As an art maker, there’s a definition of life’s purpose that has troubled me for quite a while. It is often quoted as, "Your life's purpose is the place where your deepest gladness meets the world's greatest need." I have always counted the greatest needs of the world as being poverty, especially of women and children, inequity in education, the crying need for decent health care worldwide, and increasingly, the need to stop the desecration of this island home we call Earth. How can deep gladness matter when there’s so much incomparably great need?
It’s been a catch-22, and in the end, an impossible problem. Instead, I have begun thinking of art as a way to be with the need, to give way to it, to cry out, to be heard, to give voice through the mystery and enigma of color, the relationships of everything to each other thing both on and off the page. In the midst of and within so much need, art inquires and demands of the world and of self the meaning that comes in making.
There is a different wording of Buechner's quote that works better for me: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet," Being called brings to mind a subtle shift in an understanding of purpose; being called and responding to that call becomes the purpose itself. The quote becomes less didactic and more poetic, more open to possibility, more available to life as it is lived rather than a structure in which to exist. It opens up the possibility of the meaning and purpose of making art.