I've had several juicy conversations this past week about a concept with many labels: dharma, life path, mission, and purpose to name a few. As with my progression of concerns theory, I am beginning to suspect that the idea of having a mission in life may also be left by the wayside at a certain point.
Here's the metaphor I've been using to explain how this feels to me these days. Odds are I'm lifting this from one of the hundreds of books I've read over the past thirty years, so if you can identify the source, please let me know so I can give appropriate credit where it is due.
You know how they give that little safety demo on the airplane -- life vests, oxygen masks, etc.? They usually mention that tiny lights on the floor will illuminate the path to the exits. If the cabin were to be filled with smoke, those tiny lights might be the only navigational aids available. And if it's REALLY smoky, you might see only the light that is a few inches in front of you. But when you reach that one, another would come into view. And simply by moving ahead to the next light over and over again, you'd eventually arrive at an exit.
Sometimes -- heck, maybe even all the time, I don't know -- we can only see one step ahead. One of our options lights up for us, and we may not understand why or where we will go from there. I almost always know exactly what to do if I focus only on my next step: return this call, register for that class, listen to this song, scramble these eggs, write these words. Confusion only sets in when I look too far ahead, or try to figure out why I need to do this next thing, or wonder which direction the step after that will take me.
Trying to look too far ahead can trigger anything from mild angst to paralysis. But just taking one little step, well, that's usually pretty easy. So when I feel confused or unclear about my next move, I figure I might be trying to take too big of a leap. So I look closer to where I am right now for the next light. And I always find it.
I have no idea where I'm going in life. I suppose, being a mortal, that I'm heading for an exit. What happens before I get there remains to be seen.