I recently watched the movie, Lady Bird, and perhaps one of the most memorable moments for me was when the Sister of Lady Bird’s school commends her love of Sacramento, her hometown. Lady Bird says something about her merely describing her hometown and how she’s just paying attention. The Sister replies with what I believe to be the summary of the entire movie: “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and Attention?”
It was beautifully said, and I think the movie sets that line so perfectly: that love is attention. I thought a lot about that and wondered what else love may be.
Before I tell you what my thoughts are, I wanted to set the tone for my thesis as well.
One night, my mom came from our province and visited my office. I was a fresh grad then and but I wanted to bless my mom, so despite my finances being tight, I volunteered to treat my mom for dinner. Afterwards, I remember thinking, “Okay, so what good did that do exactly?” And I hear myself responding at once, “Ummm, what do you mean? The point is your mom. The whole goal is to spend time with your mom. The end is your mom.”
Another instance was when I was working in our Sales Team, and my boss – who is busy with his own deliverables, took the time to help me with an email to a client that I was writing. My boss has always been willing to be inconvenienced by and for me and my teammates. And I found myself asking again, “Why is he helping us? What good did that do exactly?” And the answer was that he just believed in our potential. He was concerned of our well-being and our welfare, and wanted to nurture us as talents. Sure, the revenue is the goal, but ultimately, I knew that his team is his end goal.
Contrast that to other bosses I had worked with, where it was obviously not about our career growth that they were looking after – we were just means to an end, the end being revenue. I couldn’t blame them since they are really just doing their jobs. They have nothing to be apologetic about at all.
And yet, it felt different for me as an employee to be treated not just as means, but an end in itself. It felt good.
Thinking about that last bit further, I realized that I’m beginning to have a clearer understanding of what love means. And I knew that to live purposefully begins with treating others as ends in themselves; To live purposefully means to look at all the things around us, and see with different eyes how it is truly the people that matter and it is truly the people who should be the ends.
Something kind of clicked somewhere in my brain. Since then, everything became a game of determining what the ending really is: Why is my sister kind to me? Why does my boss help me? Why do some people let themselves be inconvenienced by me? And also, Why isn’t this person helping me? Why couldn’t this executive make time for me for 5 short minutes? Why can’t this person just email me back?
The answer mostly is whether or not the other person is the end goal.
My dream is to evolve into a person whose goal is always and ultimately, the person. Living with purpose is living with love and treating others not as means, but as ends in themselves.