Dennis Deery

Looking for Purpose at CONGregation

November 1, 2022
cong22 purpose congregation

Lyrics from Simple Man
by Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington

Mama told me when I was young
Come sit beside me my only son
And listen closely to what I say
And if you do this it'll help you
Some sunny day oh yeah

I started wrting this post on the first anniversary of my mother’s passing. Events like this, when our life changes so deeply, are always good occasions for a little introspection. And what better time to look at “purpose” than this, a time when my mother (and my father, thankfully still with us), are so much on my mind, for no two people have had more impact on my approach to life than my parents.

Oh take your time don't live too fast
Troubles will come and they will pass
Go find a woman yeah and you'll find love
And don't forget son there is someone up above

My parents were never the type, unlike the Mama in the intertwined song here, to sit me down and talk to me about values or purpose. They were far more the type to live and demonstrate their example every day. I grew up in a very small town. My dad owned his own business, where I was allowed to tag along regularly, and my mom worked at the school I went to. I had plenty of opportunities to observe them in all aspects of their life, and they made clear through their actions how they expected me to behave as well.

And be a simple kind of man
Oh be something you love and understand
Baby be a simple kind of man
Oh won't you do this for me son if you can

Both of my parents lived a life of service, to their family and to the community of which they were so much a part. My mom was a Cub Scout den-mother, my dad a Boy Scout troop leader. They were both involved in church committees. They grew one of the biggest gardens in town, and always had produce to give away to those who needed it. Dad served on the local volunteer fire department and ambulance service, and they both volunteered at myriad community events. The message was clear. And in return, the community served our family. We kids knew that we were part of this community, and being a typical small town, we knew most everyone and most everyone knew us. When the inevitable challenges of life came calling, there were lots of people around to support us.

Forget your lust for the rich man's gold
All that you need is in your soul
And you can do this oh babe if you try
All that I want for you my son is to be satisfied

Like my father, I started my own business at a fairly young age, in my case a tech consulting company. I was fortunate to find some success. As is the style of our industry, I occasionally got into projects that were all-consuming. They were so important at the time, though now, so many years later I barely remember some of them. But they became, for a time, my purpose, what I was living for, and they consumed everything I had to give. The idea of service to others, belonging to a community, having a positive impact on the world, all were subsumed to the needs of the project. Sometimes it was a simple trade, for I needed an income and that was what it took to keep the money flowing. More often it was perhaps a sub-conscious choice, fed by the thrill of solving a problem, creating a system that no one else could. The world of tech can be comfortably black-and-white at times, certainly at the level of writing software. Almost always, the project would end, a sigh of relief would be issued, the impending burn-out would fade, and the self promise of “next time will be different” would be issued.

And be a simple kind of man
Oh be something you love and understand
Baby be a simple kind of man
Oh won't you do this for me son if you can
Oh yes I will

Eventually though, with enough hindsight and mistakes to look back upon, and a little bit of luck, and more than a little introspection, my true purpose returned. Oddly enough, it was there all along, though I was only honoring parts of it, at times corrupting those pieces in support of false goals. No doubt that is a process we all go through, trading youth for (hopefully) some wisdom. I think some of the systems we’ve created in this world, how we work, what we as a society value, lead people away from their true purpose. It would behoove us to work on those systems and align them with the true purpose of humanity. It would save so mamy people the trouble of following their own purpose when they have to buck the system to do it.

Oh don't you worry you'll find yourself
Follow your heart and nothing else
And you can do this oh babe if you try
All that I want for you my son is to be satisfied

For myself, I think it’s true that our real purpose is simple - to be kind, to be of service, to be a member of a community, and to have a positive impact on the people you encounter along the way. We layer on larger purposes - some want to build companies, some want to be active in faith or nonprofit communities, some want to achieve fame, or fortune, or athletic accomplishments. As long as we’re driven by the simple foundation of kindness, empathy and community we can seek that larger purpose comfortable in the knowledge that the world will be a better place for our having contributed. As with so many things in life, get the fundamentals right and the bigger pieces will fall into place. I like to think that I’ve exhibited a purpose to my life that would make my folks proud. Scratch that - I know I did, because with a little age, they did take the time to tell me. Do the same for the people you love.

And be a simple kind of man
Oh be something you love and understand...

Society 3.0 Needs Better Systems

November 15, 2020
cong20 society30 congregation

2020 is likely to be remembered as the year that the last vestiges of remaining facade fell off the front of Society 2.0. Continuing economic challenges for the vanishing (vanished?) middle-class led to surging populist movements around the globe. Incidents of extreme weather continued to increase, leaving many communities fighting for their very existence. Brexit found the people of the United Kingdom wishing to pull back from the world, while finding that not as simple as possible.
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