Ways of approaching life

There are a million ways to go about documenting the million ways to approach the million ways of approaching life. I am going to cut through all that, and create a simple dichotomy. This is a thought experiment, but what isn’t?

On one extreme you would have people who we say, “go with the flow.” I will give them the philosophical background of individuals who see value in all experiences. Such a person might say that every moment has profound beauty and meaning, but the ecstasy on the instant is obscured to most.

I would contrast this to a person who craves a specific experience or set of experiences. It is not that they see no value in the world around them. These people just have selective ideas about what they want. People like this believe that what they are after has more “value” relative to alternative ways of spending time. “Watching TV is fun, but jumping out of a plane is more exhilarating.” This is not an absolute statement, but it is true for some people.

I think the second approach to the human condition is the dramatic one. It causes us to strive for something. This way builds up anticipation, which is critical and often more fun than the end result/experience. Centrally, it sets us up for failure or success. These may be distractions, they are emphatic notes to a life history. There is not much of a narrative in the first way of life. I must admit, of course, that a lack of narrative is not a categorical rejection or condemnation.

We lose so much when we focus in on one part of reality. Not just the whole, but all the other wonderful minute parts that make up the tapestry of existence. It is important to recognize value where it exists, and we should all work towards this capacity. At the same time, I believe that just because all experiences have the capacity to be of “equal worth”, that doesn’t mean they will be equally fulfilling to all. Some experiences are more better suited to different personality types, different egos. I do not see an issue with striving, in and of itself.

I need to teach my self to strive. I am an optimist, and while this serves me well in many ways, I can be satisfied with so little because so much is so good. I quickly forget how there exist times and places for me that are so great. It is important to remember that I owe it to myself and those I love to create great moments and share them.

Humans are imperfect judges of everything they try to assess. This is true when selecting broader life goals as well as selecting lunch. We often decide to filter out elements of the world around us to increase the probability of encountering something we predict will be pleasurable. Doing this, we set ourselves up for disappointment and we risk missing out on the most serendipitous of possible experiences.

In the end I cannot say which way is better. I believe there are only shades of grey, so life hoists upon us one such shade. I regret to say I do not know if I ought to hunt out a slate or a gainsboro or maybe a spanish grey. Awareness of this issue will be enough, and the challenge now is to use this knowledge as a parachute, not a millstone.

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One Response to Ways of approaching life

  1. robinwow says:

    Wise words. It’s true that there are advantages to both ways, sometimes one way is better than another; sometimes it’s reversed.

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