towards a philosophy of life

it’s hard to know exactly when something starts. sometimes i can look back and say that because i did this one thing or had this one thought, my life to this point has been different. like identifying a fork in the road in the past when i happened to be driving in the dark. conversely, many times i look back and say, i did this and this and this and it’s all a jumble of nudges and ideas and false starts that circuitously led me to where i am today.

in the movies they try to make it pretty obvious. someone has an idea or a goal, and they work to achieve it. i assume many people in real life live their lives that way. i want to work in X, where X is politics or public health or performance art (i admit i’m often skeptical of those sorts of firm yet abstract goals) and so i need to do/cultivate A, B, and C (certain jobs/experiences) in order to have the perfect credentials/pedigree to ascend to X at some point in the future.

“small pieces loosely joined” is probably more representational of my life philosophy. i know i want to work on interesting projects, which hopefully involve me learning new things, solving challenging problems, and collaborating with other people, but that’s not much to go on. as i currently work in an IT capacity, it’s all too easy for me to forget that it’s not my goal to become a world-class programmer/hacker.

this meandering life philosophy is nice except for when i’m passing between two small pieces, and i find myself floating in a loose joint. which i guess is where i am right now. unsure. and so i’m starting to plan for the next cluster of possibly unrelated small pieces. at the same time i know that society doesn’t value randomness (climbing the ladder is more important than horizontal exploration) because a lack of perserverance is often the cause of a random life.

i want to believe i’m seeking something (my life’s work? a good time? something to keep my mind occupied and my hands away from the devil?) and either my life will end somewhere in the course of that journey, or at some indefinite point greater than 10 years in the future, the small pieces will resemble some coherent whole, i’ll believe i’ve found what i’ve been seeking, and i’ll do that.

12 Comments

Beautiful musings here, Justin. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m one of those with a distinct long-term goal, but my philosophy in reaching that is similar to the small pieces theme: I see my life as a river crossing, with my career/life goal set on the far riverbank, and many stepping stones in the river. At times I step to a stone that puts me closer to the riverbank; other steps are lateral. This philosophy combines two lessons my parents taught me – to have a goal, and to make the most of any situation. It’s working so far. I never wanted to get a master’s degree, but when Erin and I moved here for her to attend the School of Public Health, I saw an opportunity to study medical journalism. And that step takes me closer to my goal of being an editor of an important national magazine. (Luckily, my river is somewhat shallow, and alllows for me to slip and fall ever so often.)

jackie

I wrote a response to your post on my blog: bricolages.org

ryan

um, how’s the wordpress plugin coming? maybe if you weren’t so busy breaking your computer and pondering the eternal questions of existence you’d have yourself a swanky new blogroll plugin eh?

hey jackie/ryan, i had to go url-diving with “advanced” “knowledge” of wordpress in order to figure out the direct link to that post you were refering to. (i just updated the link, it used to point to just your blog.) anyway, is there a “permalink” somewhere that i’m not noticing?

also, while i’m at it, the ‘main’ link in photos doesn’t bring me back to the blog. maybe the blog name should be a link back to the blog’s homepage?

regarding the blogroll, life has interfered. i was thinking about getting into it tonight, but my mind is kind of scattered over here at weaver st.

anton, i think part of my “seeking” is goal-seeking. i don’t really have the kind of far off goal you describe. my goals have been more like small hops limited mostly by school. but for various reasons i’ve been thinking a lot lately about the next maybe slightly larger hop, or the next “lateral” adventure.

Justin: So are you the kind of person who looks around to observe what the opportunities are, or the kind that decides to make an opportunity for yourself?

anton, a question just occured to me regarding the goal you described in your first comment. perhaps i’m reading it too literally, but what if your current steps/slips/falls obsolete your goal? does that goal get re-evaluated?

the concern i have with goals like that (for myself) and life checklists is what if i start living for the goal or the list and stop paying attention to my life.

so for you i wonder if your work with blogging and journalism might open up more interesting opportunities than being a magazine editor.

Justin, turns out I’m quite near-sighted, so each step across the river helps me see the goal a bit clearer. Maybe once I’m standing on the other side, the riverbank may look quite different than what I’d anticipated. But I’ll be ok with that, because as important as the goal is to me, the journey is more so.

perhaps i’m pushing this journey vs destination thing into a false dichotomy. there’s no reason is can’t be both, or one more than the other, certainly there are as many variations as there are people.

This has been an elightening thread, Justin. Thanks for opening the door to an interesting meme.

hey no problem. and btw i’m still mulling over your question several comments above.

Sarah

thats how i feel everyday! it was nice to hear it from someone else, I ahve to write my own philosophy for english class and I’m having trouble.

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