I wonder about the kinds of things we amuse ourselves with. I guess I mean, I wonder what we’re missing. Yes, this does tie into the whole “meaning of life” question, but I don’t mean to consider that here. The first question that jumps to mind is: are we actually missing something? I think so for a few reasons, but mostly because I don’t like–even more, don’t want–to think that ‘this’ is all there is to life. It’s funny in a way because in the political science course (Nature of Politics) I’m taking, we started off reading Socrates (through Plato), who among many other things was known for saying that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” The thought is interesting because all of these different and somewhat random facets of my life have managed to pull each other along in some kind of way–much as I feel like they have my entire life.
So, the unexamined life. The overriding thought in my head now is the funny way in which our beliefs shape the ways in which we view the world. Specifically, I think my view on stagnation ties most strongly into my argument for why we should live mindfully, or live a life examined, so to speak. The purpose of a life examined is, I believe, a life of progress, where people can move forwards. The opposite of that, then, isn’t a life where people move backwards, but a life that doesn’t go anywhere. And there stagnation rears its deceptively alluring head. I can understand why stagnation might happen to anyone. There is most definitely a kind of comfort in the familiar, and a security in knowing (or at least being very sure) what will probably come next in one’s life. The alternative to this security, in the form of anything unknown, is by comparison almost terrifying. But I ask of the people who, consciously or not, are afraid of the unknown: which is better–knowing what will come next, or not knowing?
In the last few years of my life I’ve been grappling with the future. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say that I’ve been avoiding grappling. Metaphorically speaking, I’ve done a few warm-ups, a bit of research, a bit of practice here and there, but for the most part I’ve been avoiding the grappling. This thought is nothing new, of course, but it’s something of an omnipresent…undertone…to my life in the last few years. I don’t think I fear the future, but I do fear. I want to push my boundaries and press forward, even if that forward involves a bumpy road, but above all I’ve wanted to avoid getting stuck. I was skimming through some article or other and I saw a phrase that stuck with me: the article was giving advice on college or something like that, and it said something to the effect of, “don’t be a college zombie.” It was talking about not being just passive and hoping/waiting/etc for something to happen, to go and make things happen. And I read that line a few times, and I could tell that it was yet another semi-subtle nudging by Life telling me…something. Coincidence? Well, either way, it’s interesting to think about.
Speaking of coincidences, I’ve also recently been thinking that all the answers I need–to the questions of how to get where I might want to get, or how to do certain things, or almost any how-to’s–have been around me in the form of books, other people, the Internet, and really anything that’s been accumulated knowledge. I don’t know if I believe in luck, but I believe myself to be lucky in that I feel I’ve been shown all the tools to “success”. So many resources are around me, perhaps many opportunities, and even if there weren’t any opportunities, I think the key idea is that opportunities shouldn’t so much be seized as they should be made. …I get the feeling more and more often that many of the lessons I think students should all eventually be taught aren’t taught to us in our school systems. That’s probably a separate entry, though.
I don’t have too many conclusions about what it is we might be missing, but judging from the kinds of things people use in their everyday lives to distract themselves from thinking about…well, from thinking about anything…I think too many of us are uncomfortable with the notions of introspection, the unknown, the fear of failure, the fear of success. I believe some of us, for one reason or another, doubt that we can tangibly accomplish anything worthwhile through introspection; some of us doubt that we have time for such luxuries as considering the future, the past, or even considering anything about ourselves. I can hardly begrudge them those beliefs, but I think they’re missing out on an important part of life. Something else in Nature of Politics that came up was the idea of one of humanity’s defining features over the more basic animals was the human possibility of change and improvement. Whereas in the course of most animals’ lives they remain fundamentally the same creatures, humans have the potential to change the courses of their own lives completely. It’s true that not all of us have or can create the opportunities to do so, but for those of us who do, I feel it’s something of a waste for us if we don’t seize not just the day, but every moment and, essentially, seize our own lives and make something of them.
I think in the world we know, the life unchanged is not worth living. Scary though the future might be, we all have to face it at one time or another. And if that’s the case, why not face it positively, in the knowledge that come what may, we can make something of it? I think we can all use reminders to keep pressing on.
And so much the better if we have friends with us as we try to figure out where we’re going. But then, the fun is mostly in the journey and not in getting to the destination, anyway, since we don’t know what’ll happen, but we DO known that we can choose to be gloomy or we can choose to live it up, the bad with the good, and secure in the knowledge that we’re lucky to have all we have.