When you’ve been blogging for this long – almost five years now – you begin to realize that the personal blog is something of an enclosed pulpit, a sermon to self, a sabbath reminder of your values and goals and needs and room to grow. You repeat yourself. Over and over and over and over again.
Last night I had a great conversation with a good friend on the difference between ambition and purpose. The two, sadly, had become intertwined and inseparable as one in my mind. Over the past couple years I have surrounded myself with a small army of unstoppable ambition. People who work on five projects at the same time and are writing books meanwhile and then giving thought-provoking presentations and then interviewing and then being interviewed and then … I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
It’s not that I’m an unambitious person myself, but over the past couple weeks I have been. Short on zeal or oomph or caffeine. Or so I thought, but no matter how many cups of coffee I would drink, the ambition still waned.
Then last night I was reminded that ambition is a personality trait; something that is instilled in us at a young age. Or, more likely, in our DNA. But purpose comes from somewhere else. We don’t know where – quite possibly the same place where consciousness itself comes from. Or maybe purpose is one more thing we construct to cope – a call to a higher power, an objectively noble pursuit.
But that isn’t what I was thinking about last night driving home from the gym, the neon lights of the car lots and liquor stores competing with the flashing lights of the cop cars on Broadway, the last two miles of downtown Oakland to resist 21st century development. On the side of the street, the same story played out again: two young black men, cornrows, sagging jeans, handcuffs.
I was thinking about my own purpose. My shoulders dropped, almost imperceptibly, with relief when I realized that my purpose in life – at least so it seems today – is to introduce people from different communities to one another. Republicans to democrats, youth to elders, ethnicity to ethnicity, sexual preference to sexual preference, nationality to nationality. However it is that groups of individuals choose to cluster, I would like to help set up a handshake. It is a purpose which is entirely modest and manageable.
And so I woke up this morning ready to do my job not because I needed to, but because I wanted to.