0524 – acknowledge the silly “big-minded man” game

I think I’ve been approaching fiction the wrong way. I start with big ideas. But what’s the point? People don’t really care about big ideas. I thought I did but now I’m not so sure. Maybe I just thought that it was good to care about big ideas, like it meant I was better or superior or something. That if I could develop myself by thinking and talking about big ideas. And that’s a sort of self-deception, a sort of delusion that goes really deep. I’m just playing this big game of “I want to be a big-minded species-level-thinking good person”.

But when I really sit down and pause and reflect and investigate I realize that it’s a game. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a thing just the same. And it seems to make sense that if you’re going to be playing a game, you should probably know what game you’re playing. Although you gotta be careful there- that’s a game, too. The “ah, I’m playing a game” game. It never ends, it goes on forever.

What’s the point of saying that? Relief. It gets exhausting to keep up any sort of performance indefinitely. Life is short and limited, and you shouldn’t get stuck playing a game you don’t want to play.

Okay, so there’s a “big-minded man” game I’ve been playing that I don’t really find satisfying anymore. Maybe I will again in the future. Should I switch to some other game then? That seems like the likely outcome. I do like to be surprised and challenged, I think [1]. And once you’re stuck in a game for a long time it can cease to be surprising or challenging in pleasant dimensions. [2]

It seems like the important thing to do then is to revisit your reasons for doing what you do, and clarify your desired outcome. If work begins to feel like a drag, why? It might be because you’re just going through the motions, just getting by. “Just getting by” for long periods of time is excruciating for the curious mind. Unless of course you have something else going own. Just getting by at the patent office is fine if you’re developing the Theory of Relativity in your head. [3]

[1] There are most definitely exceptions to this rule. There are bad surprises and unpleasant challenges. I’m reminded of a passage from Anthony Robbins’ TED talk- “the surprises you don’t want, you call problems, but you need them.”

[2] As with the previous footnote, “pleasant dimensions” is a bit wishy washy and should be better defined. Growth is almost always painful, uncomfortable, hard. But it’s great when you can see how it’s helping you, expanding you. Lifting weights to get stronger is an example of a challenge that has a “pleasant dimension”. But that’s an unusually simple (rather than complex) context. Most things in life are much more complicated. Should you force yourself to learn something that you’re not comfortable with? I guess it depends on your desired outcome, which is itself a moving target.

So the interesting thing is- challenges are painful but pleasant when they help you move towards a desired outcome. Where it gets unpleasant is when you’re no longer sure of what your desired outcome is. If you don’t know what you want, then every challenge- everything that requires effort, exertion and so on- is unpleasant.

[3] Or, I suppose, if you’re recovering from illness or disease or depression or something. That’s when “just getting by” is an achievement in itself. Of course, it never really feels like it. Our ideas of what goodness or success look like are too strong, too deep rooted. Idling Is Bad! (Note to self- reread Bertrand Russell’s thoughts on the matter.)

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