As I’m thinking about how scenes add up to a theme or a life purpose, I am reminded of a book called Drawing on the Back of a Napkin. In that book, the author talks about how each question word, how, why, when, etc, evokes on a different visual image in your mind.

Where? An image of a place. Where should I travel to? Urban camping on a street in Chicago appears. In the desert at burning man appears. The Milkyway appears. (Yes, please.)

When? An image in time. When did I get rejected by a girl? An image of me, 16, crying after a phone call appears. An image of me, 24, losing “the girl everyone wanted” appears. And so on.

And so on…

  • How many?
  • What?
  • Who?

I found the difference between How and Why to be super interesting and relevant to these posts on life’s purpose.

What images do you see when you ask a How question? How do you light a candle with a box of matches?

You see cause and effect. A burning match igniting a candle. Or the swipe of a match igniting. While dragging the match across the box’s TK, maybe you feel the resistance in your hand. And, again, you see the match igniting the candlewick.

Why did the candle ignite? Well, you just cooked fish and the smells were lingering. You didn’t want to smell that. How do we see that purpose? Through a series of cause and effects. The fish steaming up the room. You unhappy, you lite a match, which lights a candle, and the smell goes away. Our purpose was achieved through a series of cause and effects, each with its own How question. By collecting enough Hows, we arrive at the Why.

Another example: We hear a dog bark. If that’s all the information we have, we don’t know why. We look at him and he’s looking up into a tree. Still, we don’t know why. We look up in the tree and there’s a cat. Now, we understand his purpose.

* * *

Scenes in a story, or moments in our lives, are a series of Hows. Each bump into the next. We can’t understand the purpose until we have collected enough of these.