It is inevitable, just like dying. There are going to be times in our lives when we feel that we lack purpose. The heroes and protagonists of stories are typically portrayed at either the apex, beginning, or journey surrounding their purpose. It is rare that we see them when they are progressing nicely, after the worst has passed. When they are stable. It makes for a boring tale, doesn't it?
I’d like to introduce you to a musician: Mandy Harvey, who suddenly lost all of her hearing. She is now completely deaf, but before she was a musician who relied on music the same way other artists rely on other mediums to get them through life.
She literally cannot hear the music she plays, how her pitch sounds. She feels the emotion. She feels the expression, as she always has. Only now it is all that is left. There is no substantiation of sound, just the bare touch of inspiration and expression swirling deep in her. Yet, she continues to create. She continues to sound beautiful as she imagines the sound she plays.
She is a real character, a person of flesh and blood of immense passion.
Now I will introduce you to a fictional character: Arima Kousei, a pianist in the animated series Your Lie in April, who feels cursed by his mother’s death. Every time he goes on stage to perform a piece, halfway through, he loses his ability to hear the notes he plays. His hearing for everything else remains, but the music is deafened out.
The piano is bittersweet for him because his mother is the one who forced him with beatings and lectures to become the high caliber pianist he is, but subsequently, the trauma of being damaged physically and emotionally has left him scarred, doomed to fall to the piano as his only remedy for the pain that it helped create.
Life is lack that. We are characters stepping onto our stage. A stage of expectations, desires, disappointments, highs and lows, tremendous joy, trepidation, anxiety, love, lovelessness, contradictions and irony, and countless other instances that you do not need me to imagine—you’ve felt them all and more, haven’t you?
Sometimes it feels like we can’t hear our purpose. Our performance becomes numb and deaf to us. We lose the ability to hear what is important to us, to feel the inspiration it instilled in us before.
Were I to rank the fickleness of four significant factors of anybody’s existence, it would be like this:
4. Lacking Purpose
- Inspiration is ephemeral as the wind. Comes and goes.
- The passion we fill that drives us to create with the inspiration we find is more steadfast, but it too can fizzle out like a flame at times.
- Purpose is dramatically different. It is often the foundation which drives us to find different mediums and paths of inspiration to express ourselves. To connect. To praise and share a deity or belief of some kind. To express or share love. To gain fame, wealth, etc. Virtuous or not, purpose is the underlying force which pushes so much.
- Purposelessness. Sinking. It is deeply unnerving to lack purpose, because so much else is built off of it.
Kousei says, “If you can’t hear the sound, then imagine it,” as he pounds away furiously at the keys, searching for his sound amidst the feeling of drowning.
We, too, must do that at times. When purpose falls and we lack inspiration, the will to love, to create, to progress, you cannot always sink. It is healthy, every now and then, to give yourself a break. But there comes a time when you must simply ‘imagine it’. You must become the sound. You must not hear it, but feel it, imagine your purpose. Because, truly, it is all imagined. The fortitude to persist, to feel a purpose and to find more as you go on living. That is a figment like any other, but like any other, just as important.
You have work hard to find your own sound when it doesn’t come naturally. When I feel as if I am sinking or losing grip on my purpose, I often do something seemingly mad to imagine the inspiration until it returns.
Today I woke up at three am to draw and write. To show myself I can do what is necessary to fulfill my ambitions. Even though I often feel as if I am sinking, even when I am at the bottom of the sea, I find the strength to imagine my sound.
Purpose is a constant struggle. Letting yourself sink is not always giving yourself a break. Sometimes it is just sinking for sinking’s sake.
When you wake up some mornings and you feel as if you cannot see the beauty in life, the joy of it, the gift of living. If you feel unloved, if you feel lonely. If you feel depressed …
So what, you cannot hear the sound right now?