Archive for May 26th, 2013

Striving Towards a Goal?


“Life is teleology par excellence; it is the intrinsic striving towards a goal, and the living organism is a system of directed aims which seek to fulfill themselves.”

C.G. Jung (CW 8, par. 798)

While walking along a path in the Point Reyes National Seashore Park I came upon the above small tree growing out of a bare rock outcrop. I marveled at the tenacity of this life form arising directly from such a rugged environment. The experience of seeing this tree striving to be in the world reminded me of Jung’s musing on teleology. Telos is the Greek word for final cause or goal. Whether life has a final goal or not has been debated since the time of the early Greek philosophers. By the end of the Middle Ages the rise of secular thought proclaimed that we could never know, nor certainly prove, if nature contained a final purpose or goal. Since then teleology has had its philosophic proponents, but the idea that life contains some final purpose or goal finds little favor in today’s world. Presently, the dominant perspective states that we live in a world of random mutating matter lacking any inherent purpose or goal except the perpetuation of our genetic code.

What does such a ‘philosophy of life’ do to us psychologically or socially? On one hand it forces us to find and define our separate goal or purpose in life. On the other hand, it leaves us standing alone in the midst of a dead purposeless universe. Personally, I feel there is more to life than blindly passing on genetic code. A perspective like this leads to a disembodied and detached view of our being-in-the-world. More than ever we need to be experiencing our interconnections and greater purpose in life. Perhaps our teleology is to become conscious of the integrity of our selves and a commitment to caring for others in the world. Can we take a lesson from that solitary tree emerging from bare rock? No matter where we are, no matter how seemingly hostile our environment can we strive to manifest the value of life in this world?

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