BY DAWID CIELOSZCZYK, LAW I
The satisfying life, the ideal overshadowing our ordinary human lives dwells within purposiveness; the human need for discernable goals is quite apparent. What state do you devolve to when you have absolutely no goal overarching your life at any given moment? You are in theoretical limbo: a frightening state of affairs that very few humans generally experience, at least maybe not since the age of 10. Your limbs move, but you know not why! I do not speak of fantastical life goals either, but just any kind that signifies something to you, even if it’s something as humble as “getting by comfortably” or falling in love.
Human life continues in such a goal-less state, but it stagnates like a wounded animal. It is ultimately fascinating that you could live your whole life wrapped up in completing one step, followed by yet another: graduating school, looking for a job, making friends, and becoming a master-chef. Where, you ask, in all of this, is there a moment to pause and wonder, to reflect. Have you done something for its own sake lately, or does a hierarchy of implanted stepping-stones, whereby you will leap from one goal to the next, dominate your life? Are your next five years basically determined, or contingencies put in place in case something changes?
This tunnel-visioned goal-orientedness marks the other extreme of life, in which we often fail to appreciate that our existence isn’t truly goal-oriented – although I suppose if you’re theistic, this could be a different story. There is no final objective or award for finishing: maybe a rainy forecast. But the fact that we tend to pass our lives without stopping and looking around, or breathing in fresh air, just because, is concerning. This is likely a symptom of western society and the malleable human mind, in which one is propelled into systems one does not understand as a child, with decisions one could not possibly make. We are taught to live and breathe these goals until they are so ingrained that we don’t even question why we have them: “I need a house; I need a degree; I need a shirt that looks good at the bar”.
In this context, the perspective that we can glean from a retired person is of great interest. It is typical of our western society to shun the sages who walk around not in robes, but ordinary garments. This is truly sad indeed, because these time defying warriors hold one of the most estimable nuggets of wisdom known to humankind: the secret of balance in the struggle I’m speaking of. That is, the retired has no real need for the stepping-stone hierarchy of goals or purposes that breathes purpose into the ‘career-self’s’ life for the time being; the retiree simply does what she wants, when she wants, and lives on the daily, finding value in simpler and more fundamental things, such as a walk in the park, or extensive tea time.
There is no magical formula which can guarantee you the balance between the incessant goal-leaping without pause for the present, and the devolution of human worth into what would be a goal-less boredom or oblivion. However, just knowing that a healthy relationship can exist between your present and future self is a start. This may sound puzzling, but your future self is currently residing with you, telling you which decisions will be pleasing to it at a later date. That future self told you what career to pursue, what city to move to, and so on. The key to genuine and lasting satisfaction will however be to not only live according to the dictates of the future self, but to engage that present self that often takes the back seat in our career-oriented lives.