One side effect of this month’s vocal trouble has been the consumption of conspicuous amounts of Throat Coat tea. I know that it’s not magic – despite what you, my father, and, I fear, even my doctor may think, it does not actually touch my vocal folds on the way down – but I find the pictures of lotus blossoms on the package to be comforting. Plus it tastes good.
Sunday morning, with six liturgies and a cold commute in front of me, I filled my Boston College travel mug with steaming water, closed the lid over the bag string, and headed out into the brisk morning with tea steeping in my hand. I was almost at the bottom of the hill when I saw the string had some teabag wisdom printed on it: The purpose of life is to enjoy every moment.
NO. IT. IS. NOT.
Had I not still been in the stupor of the previous night’s cough syrup-aided sleep, I might have thrown the mug on the sidewalk. Just what the world needs, I thought, and the tone of my thoughts rose like my voice does when I’m heading into one of my fits, something else to make people think life is all about their own good times.
I know better than to criticize without having another answer, so I started thinking, What is the purpose of life? Probably too heady before noon, but I had a ten minute walk to the train and my hands were too full to text. So I thought.
The answer, of course, is that I have no idea. I always come back to the answer from the Baltimore Catechism. My mother encouraged me to memorize bits of it long past its heyday, despite – or probably because of – the “I am me and I am OK” emphasis of my education, religious and otherwise. Of course, she taught me the words that she remembered, not necessarily the ones in the book, but so be it.
Why did God make me? To know him, love him and serve him in this life and be happy with him forever in the next.
That answer is so wonderfully vague that it includes the whole world. I have no idea what it might resemble in an individual’s life. To know, to love, and to serve are worthy pursuits that can fill up a lifetime. Chasing enjoyment doesn’t make a life.
I’m learning that if I devote myself to these goals enjoyment will follow. The quest to know has given me the satisfaction of being able to formulate my own ideas and understand the ideas of others. The quest to love has led me into affectionate communities of laughter and beauty. And the quest to serve has brought me here, there, and everywhere, teaching me to see goodness everywhere I look.
The truth is, when I look at my life from all angles, I think I do enjoy every moment. But it’s never been my goal.
Enjoying life can’t be the only thing that drives us forward, because a happiness with no roots underneath it wilts and cannot blossom into joy. I’m happy to give my life to other callings, trusting that if I devote myself enjoyment – and better – will meet me on my walk.