This post was originally published in late 2014, but it’s probably the post I think about the most today.
And it’s highly relevant to the beast of a post I’m working on now (like it is for many other posts).— Alan Lightman You go to school, study hard, get a degree, and you’re pleased with yourself. You get a job, achieve things at the job, gain responsibility, get paid more, move to a better company, gain even more responsibility, get paid even more, rent an apartment with a parking spot, stop doing your own laundry, and you buy one of those juices where the stuff settles down to the bottom. You do all kinds of life things—you buy groceries, read articles, get haircuts, chew things, take out the trash, buy a car, brush your teeth, shit, sneeze, shave, stretch, get drunk, put salt on things, have sex with someone, charge your laptop, jog, empty the dishwasher, walk the dog, buy a couch, close the curtains, button your shirt, wash your hands, zip your bag, set your alarm, fix your hair, order lunch, act friendly to someone, watch a movie, drink apple juice, and put a new paper towel roll on the thing.
But as you do these things day after day and year after year, are you improving as a human in a meaningful way?
The major institutions in the spiritual arena—religions—tend to focus on divinity over people, making salvation the end goal instead of self-improvement.The industries that do often focus on the human condition—philosophy, psychology, art, literature, self-help, etc.—lie more on the periphery, with their work often fragmented from each other.All of this sets up a world that makes it hard to treat internal growth as anything other than a hobby, an extra-curricular, icing on the life cake.Considering that the human mind is an ocean of complexity that creates every part of our reality, working on what’s going on in there seems like it should be a more serious priority.In the same way a growing business relies on a clear mission with a well thought-out strategy and measurable metrics, a growing human needs a —if we want to meaningfully improve, we need to define a goal, understand how to get there, become aware of obstacles in the way, and have a strategy to get past them.
When I dove into this topic, I thought about my own situation and whether I was improving.The efforts were there—apparent in many of this blog’s post topics—but I had no growth model, no real plan, no clear mission.Just kind of haphazard attempts at self-improvement in one area or another, whenever I happened to feel like it.So I’ve attempted to consolidate my scattered efforts, philosophies, and strategies into a single framework—something I can hold onto in the future—and I’m gonna use this post to do a deep dive into it.So settle in, grab some coffee, and get your brain out and onto the table in front of you—you’ll want to have it there to reference as we explore what a weird, complicated object it is. When I say “the truth,” I’m not being one of those annoying people who says the word truth to mean some amorphous, mystical thing—I’m just referring to the actual facts of reality. To understand the fog, let’s first be clear that we’re not here: We’re here: And this isn’t the situation: This is: This is a really hard concept for humans to absorb, but it’s the starting place for growth.The truth is a combination of what we know and what we don’t know—and gaining and maintaining awareness of both sides of this reality is the key to being wise. Declaring ourselves “conscious” allows us to call it a day and stop thinking about it.