O great reality, muse of existence, please grant me with a pattern that is pleasing.
I come today to ask a question: Is there any reason for the weight of goals and duties we place upon ourselves? For if we choose the goal for a reason, say, a good desired outcome, and we fail, are we not sad or distraught? Is the effort toward the goal what is meaningful, or is it the outcome?
If there is no goal, are our efforts therefore meaningless? No, for play is the reason for being, on some level. And play has nary a reason, except the fun in the journey itself. And therefore, if you can never do it all, should you feel that you must do most of it? And if you can never do most of it, should you feel you must do some? Perhaps my intuitions deceive me; perhaps goals give a structure to life without which leisure becomes work.
Yet I do not think that goals and work and meaning are all necessarily related. Meaning comes from expression, and not all expression is work (in the sense of the feeling of effort) nor a job (in the sense of earning money). Expression does tend to require effort, but not when you are playing, and therefore not always.
Goals give a pulling aspect to life, but only when they are matched already with the direction your expression desires do they really aid your soul, your deep sense of purpose and meaning. And thus, are goals helpful? Do they tear us out of the moment, continually chasing a mirage of “future”, even when Now is the future of the past?
These goals that we place upon ourselves, when they are matched with our desires of expression, are they helpful then? I tend to feel that such goals either pull us out of the moment or are unnecessary.
Yet perhaps there is another view. Perhaps enough structure to keep us in line with pursuing the time to express does aid our ability to express. So a goal to write may change how you live your days and permit the time to be carved out. Except it feels a little false, this goal, as if it’s a desire to want to write rather than simply a desire to write.
I think the question is better framed as “What do I really want?” rather than “What should my goals be?” Obviously this appears to be the case; you must know what you really want before you can make any sort of sensible goals. And this question of what you really want is itself informed by your values and what you enjoy expressing.
That’s the problem I have with goal-chasing: it’s never over and it’s too easy to lose touch with what you want to express and give meaning to.
It’s not that goals are bad per se, it’s that they lead us off the track of actually enjoying the work for its own sake and pull us toward simply pursuing the fruit of action that never is quite what we are looking for.
Perhaps this is all nonsense, but I believe being a good person is enough work from a life.
“The Perfect Man has no self; the Holy Man has no merit; the Sage has no fame.”
It’s egotistical to claim worldly goods. Egotistical in the sense of being about the ego rather than about what’s right. This is not to say the Egotistical Man can achieve no good thing, but rather that the way it’s gone about matters. The order of doing things matters. You must get permission before you borrow or it is theft.
If the worldly goods come about because of a perverse instinct to stroke the ego, the actions are perhaps not evil, but neither are they right. Why? Because it is simple to be egotistical, but it’s wrong. It’s not a valid moral principle nor a sound scientific or psychological concept. If your mind is a process of the brain, then there is no “you” to be prideful of. Instead, let go of that desire to “finally” and forever please yourself, and seek what it means to be good, to you.
If you work on your inner self the outer self must follow. If the self is an emergent phenomena from the bottom-up, then by no means can you rewrite the inside and not affect the outside. Obviously the inside and outside are tied together on many levels, and by changing the outside you can also change the inside.
What I mean is that it is easier to refine your inner self and purify it than to refine your outer self and purify that. If your outer self is your environment and the things you possess, in order to refine those you need an already somewhat refined inner self.
Thus, work on yourself first. Never criticize another when you have the same fault, even if it be less extreme in you. For as a child you did not choose your environment, you did not choose who you would be born to, and so the environments of your growth deserve the praise of your good works and the environments deserve the condemnation of your failures.
Consider that. You are not the cause of your good and bad works, you are only one effect before them.
“Man surely becomes where he is.”
Your environment, and the environments of all your ancestors, determine who you are. And so, the price has already been paid, you need not justify yourself to anyone or anything. You are, and that’s amazing. How much grander to see that you owe nothing to any goal or duty unless you choose it.
Instead of being locked in a quick cycle of payment and debt we see that things are as they must be, and so enjoy them. And in the case where you can affect your inner self in a positive way, do so.
Your perceptions of reality are always through a filter, and if you can make that filter less like a spotty glass and more like a beautiful lens, the more opportunities for joy you will have.