There comes a time in our lives where we start to ask what our purpose is. Perhaps it could be during certain transitions in our lives, when we’re deciding what subjects to take, or when we move from school to the working world. During a recent retreat organised by the Catholic Students’ Society in the National University of Singapore, I gained further insight into this seemingly perennial question…

“I was thinking,” he said, “maybe instead of seeing it as we being washing machines already formed, maybe we’re like a washing machine in construction.”

Imagine a washing machine looking at itself in the middle of nowhere. Would it know what it was for? It feels its little tummy and notices that it can spin! And ooh, there’re little holes in the tummy. But what for? And the buttons for adjusting the temperature! Was it a, umm, heater?

There’re many purposes the machine could perform. It could take little ants’ children in its little tummy holes and spin them round and round (slowly lar). It could rock various creatures to sleep. It could be a fish tank. All possibly good purposes, but none which, if the washing machine engaged in, would help it reach it’s full potential.

How then would the washing machine know what it was for? Having a brain could help. Trial and error, though tedious, could prove eventually useful. But still the easiest, most direct way would be to ask its inventor.

Very much like washing machines, but infinitely more intricate and wonderfully made, human CREATURES should, when they want to know their purpose, ask their CREATOR. What this requires is a connection with the creator. Simply said, in order to fulfill our being, we need to be in touch with God.

We could also be a machine in construction. Maybe when we look at ourselves, we’ll notice the parts (in the physical/moral/spiritual/emotional spheres) and wonder what they’re for. As our creator constructs us, perhaps there’re certain changes we don’t like, certain processes which hurt us. At that point of construction, we do not know what exactly our creator is doing, and may feel both hurt and confused. What a state to be in. But when the creator is finally done, we notice the different parts fitting into a whole. We come to understand why certain processes were needed in the construction process. We look at our new self, understand our purpose, perhaps see how we fit into a whole system of things (like how the washing machine works together with the other household appliances to make housework much lighter). I’m sure that at that after that moment of realisation, we will be filled with joy. But now, but now it’s construction.

One insight a friend gleaned from this analogy I also identify with, and will keep with me.  If you are a washing machine, and know you are a washing machine, you can’t help washing clothes. In cheem-er words, if you BE a washing machine, you can’t help DOing the washing of clothes.

When we realise our ‘being’, ‘doing’ comes naturally. The task at hand, then, is to find how what is the BEING that we are, and BE that. Tough one! And so we continually look to our creator for guidance.

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