Archives for November 2015

Why is having a purpose so important?

In the film “Suffragette”, Maud started working in a laundry factory when she was seven and worked there full time from the age of eleven. By the time she turned twenty three, she had been burned, scalded and sexually abused. Nevertheless, she went about doing a full day’s back-breaking work scrubbing, cleaning and ironing before going home without a word of complaint to look after her husband and young son.  When she was arrested for peaceful protest, she was put in prison, force fed and had her child taken away from her. Shockingly, that wasn’t enough. It took the death of Emily Davison under the feet of the King’s horse in the 1913 Derby to bring the cause of women to the world stage, and even then it took a further fifteen years for all women to get the vote in Britain. In Switzerland, women only got the vote in 1971.

Society in the Western world is very different in the twenty first century. Thankfully, most women don’t have to return to the days of scrubbing boards and laundries. There are women MPs and prime ministers and women head some of the biggest companies. Not that the victory is yet complete: official figures show men in the UK earn 14.2% more per hour than women and, at the current rate of change, it will take another 50 years to close the gap.

Yet despite such hard won freedom and wealth, depression is alarmingly on the rise. The qualities of stoicism and tenacity that our sisters of old had in spadefuls seem to have disappeared. We complain about the smallest things and rely on screens to entertain us so that we don’t have to think for ourselves. (It has actually been confirmed that we go into a state of mild depression when we watch sitcoms.) It would appear that when life is handed to us on a plate, we become passive and cease to engage.

A story about a lizard confirms this. When a chap bought an exotic lizard as a pet, he could not persuade it to eat despite offering it a huge variety of tasty morsels. In a last ditch attempt, the man tried to feed the starving lizard a ham sandwich. When the lizard refused this as well, the man gave up, put the sandwich down and started to read his newspaper. When he had finished reading the first section, he tossed it on top of the sandwich. Immediately the lizard crept towards the paper, shredded it and gobbled up the sandwich. Apparently, the lizard had needed something to stalk before he would eat.

Irrespective of gender, humans and animals alike need purpose in order to live satisfying lives. Having nothing to fight for, being spiritually starved, having food available 24 hours a day, too much convenience and the continual seeking of pleasure is making us weak. We need challenge if we are to grow and be fulfilled. We need to get out into the world and DO something with this precious gift of life that we have been given.

Christmas is a particularly apt time to think about purpose. Whilst we are having fun and feasting, let’s reflect on the birth of a child into a family forced to become refugees, a subject of so much relevance today. Let’s remind ourselves that, however comfortable we might be, we can still fight for peace, justice and compassion. Finding a cause to support will not only gives us purpose but also stir the altruism which, ultimately, makes us happy. Let’s develop some of that wisdom and courage that were so much in evidence in our tougher forebears and rediscover those old qualities of stoicism and tenacity.

Wishing you a peaceful but purposeful Christmas

Love Laurelle