On Purpose

What comes after

When I was building the plague patio, I remember using the plate compactor. I loved it. I love things that are built for a specific purpose – especially if it’s a kind of odd, very specialized purpose – and does it really well. I mean, that plate compactor is good for maybe two things: compacting solid surfaces, and weighing down bodies at the bottom of a lake. To fire that thing up, look at the chaos in front of me, then look back at the order and beauty that it left behind, was a truly gratifying, steadying experience.

I read a short book once about the healthiest, longest-living communities in the world. There were a handful scattered around, from a town somewhere in California, to an Italian island, a city I think in Japan, maybe China. In other words, all over the world, thoroughly separate from one another, yet full of healthy people who lived long lives. I think the author called them Blue Zones. (Yes). In his research, the writer found that all of the zones shared a small number, maybe 5, of common characteristics. Diets varied because of differing climates/agricultures, but I think there were common food threads along the lines of maybe low salt content, little to no processed foods, etc. One of the things that stuck out for me, the thing I always think of first when I remember that book, was that they all believed in having a purpose. Something to get you up and going in the morning that feels important. Something to gratify and steady you.

In that regard I think I envy the activists and the protesters. It cannot be said that they don’t wake up with a purpose every day. They are probably gratified and steadied by it, to a great extent. Especially because they are in no danger of waking up and feeling like they aren’t needed. No danger of feeling purposeless. Except things are blurry there, because a protester may wake up saying “My purpose is to create justice,” but what that really means in practical terms is “my purpose is to find injustice.” Their purpose dies without it. What happens when your purpose depends on horror? You make sure you don’t run out of it.

So beware, I guess, the dedicated problem solvers. They’ll do more than anyone else to make sure there are problems to solve.


I don’t know what my purpose is. Home and family, broadly speaking. Specifically, things like this:

I could certainly scrounge up a before picture, but won’t. It originally matched the other cabinets – maple, smooth, flat, no depth or character – so we got weird and wanted to start changing things. Initially we thought we’d paint all of the cabinets, but that’s a pain in the neck and we’re stopping with the island. It matches the wainscoting I just did in the entry with the shaker/craftsman style. This is the 4th different look I’ve given this island in 3 years. The butcher block has been there through 3 of them, and isn’t going anywhere. Unless we move. If that happens (when, eventually), we’re going to replace it with something cheap, and take it with us wherever we go. That walnut top is the sort of thing that lives are built around.

My next purpose is the floor. I’m replacing all of that, too. I guess we’re not moving for a long time.

Other purposes? I’ve been taking piano lessons for several months now. I like it, but I didn’t practice at all last week. The teacher is going to be disappointed in me tonight.

Arabic – I found a reputable place through which I can take online courses, and have applied. They’re past due on responding to me, so I have to follow up there.


Anyway, Hitler had a purpose. Dahmer had a purpose. Looters have a purpose. Don’t mistake purpose for virtue, I guess. It’s one thing to wake up with something that motivates you, it’s quite another thing to be able to go to bed knowing you’ve left behind something beautiful.

2 thoughts on “On Purpose”

  1. Pingback: Strange Daze

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