I was going through my todo list and I saw an item that said “a vision for my life greater than my imagination can hold”. It was a phrase that I heard Oprah say when collecting some award, and it stuck with me for two reasons.
The first reason: It reminded me of a conversation that I had with the boss many months ago. I was reflecting on the idea that “everything is vague to a degree you do not realize until you attempt to make it precise”, and how there are two sides to that. The first side is painful – everything that you’re trying to do is more difficult than you realize, more painful than you realize, involves more steps than you realize, and so on.
The other side of the coin is that you don’t quite know the potential upside of things, either. Which brings me to the second reason.
The second reason: I have a post-it on my wall somewhere saying something along the lines of – the main reason I’m not living my life with great urgency is that I’m not able to sufficiently imagine all of the good that is NOT happening because of my lack of action. For example, there are people alive on this planet – and people who aren’t even alive yet – who I would absolutely love to be friends with. But I don’t know who they are. And they don’t know who I am. And one of the best ways to change that is to do work that I really love, to do work that I really admire. If I do the work, they will be the ones who encounter it. And my life would be enriched.
So the reason I’m not doing the work that I should be doing, with the intensity that I should be doing it, is a failure of imagination on my part. And this brings me back to Oprah’s words – “a vision for my life greater than my imagination can hold”. She framed it in religious terms. She said that she was talking to God, and asking that he use her as he saw fit, to make the best possible use of her life, for all the people who could benefit from it.
I want to feel the same way. I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of a sort of self-loathing, self-frustration, self-annoyance, self- self- self-… and then it doesn’t seem like a big deal. It doesn’t really matter.
I’m thinking now of a bit from a Bill Burr standup routine – most of it was kind of blah, but the part that stuck with me was – he did a show in India, and at some point he saw a street child taking a shit between two parked cars, and then walking into the crowd. And street kids are a reality of this planet. Sex slavery and trafficking, and all sorts of hideous manners of abuse and destruction and damage and pain. Most of the time we block that stuff out and try not to think about it. I mean, every time I go to work I see all the foreign laborers in my country, men who are younger than me, men who made the decision my grandfather made – to seek a better life for themselves and for their descendants. I benefit from the decision that my grandfather made, which is why I’m here writing a blogpost on a wireless Magic keyboard rather than toiling in the rain. (It’s raining like a motherfucker right now, and I am safe in the home that I am paying for.)
And the point Bill Burr made was that so many of our problems are so trivial when you contrast it against the plight of street kids. And yet we get so self-obsessed, so self-focused, self-fixated, that our problems are the biggest and most pressing problems we can conceive of.
I’m thinking now I think of a PAP MP who said, when you help other people with their troubles, you actually become happier, because you realize that your troubles aren’t all that bad. Maybe I need more of that. I should probably volunteer more of my time. Here now I’m thinking of a blogpost – Adulthood is a Scary Horse – which said, if you don’t value your time, fine, but there’s someone else who would value your time more than you. So volunteer it. Offer it. It will lighten you.
I want to do more with my life. The core of that desire is selfish – I don’t want to live this small life that I’ve inherited, even though I know that millions – billions – would kill to swap places with me. I want to do more. I want to be more. A part of me wants recognition, wants validation. That part of things I think I can sort of meditate to deal with. Another part of me wants real significance – to do work that really matters. And of course in the grandest scheme of things nothing matters; I’m talking about within the context of a human life. I still go to bed every night thinking that my life isn’t quite what it ought to be, isn’t quite what it should be. I could be helping more people. I could be making more of a difference. I don’t think I desire obscene amounts of material wealth; but I’d like to unshackle myself from debt, and I’d like to be able to avoid the frustration of a daily commute. But I’m not entitled to that. I have to earn it. Yes, there are people out there who didn’t have to earn that freedom, but as I’ve seen for myself – there are children of billionaires who seem pretty damn miserable, at least some of the time.
I want to embody a vision that is greater than my imagination can hold. I know that for me this will involve some amount of working with the written word. Which is why I’m writing this word vomit. But that’s just a little bit of the picture. There’s a much bigger picture that, as I’ve said, I can’t even imagine. And it would make my life a marvellous adventure, rather than an ordeal.
I’m done with this vomit. I need to do at least 1 a day in order to meet my goal of finishing this project by the end of the year. It would be great if I could finish it sooner than that. On to the next task.