On my way home not long ago, I saw a man standing outside a donut shop, with a boombox on a newspaper vending machine. He had a sock on his hand and was making the sock puppet's shadow dance against the wall. I watched this little dance happen, as I waited for the traffic light to change, and I realized I was not looking at the guy or the sock puppet. I was looking at the sock puppet's shadow dancing. I was looking at the shadow of the thing, not the thing.
Earlier that day, I had been visiting an ailing friend. We'd been fast friends for many years, until time and money and jobs and people melted the sharp details of our friendship. It became easier to let longer periods of time go by without hanging out together, and soon we were not creating any new memories. When we did see each other, we could still make each other laugh, we could still encourage each other in that comfortably pushy way that good friends have. We would relive our history and catch up quickly on the basics of whatever was new in our separate lives. But there was nothing new happening in our relationship. We were looking at the shadow of our friendship.
That friend recently passed away, so we can no longer meet for a soy latte, chat about old times, and catch up. Now I only see her in my own moments that remind me of her. When I'm singing, because we met on a musical gig; when I'm shopping; when I remember her words of encouragement and advice. I'm living with the shadow of her presence in my life.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not down on shadows. Shadows are beautiful. They kind of prove the existence of the substance. The shadows give you part of the story - they describe the thing, its shape, its relation to the light, and the light itself. Of course, you can't interact with a shadow in the same way you do with the thing casting the shadow. And maybe that's something to think about. Daydream about the good stuff you want in your life and the world, and then act upon that. What's behind your dreams and wishes? Look for the light source, and create the substance that casts that shadow.
Purpose /pur-puh s/ noun 1. the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc. 2. an intended or desired result; aim; goal. 3. determination; resoluteness. 4. the subject in hand; the point at issue. 5. practical result, affect, or advantage. (Thank you, Dictionary.com!)
For further research in your own lab: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intention