Note: For those of you looking for scenic pictures, and not armchair philosophy, please skip to the end of this post.
There is an interesting social/psychological phenomenon that I have gradually become aware of. While I have no technical jargon or specific name for it, I feel that it has a substantial effect on my life. I have found that as westerners we spend inordinate amounts of time doing a very small subset of things. These tasks/activities are often simply time fillers with no goal or plan. We are able to do this, in part, due to our financial prosperity and to the astounding technological advances of the last 200 years. We have more financial margin above the subsistence level than any culture/civilization of the last few millennia. Despite this large margin, I have found that (myself included) that we spend our time and resources doing things that have little long term meaning.
For example, television and media are enjoyable to consume. But when one stands at the edge of the abyss that is mortality, will having seen all the episodes of Jersey Shore have any meaning? I have spent the last month with tons of free time. I would like to point out that that is no more free time than when I worked 40 hour weeks. Now, this free time is remarkably different than that which I have had in the past. There is no television, no internet, and often no one for miles except my wife and the whisper of the wind.
This type of leisure time can do terrible things to a person. In fact it can irrevocably alter a person’s perspective. All of the sudden I have discovered that the things that consumed the majority of my time are astonishingly meaningless and purposeless. They neither yield significant experience or relevant insight. They effectively add nothing to the portfolio of my life.
Now, don’t misunderstand me, I am not implying that the only way to find meaning is to climb Mount Everest or spends years saving orphans in Sudan. I am by no means an altruist or a philanthropist. I simply aim to shine some light on the atrophy of life that can turn 70 years of existence into a boring stream of happenings, instead of choices.
I guess now I have arrived at the whole purpose of this post. Find an ambitious (if not currently unlikely) goal, and make it happen. To be an active participant in one’s fate should be aspired to. The stability and comfort (quite spoiled really) of the everyday life cannot and will not create meaning for us. Except for the occasional accident, significant experience will not just happen, instead we must actively seek out what makes our lives worthwhile.
And for those who are uncertain of where they stand. I can tell you. You are on a chunk of rock hurtling through universe at half a million miles an hour; an infinitely large (and empty place) where you are impossibly insignificant.
Thankfully life can still be awesome.
For those needing your pic fix here are some mountains, and a sheep.