I’ve always thought the best movies were the ones that had the hero dying at the end.
The tale finishes with the fade to black and we are left with a sense of closure, with the satisfaction of knowing that the hero went out like a flame, fighting until the very end. We are not concerned with whether or not he went on to die of old age, no doubt never seeing another adventure. We do not care if his lessons learned actually aided him later on in life or if he just became a lazy drunkard, abandoning his friends and family.
We are not worried because the story is complete. It results in a final climax, leading to the resolution and there are no more questions to be answered. Any question has died with the hero, there is no sense in continued worry.
Often I like to think that the hero who lives goes on to live an enriched life. How could he not, considering all of the lessons he must have learned and the fortitude that he must have built along his journey. He no doubt has become a virtuous archetype, one for all of us to try to emulate. However, my rational self knows that this is not necessarily true. There are many people who go through trials and tribulations and yet still come out rotten on the other side. There are scores of those who move forward without learning a lesson at all.
This past weekend I graduated from college. The event itself was very meaningful for me. My parents were able to come and throw a party in which friends and family attended. I reflect on what I have learned my past five years in college; the difficulties I had to face, the friendships I gained, the lessons I learned. I can’t help but worry if all of this has resulted in true wisdom, or if I had merely showed up, taken a test, and left.
There is a definite difference. A robot can perform functions, can do daily tasks, but intuition doesn’t have robots as being able to possess wisdom. We give students identification numbers and try to throw them through the system like robots, hoping somewhere along the way they become enlightened. But this process is not an easy one to see. A teacher can only shape the environment in which the student learns. He cannot transfer data to him like one would to a computer. It is the curiosity and the willingness to learn that makes the connection happen, not a cord plugged from one outlet to another.
As I sit here and ponder on where to go next, there are no doubt important lessons that have stuck with me throughout college and life. Are these lessons enough to lead me to wisdom? Only time can tell me that.
It Starts With Energy
We often slip into ruts for a reason. They are energy efficient. Once you get settled into that shitty job and get into the daily flow of things then you are able to get through the day without being drop dead tired. But that is how a rut comes about. You get stuck in one spot, not moving forward, only standing still. Each day is ended with the bare minimum achieved, with mediocre projects accomplished.
If you are thinking of the factory line worker, then you are on the right track. The truth is though that this can happen to anyone in any field, some fields are just more susceptible to it than others. When we sacrifice novelty in our lives for energy, then ruts begin to form. In our effort to gain stability and confidence, we build walls around ourselves, for protection from outside forces. When these outside forces do occur, we become agitated and unable to handle them without suffering.
I remember my first semester in college. I was trying to get used to the new lifestyle of going to classes around campus and also trying to contend with going to football and track practice. I tried to allot myself a certain time slot to be able to take a nap in the afternoon before practice. While this tactic worked extremely well in helping me feel more energized, I got used to it, and soon enough, when the semester changed my new schedule was unable to accommodate this. I was easily agitated. Over the years I learned not to rely so much on a perfect schedule. If I was able to get a nap, that would be great, but if not, I no longer found myself thinking so pessimistically.
Energy is the key to achieving great things though. It is the tool which we put to use to do certain activities and it is definitely not a limitless tool. Depending upon the activity, more or less energy is required, but it is usually the case that the most wholesome activities require the most energy.
The most wholesome of activities take patience, an ability to reflect, to remain open to the situation. They are important problems and in order to solve them we must be willing to use our whole character, our whole knowledge base. Think of trying to raise a child. This is probably one of the hardest endeavors to set out to do. We often wish the best for the child but know that it is our own character that has the most profound impact upon them. In order for them to grow up successfully the parents must have successful ways of thinking.
How can a person then gain the necessary energy in order to attain great things? It is through the formation of habits. Habits which empower a person to be able to achieve things that would lead them to success. Habits of health like improving sleep and exercising. These habits can help a person feel better throughout the day. Habits of communication like courtesy and respect. These can help foster healthy relationships. And habits of thought like reflectiveness and understanding. These allow a person to understand their own beliefs and the beliefs of those around them.
