would be there to help him.

Then on Sunday we met him again for lunch with our friend Frances also joining us. A really lovely meal and such good company.

Ant from Australia

Dave’s mate Ant was over from Australia on work duties and so we managed to grab a coffee with him also on Thursday. Me and Dave are planning to go to Australia at some point to visit him and the other friends there. Big issue is making sure we can spend a decent amount of time with them. No purpose in rushing there and back for just a fortnight.

Plane flying

The appeal of France

Ant himself is off to Paris on Sunday (also for work reasons) just as the King’s visit is cancelled. Should be interesting with all the rubbish piled up. Though I do have to admire the way French people take to the streets whereas in Britain everybody just moans and does nothing. The problem of living in a country that hasn’t had any type of political revolution for nearly 400 years.

Pete is ill

Should have met up with my old mate Pete on Friday night for dinner. We were at school together. It’s been a fair few months since we had a chance to talk. But Pete contacted me to say he didn’t feel well on Fri morning. Turns out it was good that we didn’t try to meet as he got a lot worse during the day. Very much looking forward to rearranging this and having a bloody good catch-up very soon.

How I feel after a difficult week

Work Life Balance

The search for purpose in my fifties

Probably the obvious place for us to try to find purpose is through the paid work we do. I am still on my career break and loving it. I’m part of the generation in their fifties that the government is desperate to get back to work. But it looks like my own finances will be the thing that forces me back at some point.

I laid out in a previous blog some of the things that I have realised motivate me. But there is still a need to explore in more detail what it is that will really give me the feeling I am doing something with purpose. I have realised it doesn’t have to be in the traditional not-for-profit sector I have worked in. However, I am also still enjoying not working at the moment so I ain’t going to rush into anything.

AI changes the game

Linked to what I do next work wise, I have realised that the rapid rise of AI may well change my options. In particular, there is a lot of talk around ChatGPT. It’s definitely worth a play with if you haven’t already done so. The impact of AI does mean many jobs are going to be massively changed.

Indeed, I can see how humans in such important and diverse areas as medicine, law, coding, teaching, and grant-making will do their work based on AI. That may well mean a pressure for less staff and those in work to be lower paid. Combined with automation and the growing trend for income inequality, it looks depressing for the future. It is in fact the professions primarily relying on human contact (such as nursing and caring) that are the ones probably least at threat though even these will be changed.

Not making progress on the computer, thinking about purpose

Personal Development

I definitely find purpose through learning and, in particular, language learning. So I continue to do my daily lessons on Duolingo. Last week was mainly Spanish simply because I couldn’t do as many lessons as the week before – primarily because I often wasn’t alone in the gym to practice. So I prioritised. Plus I also had the chance to ‘practice’ my French with the BFI film on Thursday. TBH, I read the sub-titles but occasional words and phrases prompted my memory.

Sustainability

Time is ticking away

I get a firm sense of purpose by trying to live a lifestyle that is better for the planet and will help future generations. And this is reinforced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) publishing the final part of its sixth assessment report. We still have the opportunity to take action but it’s a “rapidly closing window of opportunity”. I veer between pessimism and optimism on the environment.

Pessimism that it might not be too late technically. But the reality that there isn’t the motivation by governments and people to take the appropriate action necessary. And optimism that perhaps, just perhaps, people will finally take the course they need to and we can save the situation even at this late stage of the day. Isn’t the purpose of life to at least do no harm and hope that the future is better?

Extinction Rebellion fighting climate change

The Week Ahead

  • Purpose through exercise and eating leading to better health will continue. Aim is 3 gym sessions and 2 more ‘longer’ jog-runs with no walking. Plus carry on with trying not to eat too much and keep my weight down.
  • Really looking forward to catching up with my old friend Emma on Thursday; she is back over from Tasmania for a visit
  • Excited to be starting a couple of new books
  • Be great to get at least one cultural event done. Like a gallery or museum visit or simply a cinema trip.

And Finally…

“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential.”

Pope John XXIII

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