The truth and living well

There are three simple steps to living well.  They are:

  • Do something
  • Expect nothing
  • Get everything

The fine print:

Step one: The truth of our lives is in our actions.  Simply put, we are what we do, and attempting to flee from our actions won’t help anyone.  Thoughts, visions, dreams, and internal reckonings are necessary elements of action, but alone they don’t suffice.  The truth is that words (and thoughts and dreams, etc.) are cheap, but be sure to choose well what you do, because regrets come cheaply, too.

Step two: If you’re a receiver in a football game, and you’re running for a pass, do what you need to catch the ball and don’t think about what will happen next.  If you think about anything but catching it, you’ll drop the ball, even it hits you in the chest.  Same goes for trying to catch a fly in baseball, or in the kitchen, for that matter.  Or shooting hoops.  Or writing something great – if you spend your time thinking about what this contribution to thought and science will get you, then you’ll produce something that will get you nowhere.  When you take your eyes off what you’re doing in order to see what’s around, what to expect, what dangers or bonuses are lurking in the environs – when you start thinking about what you might get – you’ll stop doing (see step one) – and you’ll mess it up.

Step three: You can now experience what happens when everything – in this case nothing – contains its opposite and you reap your reward.  The reward is everything, but like truth, this comes with some unspoken qualifiers that actually make everything, in this case, much more rich and interesting.  Get everything that you truly need. The Rolling Stones’ song is quite right, but there’s even more at stake.  Get everything that you truly need, because anything else is too much and will kill you. Which implies the following sub-step:  Don’t take everything you get. Too drastic?  Abundance is the wellspring of dead-living.

True riches come to us without asking.  They are in the things we cannot see, prove, or make tangible in any permanent way.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The truth and living well

  1. michelle

    I disagree with your Step Two.

    Taking your eye off the ball for a minute isn’t going to lose you the game… what’s required is acquiring the skill of peripheral vision and foresight based on repetitive behavior… pattern recognition based on a myriad & plethora of data.

    FEEL your field of vision. Your senses define themselves from there.

    That’s the way I play, anyway.

    But if it’s my way, Step 3 gets terribly complicated because what I get isn’t truly fulfilling. Kind of begs the question “what do i ask for?”

    You pose interesting questions.

  2. Katie

    It’s funny, Michelle, before I even saw your comment I opened up the comment box to disagree with step 2, and I thought your form of disagreement was extremely insightful.

    What I was going to say, maybe now blended in with what you said: in real life, motives are rarely so pure. It’s true that if you are focused on external reward totally exclusively of the joy in action, you are unlikely to be all that satisfied–though even then you might still do something useful–and you run the risk of compromising your effort for external reward. But people are status-seeking and affiliative animals; it’s rare that someone undertakes a challenging endeavor without a thought to how it will affect their relationships in the world. I’m about to become an academic, a scientist of sorts.* Science is a social institution, and the vast majority of its practitioners are partly motivated by a status competition. This motive can be de- or con-structive; it has to be channeled.

    Anyway, I agree with you, Michelle, that doing something well, or doing good, involves cultivating good habits, and because they are habits, you can move in and out of perfect immersion, go on autopilot if you have to.

    I’m not one to issue a blanket prohibition on didactic rules (which would be a self-contradiction), but I find them slightly at odds with this blog’s commitment to uncertainty. But then, maybe a blog devoted to indeterminacy has to veer from questioning into didacticism in order to maintain its commitments.

    I’m skeptical of three, too, but I don’t think I understand it well enough to react.

    *I say “of sorts” because some people don’t like to call my discipline a science. But then, I’m entering an area of my discipline that most people would intuitively classify as “science.” This says more about the poverty of people’s intuitions than it does about the clear division between my area and the other parts of my discipline.

  3. john

    Thanks much for the comments. I’ve gotten some similar questions from a couple of other readers who’ve brought them to me outside of “comments.” What follows are some thoughts that emerged in reading your comments, making me think about what I was thinking of in the writing … these reflections are no defense of the post but really the kind of dialogue I had hoped to find when I started doing this.

    The intent wasn’t didactic absolutism, but rather to clear the cobwebs of distraction and caution that hinder movement and decision-making. It’s about doing something for the purpose of doing it, instead of for the gain — the notion that you can’t get what you really want unless you give it up. I agree of course that we’re social animals and seek approval and affinity; I feel like I’ve built the best relationships with other people, however, when I just went off being myself instead of thinking about what others want or like.

    I meant to be writing about openness to the world instead of preoccupation with one’s own concerns. I think my reason for this is a sense that too often people (me and many others, though not everyone, of course) forget to trust their inner selves. We calculate too much, and that’s when we cease being what’s really beautiful about people.

  4. bschooled

    I have been catching up on your posts…you are an amazing writer.

    And trust me, I don’t say that to everyone…:)

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