While initially it is difficult to attain these habits, once they are attained then they allow a person to be able to achieve even more fulfilling activities. The efficiency in these habits allow for more energy to be used in other ways, in truly wholesome ways.
Wisdom starts with energy. We must be able to call upon our passions and to really care about something in order to really understand and connect with it. But this is impossible without having energy. So many meaningful experiences are lost to the fact that we are too tired to be able to experience in a way which really tells us something about ourselves and the world. It is through understanding our use of energy that we can be able to see just how important it is in wisdom and living meaningfully.
It Continues with Direction
Often, when you have no idea what you are doing or where you are going, you tend to remain completely still. In today’s world there is no doubt a multitude of options available. This can be overwhelming. As individuals we are constantly trying to analyze who we are through what we are doing, and because of this, we tend to worry so much about how our actions will connect with what we want to be. We are scared that a certain direction will define our entire life.
This idea though is largely a false one. Your life is not defined by what you studied in college, or by the job you are currently working in. Ask many people; Their perspectives change, their interests move from one thing to another. The endeavors they sought and accomplished did not cement them into a particular kind of person. They were merely snapshots of a life overall; problems to be solved, adventures to be had, stories to be told. They are like stops on a path, just a break in the larger journey.
This past weekend I accomplished something I had been trying to accomplish my entire time in college: Receiving All-American in track and field. For five years I worked in order to attain that status and I would not trade a single year for something else. After today though, it could very well be the case that I never again even pick up a shot put, discus, or hammer. I could move on to other things, other interests. Does this mean that my time spent as a track and field athlete was useless? Meaningless?
No man worth his weight in salt would think such a thing. Just because certain endeavors do not seem to connect to others does not mean that they do not. There are no doubt lessons learned, knowledge acquired, wisdom attained. The greatest endeavors take all of a person. They take mental and physical prowess. They take the ability to be able to adapt ourselves to the situation and the ability to grow in accordance with obstacles. They take the ability to become aware of our surroundings. These are skills that transcend activity; that are applicable in any situation.
There is a common thread then through all of your activities. It is not in what you are doing, but how you are doing it. The common laborer can work with the awareness and mental agility of a professional, while the stock market executive can work with the passion of a corpse. Our ability to put all of ourselves into a task determines what we get out of it.
It is not through finding that one direction which defines us that is important, then, it is through choosing a direction and raging like a flame in order to achieve that particular goal. This is how we really achieve great things. Focusing on one thing at a time and really trying to get something out of it. This is how we can achieve enriched experiences.
Our interests and employments are but snapshots of times in our paths moving ever-forward. The goal is to make these snapshots livid, colorful, enriched, and really mean something.
It Never Ends
Life is constantly moving. There are always things going on. With each passing moment a span of our lifetime is taken away, lost to the universe, never to be seen again. This is a scary notion, but an important one. The path towards wisdom is one that never ends while we are alive. We are constantly encountering novel situations, situations which teach us something more about the world and ourselves. In order to remain wise we must be able to remain open to changes that are going on around us. To stop this process is to arrest growth, and lose wisdom.
We are always amidst the world, with all of its interconnected problems. To ignore this is to build walls around ourselves, and to no doubt send us to an early grave. The truly wise are the one’s who realize that the journey never ends, it is through seeing the value of the current moment that one really begins to enjoy life. To be able to live each moment as if we are aware of everything around us. To be able to take on tasks wholeheartedly, using every fiber of our being to take them on, so that if they are accomplished they mean more to us than anything else. They become moments which begin to define who we are, not by what we were doing, but how we did it. By how we battled our way to the position we attained.
So energize yourself, find a direction, and blaze a path through the brush in order to reach it. And when you do reach it, realize the achievement you have attained, but do not dwell too long on it, for you have many more paths to create.