Passion, patience, purpose and life’s ‘inner yearning’

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, January 23, 2014

Chalkboard at Bentleys Books in Cochrane featured a quote on the purpose of life according to Carl Jung.
Photo by Warren Harbeck

“The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” At least, that’s what it said on the chalkboard behind the counter at Cochrane’s Bentleys Books when I dropped in the other day.

The quote from the renowned psychologist Carl Jung got my attention. It resonated with the theme of last week’s column on the Cochrane IDEAS Society panel discussion of purpose-filled living through creativity, imagination and passion.

Panelist Dara Dines had placed special emphasis on passion. “Passion lets me know that I am here, right now,” she said. “That I too am alive.”

Dara’s delight in passion evoked a not-uncommon response locally from retired professor Ernest Enns.

If “life is about passion,” he asks, “then when we lose it, why continue living?” (My own imagery here is that of the fading embers of a dying campfire.)

Responses from some of our other coffee companions seemed to be in dialogue with Ernest’s question.

Writing from Las Vegas, author/speaker Max Oliva, a Jesuit priest specializing in spirituality in the workplace, relates passion for living to imagination and hope.

“Imagination is central to hope,” he says. “Imagination is that faculty that envisions what cannot yet be seen.”

It is critical, therefore, that we “guard against a failure of the imagination, for it leads to a failure of inspiration.”

Quoting another of our coffee companions, author/educator Ron Rolheiser (Against an Infinite Horizon), he says: “‘We lack imagination when we stand before (an) experience petrified, frozen, and unable to cope with what is there.’ Our imagination is healthy when we can stand before any reality and maintain a sense of hope.”

But hope, in turn, must partner with patience, he says. Patience allows what cannot yet be seen to emerge. And here, “it helps to pay attention to the signs of hope” that come our way to “keep our confidence in hope alive” – and these signs of hope may “appear in a particular person or persons or an event.”

For Stoney Nakoda elder Myrna Kootenay, of Morley, such signs of hope often reveal themselves through community in a spirit of love.

“My passion has always been children, the Nakoda people I come from, and education,” she says. The core motivation for her lifelong pursuit of excellence has been “love, benevolence and compassion. Nothing in life is possible without love.”

So, now we see a link among hope, love, imagination, passion, patience, and purpose, often mediated through the presence of others in our lives.

But “how do you actually know your purpose?” asks our West Coast coffee companion Karin Henderson, a healthcare professional. Are the opinions of others always helpful?

Noting that the words of others can sometimes be contradictory or confusing, she says this is where her “inner yearning” comes to the rescue. That sense of inner yearning “is sort of a nudge to be remembered, not ignored, to be on the right path.”

Karin’s reference to inner yearning is not unlike the wisdom of panel co-host, authenticity author David Irvine. “Authenticity asks you to get to the heart of what your life is meant to be about.” he says.

This is about centering, says David, for whom a daily half-hour quiet time is essential. During his quiet time, he strives for “a balance between meditating – quieting and focusing my mind while relaxing my body – and praying – listening to the still small voice of God guiding me and supporting me.” (He expands on this in his 1997 book, Simple Living in a Complex World: Balancing Life’s Achievements.)

For David, centering as an aid in discerning purpose in life is very much about passion, the very point Dara was making, and an intriguing footnote to Carl Jung’s quote about “kindling a light in the darkness.”

From my perspective, it’s about the Gentle Breeze that fans the fading embers of our soul, sometimes through our companions, sometimes in quiet solitude. Either way, the fire of life is worth rekindling. After all, who can tell how the light of our flame will illuminate the way for others?

As David puts it: “Passion is the deep, abiding voice within us that informs us of the blueprint of our lives.”


© 2014 Warren Harbeck

Return to Coffee With Warren home page