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"The movement for aesthetic fulfillment."
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There is No Purpose...or is There?

"Grasping for Truth", Preeti Pathak, 2021, digital collage

When I first started this blog my goals were simple and mostly personal. I was in a place in history where technology continued to advance and create spaces for more people to share thoughts and I wanted to dip my toe in this experience. I wanted to deepen my writing practice and a blog was a natural place to go. I had something to say and needed a place to release it, even if no one was reading; like a quasi-journal except it was accessible to all. I was trying, like most, to find a purpose in this light & dark, twisted & taut, disordered & ordered universe. I jumped around from the topics that interest me - sociology, human rights, feminisms/womanisms, art, design, fashion, weed, cats, and on and on. There was no order or reason for what I wrote aside from my mind firing off synapses that created thoughts that led to paragraphs. Personal struggles made it hard for me to consistently write. So I would come and go to this blog space. Now I find myself returning, wondering how long I will stay this time.

Starting a blog led me to create a name for my "brand" and a tagline. That was how "Preeti's Purpose" and "The movement for aesthetic fulfillment." were born. At that time I deeply believed in the idea of purpose, if not only to fight the heavy thoughts of depression, PTSD, and suicidal ideation. From childhood I tried to find purpose to make sense of the unlucky realities I was living. Religion, also called spirituality, guided me to imagine an interconnected world in which I needed to be "useful." As a Hindu we are told we all have dharma that life reveals to us. And I was hellbent on figuring out mine. Fast-forward a decade and I built a purpose as a educator, artist, and community organizer focusing on consent, equity, and sexual & gender violence prevention. This purpose fueled me, until it didn't. And before I knew it my purpose began to deplete me. That's the tricky thing about life. The more knowledge we gain the more we see the contradictions in the beliefs we hold and the choices we make. We are constantly learning and figuring out how to live in this world until our last breath, our last heart beat, our inevitable brain death. The more we know becomes the less we know, until the brain can begin to collapse in the heaviness of this universal truth.

"The Answer Lies Within", Preeti Pathak, 2021, digital collage

In recent years and months I find myself in a strange place of accepting there is no purpose while realizing it is fundamentally human to need something to believe in. This contradiction hurts my brain and at times my heart. It's not easily shared because it is read by some as an outcome of a mentally ill mind. It is read as "hopelessness" gone too far. It pushes against the fragile beliefs in others' minds and makes them uncomfortable, and it makes me feel the same. To say there is no purpose can feel like an assault to a person's reality: a murdering of hope. It brings into question their own purpose and the meaning of life. Nobody likes thoughts that challenge the carefully constructed reality they have spent a lifetime building, especially me. Nobel Laureate Albert Camus noted, "we live to reason with an unreasonable world and it often leads to a conflicted life painstakingly created and even fought for." So usually I try to hide these thoughts. Not just to avoid debate and conflict, but because these thoughts are still just a perception I am creating and not fully formed...beliefs constructed by and for me. The truth is no one can definitively say 100%, without a doubt, if there is or isn't a purpose. So it's not my place to project my beliefs onto anyone else. All I can do is examine where my thoughts lead me and follow the journey as I walk this earth.

I spend my time researching and reading other people's thoughts on this same realization. It's comforting to feel less alone and see how these trains of thoughts intersect. Several months ago I found myself once again in a major depressive episode, a place I have been revisiting since childhood. Yet this episode was uniquely different because it also challenged the "purpose" I carved out over the last decade+; one that was birthed out of a previous episode that almost took me from this body and earth. Without the purpose I constructed I have felt wholly lost and confused. But I can't unknow what I know and so I can't rely on the past purpose to feel whole again. I'm learning to sit in this discomfort as the episode slowly lifts and I return to a more manageable state of mental illness; one where I can review my thoughts from a clearer mindset. Nothing and everything brings on these episodes. Though this time the additional weight of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated my doubts about the purpose I created around care work as a survivor of violence. This pandemic broke the routine of living to the point I was forced to take a cold, hard look at what I called life and the state of social movements. I felt much like a hamster falling off the wheel.

Despite the upheaval of my constructed reality, there is a comfort in the unknowing and the challenging of long held beliefs. It's a reminder of how reality is only perception and perception is ever-shifting. I still believe it's all connected, but not in the idealistic, fantastical way I used to. I see that the connection is like that of all particles: objective and without any imbued meaning, purpose, or story...until one is imposed by the observer. Chemistry textbooks show us a perception of protons and neutrons clumped together with electrons floating around. Yet quantum mechanics reveals this is an untrue approximation to help us feel rooted in reality and feel there is a stable truth, a story containing a concrete known. What we see and feel as mass contains vast disconnection; everything is just loosely floating and predominantly made up of space. Connected, but not in the tidy way we hope. There is no magic that brings us through time, space, place. It's all just entropy moving from order to disorder and just choices and beliefs in between. Just more space. It is in this space I find my thoughts forming new connections. Maybe it will lead to nothing and knowing even less, or a crack in mental sanity, yet I will still try to understand. For I see that's all we can do with these large pre-frontal cortexes. We can't simply focus on reproduction, food, and shelter like all other animals and living entities. These large brains make that impossible. And so we continue to ponder on purpose, because what else is there to do?

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