What anchors you? In other words, what constitutes your foundational supports? I’ve been thinking about this lately. I have a friend who maintains that her anchor is scripture. I agree with her that the wisdom of scripture is paramount, but I believe there are other domains which should be considered.
In 1943 Abraham Maslow proposed a hierarchy of human needs. Maslow posited that physiologic needs such as water and food are the most basic. Next in priority on his pyramid, Maslow listed safety, then love and belonging and then self-esteem. At the top of his hierarchy of needs was what he called self-actualization or the realization of one’s potential.
In America we live in a culture where physiologic and safety needs are largely met. I’ll admit that I sometimes complain about this or that, but quickly recognize that my grumbling is a first world problem. The problems in second and third world countries are more basic. I am blessed with family and friends who bolster my self-esteem, helping my climb towards self-actualization and my full potential. However, Maslow missed a crucial component to realizing a person’s full potential. I believe we can only be fully human through a sense of purpose and the ultimate purpose of humans is an acknowledgment of and a relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
All around me friends and colleagues are pulling up anchors and retiring. And many others in my cohort are reconsidering their lifelong work and purpose. A golfing buddy told me he was afraid to retire because he had no hobbies. I told my buddy there is more to retirement than hobbies. Peggy Lee once sang “Is that all there is?” And it’s true, you can only play so much golf, garden or fish, and without your job and designated appointments you can quickly find yourself adrift. You should never retire until you have a plan and understand your purpose.
Like other professionals, doctors identify themselves by their work and the active practice of medicine. I have been a doctor of medicine two-thirds of my life. That can’t be turned off like a spicket. When my 40+ years in traditional internal medicine ended, my identity did not. I remained anchored in a good marriage and being a disciple of the Way, the Truth and the Life. And my concierge medical practice keeps me in the game. Teaching medical students and writing for The Focus afford me purposeful and creative outlets.
I wonder if there is any purpose in Washington D.C., aka the Swamp? As I watched the Congressional testimony of the “smirking Peter Strzok” and the so-called best and brightest of Washington (Congress), I envisioned a circus and emptiness of any worthwhile purpose. And the pitiable revelation is that these people consider what they say and do as meaningful. Is it any wonder why so many of them are brought down in disgrace and others leave government in disgust?
But Trump just goes on and on. I don’t know how he does it. He is five years my senior and has far more energy than I do. He seems to have found his purpose: to break up the status quo in Washington and politics, to shine a light on feckless Europe and NATO, to call out the deplorable UN, to abolish trade alliances detrimental to the US and to ultimately correct the festering problem of illegal migration. Poor Wolf Blitzer, the NY Times and progressive anarchists everywhere. Trump has taken a wrecking ball to so many dysfunctional sacred cows, they just don’t know which issue demands their screams the most.
I splurged last week because sometimes it’s necessary to be away from the serious business of life. After driving the same truck for fifteen years I bought a new one and she’s a beaut. And in a show of “reaching across the aisle,” I bought a blue truck! Have you ever noticed how many drab colors of vehicles are on the road? It seems that everything is black or white or gray. I needed some color to buoy my purpose. Blue is also my grandson Oakley’s favorite color, so granddad scored a few points with him as well. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to drive a new truck. Perhaps it’s rationalization, but I don’t feel guilty about my purchase. There are many instances in the Bible where Jesus addressed money. In my reading of scripture and sifting the teachings for truth, I believe the Master was against the idolatry of money rather than money itself, which is but an instrument of exchange.
Too often people’s purpose is the pursuit of money or power or prestige instead of the more worthy and enduring focus on relationships with your neighbor and God. In the synoptic Gospels, a learned man asked Jesus about man’s purpose and salvation. The saying goes, be careful what you ask for. No one bests Jesus in a debate. His response to the smart aleck was to quote wisdom scripture from Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Succinctly, you are to “love God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Because one’s neighbor was narrowly defined by the “smarter than everyone else” crowd, Jesus then followed with the story of the Good Samaritan, which some have ascribed to the illegal migration issue. I once had a medical partner who came from a different culture. In an offhand remark, I mentioned the Good Samaritan. This educated and naturalized American had never heard of this parable. Purpose derives from foundational precepts.
I’ve previously written about the illegal migration along our southern border. I don’t have all the answers, though the metaphor of a lifeboat filled to capacity and surrounded by hundreds of others swimming in shark infested waters remains apropos as we struggle with the immigration issue and what is right.
All I can do is stay anchored and prayerfully seek the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit which I believe resides within our non-anatomical soul (our essence). This Spirit directs our conscience, sometimes with “groans too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). If we stop yelling at each other we might be able to hear the “still small voice” (I Kings 19:12) of reason and love, and do the right thing.