A Way To Guide Your Life

One idea that continues to survive from the ancient world offers us an approach to guiding our lives in the face of a dark truth. 

If we entertain a dose of self-honesty in query of our personal moments of quietus we can attest to a lingering certainty somewhere in our minds that death - for us - hovers at a time-distance; it will only strike when we are, say, 100 years old. When, in truth, none of us know how long we have to live. This truth urges we spend our lives ignoring it. It points to the importance of our strife for survival. Yet in our strife for survival it can be customary to miss the point. To forego our sense of existence in favour of how we might sustain it. History suggests that this misguided tendency is far from new, and forebears of extraordinary intellectual, philosophical and spiritual capacity promulgated different versions of an idea useful in guiding our lives in the face of that dark outcome awaiting us all. They - think Jesus, think Muhammed, think Proust - offered a form of this piece of wisdom: stop wasting time and start to appreciate existence. 

This idea is important for three reasons:

1. It Unveils the Important 

Here is a familiar scene: it's two hours past midnight. The tick-tock of the wall clock has become a loud ride against the backdrop of silence that envelops the darkness. Despite skillful attempts to will some sleep all you manage to do is toss and turn, helpless, at the mercy of the question what-is-my-purpose-in-life? At the heart of your concern is a desire for a sense of meaning, a sense that given the massiveness of the universe a deed reserved just for you exists for you to take upon to endorse that you matter. 

An appreciation of life requires a healthy devotion to the business of understanding it. Through the lens of Socrates, Greek philosopher and shaper of the modern world, the pursuit of understanding by examination of one's life stands pivotal to wellbeing. It rids the mind of fetters, burrowing through it to the core of self. Creating a space for groundedness, a sense that one isn't a fixed entity awaiting discovery but a continuum of identity deserving of exploration. It is in systematic exploration of ourselves and the ideas we get bombarded by that we find truths worthy of absorbing. 

2. It Allows for a State of Mind Indispensable to Carrying Out Valuable Work

More often than we'd like the best option always seems to be to wait for the perfect time and the perfect conditions to meet us. It is only in waiting that aloft things like inspiration will come, leading us into serendipitous outbursts that will put everything in their rightful place. One reason we entertain this tendency is because we are anxious. And more tellingly, if we are being honest, we are afraid. However, even a brief consideration of the infinitesimal quantity of the duration of our longest lives when set side by side with the cosmic clock in which all of what we call existence navigates through can put a lot of our concerns in perspective. It brings to focus that sinking into the hollow sphere of fear-driven anxiety and waiting for aloft things like the inspiration that will align the universe for us is, as Mason Currey, Bestselling author of Daily Rituals, put rather bluntly, a waste of time. In search of how people churned out value Mason spent more than half a decade cataloging the lives of men and women of extraordinary creative achievement - Nobel Laureate, Putlizer Prize winners etc. Mason summed up what he calls the most important piece of advice from his findings in this quote: 

"[...] I hope [my work] makes clear that waiting for inspiration to strike is a terrible, terrible plan. In fact, perhaps the single best piece of advice I can offer to anyone trying to do creative work is to ignore inspiration".
A valuable insight lurks at the centre of this advice: if we are to make headway in our lives we must let go of our hubristic tendency to believe we are going to be around in moments other than now, we must roll up our sleeves and work on outcomes we feel deserve to be worked upon. One way to work "without inspiration" is to take cue from Novelist extraordinaire Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In response to the question where do you get inspiration, she said this:
"I think [that] is a lazy question. Everything is inspiration to me. I get inspiration from everywhere". 

3. It Melts Away the Seductive Force of the Media

Our tendency to wait arises from another interesting source: the media. On its insistence on picking only a fraction of what makes up the life of the accomplished and selling it with the use of taglines like "over-night success". What this does, amongst other things, is induce a sense that what we seek can only be found within a circle of admirable celebrities.

Though admirable in their achievements, and a handful lead lives worthy of emulation, celebrities are ill-equipped to offer us the needed guidance to lead our own lives. More so because what we have as their stories in our heads represents only a fraction of what makes up the totality of their lives. A better route is to go about the business of appreciating life, in the sense of understanding the nature, meaning, and quality of it.

Adopt a baby's disinterested approach to the media

Final Thoughts

We should align ourselves with the dynamism of existence. Its constant progression ensures ignoring important truths will leave us wanting. In the end the saddest thing will be to lament "if only I had...". We should uncouple our desires for progress in our lives from the belief that "if only we knew our purpose", if only I had a sense of validation", "If only we knew XYZ" we would at last be in unison with everything else that matters. We must get better at navigating the world before us so that in our journey to what lies buried within its meaning, its nature and its quality, we will come by the most important bit of all: a way to ourselves. 



Post Author: P. W. Uduk 

Photo Source: i.imgur.com; s2.thingpic.com ; www.cdkn.org; www.wallpaperup.com 

Question of the week: What are your thoughts on thinking? Please let me know in the comments. 

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  1. This is great. Keep the ink following Sir Ubong

  2. just remembered, the Socratic dictum "man know thyself", there is a need for constant self rediscovery. thanks Paul for the write up

  3. This is awesome.
    I wish more people had this knowledge.


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