Obsession and Success

Our minds are capable of obsession so potent that it can result in self-effacement, and even self-destruction of both the body and the mind.

Why is that the case?

Why are we not a moderate, even keeled, and emotionally mild species?

It would take contact with intelligent life to know if consciousness necessitates the existence of powerful and often self-defeating emotions. But if we take a look at the world in which we exist, the apparent utility in obsession and its accompanying emotion comes into view.

Obsession, more than any other mental state, bestows upon its object meaning and value so that all possible avenues of attaining that object can be explored. When something must be obtained, our minds strain and calculate ingenious strategies that anything less than obsession would not have brought about.

But for every scenario where obsession breeds innovation, there are more that result in destruction and pain of both the obsessed and the object.

Equally pernicious is the plight of those who have succeeded in their aims, and find an emotional and motivational void upon reaching the other side of obsession.

There is nothing so dangerous as failing to assess the worth of your aims, and the realistic outcomes of both failure and success upon achieving them.

Accepting Chaos

I have an important question to ask you.

How many actions do you witness on a daily basis that are in anyway motivated by concerted efforts towards virtue or rationality? Include your own actions in that census of course, and be honest with yourself.

For myself, the number of such actions is so small as to be negligible, to the degree that such striving towards virtuous action usually sticks in my minds for months. I pat myself on the back for good deeds and am flabbergasted when someone interrupts their normal programming to reach out a hand to help another or refrain from a reflexive and toxic behavior.

Most of what we do is done without conscious care or consideration. The philosophical principles we study and logically understand only come into play if we make a massive moment-to-moment effort. Of course, in our pre-agricultural society, this made perfect sense. Actions needed to be quick and instinctive.

But modern life has granted us copious leisure time with which we can design our own standards of conduct. Few use their free hours in such a way. Even fewer actually apply the lessons they glean from centuries of the written word.

Therefore, in dealing with ourselves and other people, it is important to understand we are not dealing with consistent belief systems housed in logical minds. Each and every one of us is a web of conflicting drives and subpersonalities that all vie for manifestation in action.

Rationality, logic, and morality are not the default ideals or modes of being. In fact, those very words and their conceptual contexts took millennia to develop. Don’t take them for granted, and don’t expect them or feel they are owed to you by the individuals that make up our civilized society.

High standards will save you, and transform your life. But if you expect them, demand them from the external world, you will become embittered and distanced from the environment. Or else you will fall into the trap of cynicism, and adjust your standards to match the brutality and thoughtlessness that exists all around.

Progress is achieved through aiming at an ideal, whilst meeting external conditions and your own psyche exactly where they are in the present moment. 

An honest acceptance of conditions is the necessary precondition to conforming them to a virtuous ideal.

The Danger in Goals

What is the point in attaining anything, if it does not bring you joy?

A simple, cliche question but the one that is most important in considering the setting of goals and achieving of outcomes.

Human beings do not desire objects directly; we desire the states of being those objects grant us. A luxurious car is only incidental to what is actually worth a million dollars or more; the sensation of having something difficult to create, and difficult to obtain. That pleasure is, of course, the real prize. If it were not, the million would be spent on simply the fastest, most intensely practical form of transportation, rather than a meticulously engineered work of art.

Consider this fact when aligning yourself towards a particular end goal. What is the state you are after, the thing which the object or desired condition will bring you? How will you feel in that state? How long will it last? What will be the thing to break it, or strengthen it?

Most importantly, consider if your goal is truly the thing necessary to bring about that state. Most of the time, our goals do not grant us the states we hope for, and if they do, those states last only a moment.

 

Escaping Failure

Why do people tolerate conditions that to an outside observer appear torturous and unbearable?

Because it usually takes a long time for things to go from good to average to terrible. The loosening of standards, the growing rarity of success, all stack up so slowly that we often find ourselves in a living hell with no idea as to how we got there, and no clear memory of when it all changed.

Perhaps this is why quicksand exists in our minds as an archetypal fear. Quicksand is that which kills you so slowly that you don’t notice until your head is nearly below ground.

No wonder standards, principles, and consistent strategies are the weapons by which failure and stagnation can be fought off.

Motivation, inspiration, and passion are too weak and unreliable a resource to be used in continuous personal growth. They are nowhere to be found when you need them most, and often lead us into self-aggrandizements and prideful displays of self-perceived talent.

Inspiration is what may propel us to create principles sufficient to change the course of our life. But it in itself is not enough. Motivation may be enough to get us up off the couch the first time, but it likely won’t be there the second or the third, or the other inestimable times we might need motivation if we are to take consistent proper action.

Emotion is the water that turns the solid ground to quicksand. Principles and strategies are the rope which we have either spun ourselves, or has been offered by a mentor. But with no rope, we are doomed to sink.