A friend of mine had issues with my ill-defined goals for this year. She called them “gutless.” Here was my reply:
Phew!! You nearly had me. You nearly made me doubt myself and return to the pit – the place that all existentialist know is there. In the pit, you realise that there is nothing, no meaning of life, no meaning to life, no heaven, no hell, no nirvana, nothing. Now there are two ways out of the pit. Either you can’t accept that there is nothing and you fall into despair or you realise that there is nothing and you take the opportunity to create your own meaning in life. Whether that is true or not is still open for debate. I believe it.
In one of our last conversations I said to you that you and I are two sides of the same coin. We are both eternal seekers. That our role in this world is to seek and I know, certainly from my perspective, that I am happiest when I embrace this role. It’s when I try to convince myself otherwise, when I try to force myself to find something else because the seeker’s life never seems to settle and this goes against mainstream society where they would rather we find a nice little consumerist’s box to fit in and do our part to keep the machine ticking. I recently read an argument that says there is no left and right anymore, instead we are divided into consumers and failed consumers. So you better work hard, accumulate money so you can be the perfect consumer.
Anyway, I digress. If you mean by ‘gutless’ that I haven’t taken a stand, that I have not committed myself to anything, then you are half-right. I haven’t commitment myself to anything, apart from being a seeker. I like being a seeker and I like being an adventurer. I like embracing life as it comes. Ok yeah, I set some loose goals to give me a certain orientation and that’s ok by me. Does that mean I will never accomplish anything? Maybe. Will I have enjoyed myself, heck yes. As Jay-Z observes in one of his songs: “nine to five is how you survive, but I don’t want to survive, I want to live it to the limit and love it lot.”
In my mind, I have a clear vision of what I want to do. I want to read a billion books, consume loads of media, and absorb tons of knowledge. A friend of mine asked me last week what do I want to do with all this knowledge. In truth, I want to pursue knowledge for knowledge’s sake. But yeah, ok, I have to earn some coins in order to thrive in this society, so I will have to figure out a way to make the knowledge pay.
I wonder, would my aims have been less ‘gutless’ if I had said:
I want to get a PHD in history and politics
I want to volunteer to be iReporter for CNN
I want to challenge Boing Boing for the number one blog on the Internet
I want to get powerful politicians and some named rich people into my social network
I want to write 20 essays and have them published in the top magazines and literary journals
I want to write a book that addresses the consumer society and why we are all going to burn in Hell
I want to climb the tallest mountain in Europe
(damn!, that’s a good list, isn’t it?)
I have a friend who is a professional speaker and his message is YES if you want to be a success in life, you have to set BIG hairy goals. So by his logic, if I don’t set big hairy goals, then I will not be a success. Is that the same thing you mean by ‘gutless’ goals?
And both of you may be absolute right, my gutless, hairless goals will lead me right down the path of failure.
But here’s the thing, you, me, him, we all end up the same – dead. For me success is being able to answer yes to the following questions:
Did I consciously choose how I wanted to live my life?
Did I embrace life with an adventurous spirit?
Did I love my fellow humans and did I treat them with dignity and respect?
Did I develop myself to my full potential?
Thanks for making me do this. I guess my blog post has done a good job. It bothered you enough to make you think deeper. It made you question me, which made me think deeper. And as a result, I’ve just articulated my four guiding principles.