Friday, August 17, 2012

On Purpose, With Purpose

"Here, Mom, you can hang this on the wall at your office.  I made it on purpose," Nick says as he hands my wife this:

Or maybe it goes like this:

You may remember from the post "It goes the other way, Daddy" that I have faced this dilemma before so, this time, I just don't ask.

The question that comes up in my head this time, however, is:  "To what purpose?"  I remain silent, having learned my lesson  from many previous nonversations and comic misunderstandings.

That all got me thinking about the word purpose.  The boys have been out of town for a couple days with their Papa and Nana.  It's nice to have a break but I kept finding myself in the kitchen wondering what to cook; staring out the back window considering what to do with the treehouse; or mowing the lawn and thinking about just how many feet Z hit that ball or when we could ride our bikes together and where to.

It seems these boys give me a sense of purpose.  Not to say I didn't have a purpose when I was younger, but that purpose was self-serving; you know, partying, carryin'-on, chasing skirts, drinking, lots.  But these days seem more purposeful.  Perhaps it's the 'altruism factor,' when things go well because you are doing the right thing.  The altruism factor.  (I made that up.)

On purpose...

Now see, what's this word's problem.  What does it mean?  It's a seriously contextual, subjective and, frankly, full of itself little shit of a word.

If you do something 'on purpose' that's good, right.  As in, say:  'I chose this one on purpose because I knew you liked the lime ones' (don't ask).

But, when used in a shouting match conversation such as this:

"Why are you crying?"
"He hit me!  And, he did it on purpose."
"Dad, I did not do it on purpose.  I swear."

Now it becomes something undesired, something to swear against.  It seems intention is the defining factor here.  What was the purpose, or intent?  (I'm serious, this word wears me down.)

But having a purpose is a good thing, as I meant in the above about finding purpose in raising the boys. 

Finally, there is something I like to encourage myself into, and that's doing things with purpose.  I don't mean here to do things to an end, to finish, if you will; I mean to do something with your mind engaged with full concentration and involvement.

Things done with purpose are satisfying and hopeful.  It doesn't matter if it's watching a baseball game, concentrating on the nuance of the game.  Or talking to a boy about how very sad war can be.  Or splitting wood in a trance.  Or catching a ball in a perfect rhythm.  Done with purpose anything and everything becomes more meaningful, more profound, more Sacred.

So the word purpose (or words with the root purpose) can be used as nearly every part of speech. 

You can purpose an ice-chest in any way you choose including using it as a stage to sing "Arghh, argh, argh, argh, this is the ballad of Badbeard."

You can repurpose that Budweiser twelve-pack box and make a very good conductor's hat.

Apparently, you can prepurpose as well.  We knew the refrigerator box was prepurporsed to be "a troll house where armies of knights and flocks of dragons live."

You can do things on purpose good or bad, I guess.  "I didn't kick N in the head on purpose, I meant to kick him in the butt."

You can read to your children and sing with them and laugh with them purposefully which, I suppose could put you in a state of purposefulness.

Purposefulability is not a word.

There, I think I have obfuscated purpose into submission so I will never have to consider it again.

You know what purposefulness is a helluva good word, it's like a mash-up word: anything done with purpose  becomes full.  (Dammit, still thinking about it.)

(For more word nonsense check out The Post-Hundreth Post Post.)


  1. I agree, but not on purpose. It just happened to be so.

    And yes, you chased a lot of skirts. As did we all. You caught more than the rest of us.

  2. As my English-is-my-second-language husband always points out... "English is such a frigging hard language to understand."