about finding a purpose in life: part 2.

The past few weeks I’ve been reading a book called “Armies of the Night”; an autobiographical account by Norman Mailer of the Anti-Vietnam-War demonstration held at the Pentagon in 1967. I read the following passage right after getting back on the train in Chengdu (after an amazing week of doing nothing useful at all), and I was struck by a strong feeling of recognition:

Armies of the Night, Norman Mailer (if only we were alive in the'60s)

“He was almost glad he had not yet been released, for he would have missed this trip, and so not have been reminded that a night journey on a bus [train] was one of the few times when everything ambitious, wild, overconceived, hopeless, garish, and suffocatingly technical in American [European] life nontheless came together long enough to give the citizens a little peace, for may be it was only when they were on the move that Americans [Europeans] could feel anchored in their memories (p.186).”


It reminded me of a conversation I’d had with a friend a few months ago about what I eventually want to do in life – or better with my life. My friend envisioned me as a professional nomad, which I back then instantly denied, but perhaps I should give him some credit after all.

As a matter of fact, the goal/purpose-in-life-question has been popped several times on this trip, and I generally answer it with a mysterious smile and some nervous giggling. Because I don’t have a clue. But you probably knew that. Thankfully, the question often comes together with a set of helpful suggestions and ideas. Among others:
– professional do-nothinger: find a way to be (financially) sustained in life, so time can be devoted to gardening, baking, cooking, learning languages, martial arts, drawing, carpentering and all of the good stuff. I like this idea.
– professional dictator: democratic accountability? Screw that!
– professional feeder: of people, animals, plants and other beings alike. Omnomnom.
– professional spooner: share motherly love with those in need in a professional cuddle, acting as a professional outside spoon…(this idea stirred up a certain amount of enthusiasm, no kidding!)

See, there is hope for my professional career.

(and even if there’s not, I can still pretend there is, so shut the fuck up)


5 responses to “about finding a purpose in life: part 2.

  1. Lien,
    Your quote was so timely. In late December, the four of us are going to Panama and we are going to meet up with the Canadian woman I met and became fast friends with while I was travelling in Africa in the mid 1970’s (36 years ago to be exact – this means you and and Keally can look forward to some adventures together in 2045!) She and her husband will be arriving from Ecuador and the Galapagos, and we will fly in from the States, but plan to meet at the bus station at 11 pm and embark on an overnight bus journey to the highlands of Panama and then on to a lodge in the rain forest. We will either be so tired, we’ll all sleep, or, we’ll stay up all night talking.

    By the way, I have never regretted travelling in my mid-twenties, then taking a long time in grad school, then travelling some more. Your generation, at least in the States, will need to work until your mid-60s and early 70’s, and I can say with certainly, that you wont’ be up for quite as many adventures at that point in your life – so have them now. Better to spend 25 years doing something you love and giving back to society than 40 just earning a living.
    A BIG HUG,

    • Fran, that is such a cool story! I want to know how it goes (I personally think you’ll be up all night talking). Except when you have a train guard like we did on the 2nd part of the Trans-Sib. We called him ‘dad’. He made us go to bed at night (there was also ‘mum’, but she was a bit bitchy to be honest).
      One thing though, I seriously hope I will manage to see Keally before 2045…

  2. professional big spoon!

  3. Love the quote. And love what you’re planning to do for a living, haha. (remembering the spooning story you told Tom on the train, I vote for the last option!)
    And, stalking your comments… yeah, I don’t really miss being bossed around by ‘dad’ and ‘mum’, but on the trains we’ve been on after that, they cruelly turn of all the lights, and when in a vagon with 63 sleeping chinese, we haven’t really had a chance to test if our chinese train ‘mums’ and ‘dads’ are as strickt as our russian ones were…. oh, except on the one train where we tried to sleep, but our fellow chinese passangers wouldn’t let us, since they wanted to play cards and speak chinese with us throughout the night… hope your train rides in this ridic big country have been as fun šŸ˜‰

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