Thomas Aquinas ... calls the reason that is the orienting point of all your other reasons your “final end.” Those who discover that they have such final ends, and learn to assess them, see their way to the exit from the fun house of arbitrary decisions in which the young so often find themselves trapped.
For the number of final ends is not infinite. Aquinas usefully suggests that the ultimate objects of human longing can be sorted into only eight enduring categories. If we want to understand where we’re headed, we should ask ourselves these questions: Am I interested in this opportunity because it leads to wealth? Or am I aiming at praise and admiration? Do I want enduring glory? Or power — to “make an impact”? Is my goal to maximize my pleasures? Do I seek health? Do I seek some “good of the soul,” such as knowledge or virtue? Or is my ultimate longing to come face-to-face with the divine?
Most students find, to their surprise, that they can locate their desires on this old map (emphasis added).
One of Buechner’s often cited observations is that you find your vocation at the spot where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need ... So much of the world covers over all that — constant media consumption, shallow communication, speed and productivity. Sometimes I think the national obsession with politics has become a way to evade ourselves. Buechner’s vocation was to show a way to experience the fullness of life. Of death, he wrote, “What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup” (emphasis added).