Going to do a series of shorter reflections on aphorisms for a while so that I can focus on other writing, once I get back into a schedule I’ll be doing more. Until mid-week next week I’m going to be doing just one a day, and then perhaps even a tad longer than that.
The person you are the most afraid to contradict is yourself.Nassim Nicholas Taleb, from The Bed of Procrustes
Our relationship with ourselves is odd. We clearly generally view ourselves by default as the most important person in the universe but we are also willing to sacrifice much of ourselves sometimes for things which we find of little meaning for us, which we consider tragic, and sometimes for things we find to hold more meaning that ourselves, which is heroic.
There is an expression, which I hate, which says to “be true to yourself” in a sort of pithy fake intellectual want-to-be-wise meaningless statement.
The worst part of this is that it is not far from the truth. It merely just presented in the way which manages to be antithetical. What people say be true to yourself, they typically mean do what you want. However, our short-term minds often fail to match our long-term persona. It leads us to a point where we leave ourselves with no option but to violate our convictions because small decisions that we make on impulse violate the underlying code.
This does not mean that we are blind to the Sword of Damocles which we hang above our own bed. We are fully aware when we say to find ourselves, that we can make decisions which lead us astray. We simply prefer platitude to conviction.
When I was in college, I took a course called “The Human Event” as part of an honors curriculum. It was divided into two parts, a general first semester Symposium followed by a more specific second semester, in which I chose to focus on the humanities. It was in the second semester, with a tremendous professor, that learn to appreciate you manatees capability for self destruct. It is not that we do not know what we want, that we do not know why we want it and how best to achieve it. This is what many elite thinkers fail to realize.
People are not generally wrong about what they want, and they are not generally choosing things which go against their own interest. It is merely that their interests are complicated.
People make decisions which seem irrational because they have more than one decision to make and their choices rely on multiple factors. They merely choose the option which best fits the various conflicting elements of their psyche and their existence.
As someone who has recently left a job that I love, not in the petty manner of love of gaining immediate pleasure from but rather in the deeper meaning of having value to my very core of my existence, I found that even though the path which I am currently on is one which promises great potential and great opportunity, being what we might call a real life example of the Hero’s Journey, it is still incredibly painful to leave behind something which has formed such a large part of my identity, something which I truly found meaning within.
As such, I feel acutely attuned to this saying. It reflects the pain that I feel, the pain which is good to feel, the pain of being forced to choose between one good and another.
If it were a choice between one thing with no meaning, and one with meaning, there would be no pain. However, it is when one has to choose between two equal goods that decisions become truly difficult. It is a difficulty which I wish to experience with consistency for the rest of my life.
Be in a place where every big decision requires meaningful sacrifice.
Metaphorically speaking, do not worry about what I am eating for breakfast.
Embrace what is difficult when it also bears purpose.