Finding Purpose Comes From a Surprising, Non-Traditional Place
The Gospel of Doubt, a powerful TED talk by Casey Gerald, makes the case that we are all seeking something to believe in to guide our chaotic lives.
Every time Casey found a new dogma or group of thought to give his mental all to, it would flake out like one of those dudes on the Maury show who would stumble backstage after hearing the host shout “you ARE the father!”
Seeking guidance for the unknown future is an imperative part of being human. We are scared as shit of what our purpose is in life, and we haven’t been able to find the definitive answers since the dawn of humankind.
Gospel - universal truths with which to live, love, and exist -- help us filter our thoughts, center our days, and direct our actions, and with more individuals seeking guidance outside of traditional religion than ever before, our relationship with Gospels are evolving.
My first experience with gospel
My first brush with Gospel started in the wood hard pews of New Zion Baptist Church in Ogden, Utah, my first and last church home. New Zion was a respite of cultural blackness for me in a torrent of the racial, religious, and political homogeneity that defined my childhood and adolescence in Utah.
I communed with like-minded people who not only looked like me, but deeply understood the exhaustion being an “other” (a.k.a. black, baptist, and liberal) can bring to your life in spaces that don’t usually recognize or support those identities.
I embraced my church’s dogma light heartedly, like one of those throw over wool blankets you can find in any grandmother's basements because she knows everyone else is shivering with cold in the house since she runs hot and keeps the air on in the winter.
As I got older, my Gospel evolved to include the Gospel of Academics. I went after them A+s like they owed me money, and getting those things meant that I was of value and service, even if that A+ was just a regurgitation of information.
Another Gospel many young ladies adopt is the pursuit of love -- seeking affirmation and meaning from another human being. Love is a wonderful part of the human experience, but most girls in U.S. society (and I would argue in societies globally) are socialized to downplay the pursuit of a life of curiosity, and subconsciously encouraged to pursue a life with the main goal of attracting a mate.
There are girls who chose lifestyles and hobbies, not because they are passionate about them, but because it can make them more appealing to a potential partner. There are girls who do not feel good about themselves unless they are in a relationship.
I was taught the value of expanding my mind and education over the idea of seeking affirmation through love, but at times even I fell prey to certain love traps that turned the wonders the Gospel of Love can bring into gated hells.
Once I finished college, my Gospel evolved again. My worth was now being defined by how far I could hoist myself up an organization’s career ladder while weighted down with political games, nepotism, and low pay, which left an aftertaste in my mouth that I couldn’t wash out.
It didn’t make sense to define my life by the subjective opinions of the elite few at the top of whatever organization I was slaving away at, because management was typically 1) crazy 2) extra crazy 3) selected favorites based on which employees drank the biggest pimp chalices of rhetorical Kool-aid from the management’s coffers or licked their asses the deepest (figuratively of course). And I already had a sour taste in my mouth from the ladder climbing so ass licking wasn’t an option.
As I claimed a bit more life experience under my belt, I realized the bedrocks of religion, academics, and even career achievement I was given as guides throughout my life weren’t really as sound as I was sold.
You mean to tell me that God maybe won’t fix it? He (why is God almost always a he?) maybe won’t do it? That achieving career success is a subjective idea that needs to be personally defined outside of corporate climbing to have soul meaning? That another person as a project (hello love) can only add and expand upon, but not totally fill your purpose in life? Tiny holes were ripped into my original Gospels and I would patch up my holy discomfort by Googling my way into another Gospel to follow.
Our generation's gospel
My current Gospel has become a hip hop remix of ideologies and teachings I picked up over the years that I play at the dancehall party I have in my head (imagine Rihanna’s "Work" on repeat with the chorus changed to, “Think think think think think think you make me wanna think think think think think think. And maybe that shit stinks stinks stinks stinks stinks stinks. Ok let’s get a drink drink drink drink drink drink.” Drake then goes mmmmhmmmmm).
My Gospel now follows an intangible guide that every single human being has access to. We see it best in children, because they aren’t riddled with the expectations of the world to stem it -- and that Gospel is creativity.
I was always creative as a child. I was singing songs, writing poems, creating personal radio shows, and making short stories since I ripped off my diaper at two years old. Every child is born with creative ability. Creativity boils down to the basic wonder of curiosity and problem solving. Sadly, creativity is soon stunted for most children because it’s deemed as frivolous, self indulgent, or just something only superbly talented children should continue pursuing.
Creativity is a gospel worth following because:
- It’s a way to look at and process the world
- a way to solve our personal and social problems.
- a process of conjuring wonder in the everyday (and wonder is a key component of joy and happiness).
- an outlet for self expression, or redirecting negative thought patterns that can anchor us in debilitating anxiety or sadness.
- a tool for personal and social change, usually by overcoming the status quo and creating something new.
The people we admire and worship, are creators. Whether they are creating ideas, or services, or products, history shows us time and again we admire those brave enough to playfully approach life with the outlook of ‘what if’? We cherish those who use their minds and actions not just to escape, or only to consume, but to cultivate the lives they want to live and the worlds they want to see, inviting us along to experience it with them.
Creativity is a Gospel that is flexible. It can be applied to every area or your life, including expanding and improving the foundation of the Gospels you may already follow or pray to (whether that Gospel is religious, or secular). It’s a guidepost, a training of the mind, a pushing of the heart to create things to fill your mind and space. Those creations need not even be original.
“Ok, Christina. What if I have no talents? I haven’t written anything since 5th grade. Even shower acoustics can’t mask the horrors of my singing voice. I have no rhythm and definitely can’t twerk which is all the rage still. I can’t cook. My athletic prowess stops at my running from one end of my apartment to the next to catch the next scene from Scandal after the commercial break...”
I get the point of the doubts you may be harboring.
Yes, some of us do have a natural ability for things, and those people go on to build incredible careers from cultivating their in-born talents. Creativity doesn’t mean you need to be the next Jay-Z or Picasso though, it simply means you give yourself the openness to be wildly curious about your world, and the space to put together whatever insights that come from that journey of cultivating and critical thinking.
Do these things solely for the purpose of directing your life and mind through the power of curiosity and creativity, even if those musings never see the light of day. Science backs me up here in the value of creative living, but also, isn’t a life full of wonder and play and making much more fun?
So my final thought for you would be, what have you created today?