Compassionate Theory of Everything

A Life Powered by Want

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven..”
― John Milton, Paradise Lost

 

It has been said that people run towards a goal for only one of two reasons.

1) They want the gold medal they perceive at the end of the race

2) They’re being chased by a rabid dog

 

The human brain evolved as a tool to help us find food and shelter and resources. You gotta outrun the sabre-toothed tigers while dodging the golfball hailstones so you can grab the fruit off the tree. Yes, ancient life was like a video game only with real death.

That structure sculpted the form of human consciousness, and these fear/reward mind-structures are why we like playing Pac Man or poking endlessly at a screen of Angry Birds. Our brains are wired to go after points and chomp as much as we can while staying ahead of the ghosts.

Notice the difference between how you feel when you plan a trip or talk to an insurance agent for too long. “I’m not saying the sabre-tooth tigers are going to get you, it’s just that if they do…” Either re-directs the focus of your mind. It is just as good at “getting excited” about what you want, as it is about “getting afraid” of what may harm you.

We all know what it feels like to rub palms of anticipation, or to wring trembling hands of worry.

Either emotional state is natural, and we usually think that these feelings are determined by outside forces. Life offers real triumph and real defeat, doesn’t it?

Yet most of our time is not spent in the moment we reach a goal and find our destination, or fall on our asses. Most of our lives are experienced in the hours we journey towards those outcomes.

This brings the human being who notices their own emotional states and what causes them, to a fascinating choice:

Would you prefer to spend most of your waking hours being excited or afraid?

Yes, this is a choice. It’s just not one that people often talk about. Because it has nothing to do with the type of success that other people can see.

Instead, this choice determines whether or not you live in hell.

Making this particular choice doesn’t affect whether or not you’ll reach your goals. Just how you feel on the way there. Some billionaires wanted the freedom they perceived as only possible after grabbing a billion dollars. So they eagerly grabbed it. Others were afraid their fathers would be disappointed in a non-billionaire. So they feverishly grasped at money.

The free ones are the happy billionaires.

Choice can determine the color our lives will be painted, the shit-brown we smear ourselves in because of fear/anxiety/shame or the brilliant orange of fiery exhilaration. The very essence of our own personal inner experience of life, is up to us. Which is, itself, a lot of responsibility.

We must accept the possibility that our lives are up to us. Not the wins and losses. Not the outcomes. Those things are beyond anyone’s control. The emotional reality of life is up to us.

That possibility can be terrifying.

 

Seeing your life as a choice, getting that epiphany or intellectual realization or spiritual awakening or whatever your existential cup-of-tea may be – doesn’t change how your emotions are wired. And if you’re like just about anybody else, with choice comes the possibility of guilt.

Didn’t your parents teach you that if you choose wrong, whatever happens next is your fault?

Face up to the fact that you choose the flavor of your own life, and all sorts of questions fall right on your head.

Why didn’t you choose sooner? What if somebody had shown you? What if your parents had taught you that? What have you missed out on all these years?

A life powered by want is a more exciting choice, and choosing it is worth noticing that you had the option all along.

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