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Locus of Curiosity
Choice and obligation in modern life
Lately I’ve been experiencing everything as an obligation. It’s is an odd feeling if you’re the type of person who tries to be very intentional about life. Like swimming in molasses. But you chose the molasses. The feeling culminated in a mini-crisis this morning. Suddenly the weight of the path forward hit me all at once like a ton of bricks and I could barely move. The realization of the map and the territory and Steve Perry singing, “the movie never stops it goes on and on and on.”
I began the morning with the feeling that I needed to work on the pitch deck for my startup. We are going to need money soon and after spending three months coding the MVP the time has come for me to buckle down and start cranking slides.
Yesterday, I put together a rough draft of the deck during the day and barely made it to a late night yoga practice afterwards. After yoga it was time for a comedy show with some folks visiting town from the midwest. All of these are good things. I love my company and I care about my yoga practice and enjoy watering the garden of my social life with all of its supporting characters in far orbit.
Nonetheless, when we experience life’s component activities, taken in rapid sequence, with one time block leading to the next leading to the next, it all begins to feel obligatory in some way.
I owe it to myself to live my life, I think to myself as I hustle through the days. To put my best foot forward, one after another after another. Every day I commit to doing everything I can to get where I want to be. But I can only ever be here now. And occasionally after setting the compass and pointing myself in a direction, I start to feel the fuel deplete. Joy slips to numbness as I move along through the various stages of productivity, from creativity and curiosity to pure execution fueled only by willpower.
It’s a normal feeling. Part of the human experience, I’m sure. Almost everyone I know is in it. In some way shape or form. I tend to associate with a fair number people who take pride in their ability to grind it out. Day after day. Week after week. Marcus Aurelius says, “Stop drifting…Sprint to the finish. Write off your hopes, and if your well-being matters to you, be your own savior while you can.” And I believe this. Just like I believe in the general operating philosophy of, “Every day bite off more than you can chew and then chew it.”
Today, I write down for myself a list of questions. What do I *want* to be doing? What do I need to be doing? I don’t have all the answers but in exploring the dissonance between the two maybe we can shed some light on the source of where and how the tension arises. I write more questions on the back end of that. In my experience, if you’re exploring topics to which you don’t have answers it can be fruitful to at the very least write down the questions that comprise the topic. Eventually I land on the following question.
“Where is the locus of my curiosity?”
It seems like an important question I don’t ask myself frequently enough. In the absence of obligation, it is often curiosity that drives purposeful action. Moves us forward. Lifts us from the doldrums of boredom and ennui. I’m curious about lots of things. The past, the future, the present. The structures that govern our lives. The architecture of thought. How to exist in this world assembled of atoms and prakṛti.
Life is a hamster wheel. Even doing nothing is doing something. We can’t get off the ride we can only slow it down from time to time.
I’m pretty sure that ultimately answers mostly remain elusive, ethereal, or 42.
Today, I’m taking a step back to simply marvel and appreciate our individual and collective capacity to wonder. I’m trying on the idea that it’s not solving the problem that soothes the soul but making peace with the unsolved problem. Calibrating the internal compass with my locus of curiosity. Allowing it to never be solved.
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