What are the things that are most important to me? Defining what is important to you, is, quite counterintuitively, freeing; because, in narrowing down your options—which, on the surface, seems limiting—it aligns your energy and extirpates ignorance (the first and crucial first step), thereby amplifying your effectiveness in a given endeavour and decreasing the overwhelm and recurrent confusion that accompanies not knowing—be it not knowing what you want to do, what is important to you, what matters in life, and all questions suchlike.
What matters to me is Truth, Morality, Health (or fitness), Productivity, Meaning, Love. Whether I will add to this as I live my life—even as early as later tonight—I know not; but this is what comes to mind today.
Why am I concerned about truth? Well, the next item on the list is morality, and I have qualms about whether I should fold them into one. For now, I won’t; but I may sometime. As far as truth is concerned, is there anything more important than it? I don’t think there is. Truth is strengthening; non-truth is weakening, crippling, destructive. Truth is enlightening; non-truth is stupefying, distracting, destructive. Truth builds trust; non-truth builds pseudo-trust, and is destructive. Truth burns dead wood, which is why it hurts. Truth is everything. How does my concern about truth manifest itself? First, I do not lie: I tell no type of lie, no matter how tempting, convenient, or ‘white’. This is something I’ve had to work on, but nowhere near as much as many people I know; for I actually felt guilt every time I lied, and a lot of people don’t. Second, I call out fraud when I see it: again, this is something I’ve had to work on, because I have committed it myself. Third, it means seeking truth: it means actively looking for truth as a default way of being.
Morality. Ethics. I remember the once upon a time (not in the too-distant past) I was under the impression that there was no right or wrong, good or evil—I was becoming postmodernised, I think via the videos I was watching from The School of Life,1 and other ideas I was being exposed to. Luckily I was parroting back what I had heard; I was not speaking from my own heart. But I am seeing this kind of thinking everywhere I go now: distrust of experts, kids not listening to adults, the very idea of ‘advice’ being scandalised, etc. It may seem that this is independent of morality, but it is not: it is at the core of it’s concerned. For morality is precisely about the questions of how to live, how to create a better world, how to combat evil, and so on. I was brought to philosophy by Seneca, who was very concerned about morality. Initially I never made the connection—I never knew it was moral philosophy that I was excited by—but now I know. There is a right and a wrong: as soon as we start to think there isn’t, we are in trouble—if only at the micro level.
Health is another of my most prominent concerns. Another words for this is ‘fitness’; but seen as this word typically comes loaded with images of sweaty joggers, fitbits, gyms and healthy meals, I will not use it. What do I mean by health, exactly? I mean having strong genes. If I decide to have kids I want to make strong, health, fit, kids; and if I abuse my own body, this cannot happen. Why do I care about this? Because progress, morality, security, the future, depends upon strong, willing, able, intelligent beings. This is not a glorification of superiority; it is a fact: some people contribute more to the world than others, and typically those that contribute more are those who are more able to—without any talk of equality of opportunity (which is certainly important). This is one of the ways in which I think about health: to clarify, it is me having the strongest genes I can. This is also the most abstract way to think about it, for included in it is the many other important definitions, such as eating properly, having a good amount of muscle mass, feeling energised, subjective ratings, etc. I care about health with regards to both myself and others: I want my own genes to be as strong as possible, and to reach whatever potential they may have; and I want others to have the same, too. Why? Because a better world is achieved, only achieved, by the efforts of people—and so the better those people are (capable and virtuous and willing and good), the better the world we can achieve, which then makes life better for each individual.
Productivity. There is a lot I want to get done in this life. Without going into why this is, I will say that it is an intrinsic part of my character: I just want to leave the world, in as many ways as I can, better than when I came in; and I want to do so in a way that is truly better—not the product of some delusional, ignorant or cynical ideas. We only have a set count of hours each day, and we all have the same amount of hours; and yet, the difference between how person A spends it and person B spends it can be life and death, and not just for the individual. But imagine if I didn’t want to get a lot done: it would still be dumb not to be concerned with productivity. Seen as I do, I ought to have a special concern for it—which I do. How does this concern manifest? The first thing to mention is anxiety and frustration. Concerning yourself with productivity immediately creates internal expectation (and external, if you share your concerns), with generate angst and anxiety—the level of which depends upon your personality. The classical mistake is to view this anxiety as a bad thing; it is not, it is necessary, for it is precisely what causes you to get shit done. The only way to relieve yourself of it is to get to work; you can, of course, distract yourself with drugs, food, sleep or other trivialities, but it will come back to haunt you, you can be sure. Thoughts are not pebbles but seeds: burying them blindly is a mistake. Fear can also creep in: if you start thinking about productivity it is very likely that you will start to fear not producing enough. Once again, this is not a red light; it just is, and it is what you decide to make of it that matters. You can run from it, or your can run with it. You can try to remove and go forwards, but you will most likely fail; and what’s more, you will waste time and energy that could be spent on moving forwards. Plus, you can be sure that it will come back; and so if you keep having to remove it before you go forward, you’ll never get anything done in life: you will stumble, continuously, and nothing will ever seem right; and you will be surpassed by motivated mediocrity.
Meaning. I could drift through life. It is hard for me to argue that that is not what I have done with life thus far. Well then again, I have spent almost 2 years in a hard kitchen, built incredible strength and a great body, and fixed my health, and reaped the rewards of disciplined learning—and put my mind to things and achieved them. But it terms of the bigger picture, I have drifted. Now, the problem is that I have an innate, very strong disinclination towards trying myself to anything—especially long-term. Why this is a problem is that it generates feelings of existential angst—and very strong ones when I become bored or have a break, or simply contemplate on my life; and this is because the feeling is always brewing, in the background, waiting for its opportunity to shout, ‘You don’t know what the hell you are doing!’. I have anchored myself to some long-term goals, however; for despite my disinclinations, we all have disinclination to the type of thinking that really matters, viz., long term thinking. But even all this said, none of us actually know what the hell we are doing…
And finally, love. I do not think this needs elaboration.
What are the things in life that matter most to you?-and why?