How do you fill your hours and days? For many, it just happens; they don’t need to really think about what they’re going to do because they have so much to do. People who have had jobs and other pursuits for many years often look forward to times when they can pull back on the throttle a little, when the demands on their time recede and they have some breathing space. However, time off is really “time on” something else. As the hours go by, you have to fill them with something—because there’s no such thing as doing nothing. You continue to exist. You think, you breathe, and time goes by. You can make your time “mindless” and force feed inane TV (of which I’m a fan on occasion), but ultimately your mind will rebel and desire something more substantial.
Is there really evil in the world?
I have given a lot of thought to the concept of evil over the years. A big part of me points to the overwhelming evidence of actions and events that could not be called anything else. But my rational side makes the argument that there is a cause for any action, even the most horrific ones. There are certainly evil actions with appalling consequences, but do they come from a place of evil itself, or is there always an explanation (e.g., mental illness)? In the realm of knowing right from wrong and choosing wrong, there are huge swaths of gray, and most people engage in some forms of antisocial behavior, however minor and insignificant—any time spent on highways will prove that point. But what about behavior more significant in terms of its severity and consequences? Why does that happen, and where does it come from?
As we move through our lives, most of us are working to make our lives better: happier, healthier, and more meaningful. We may work on these elements consistently, or we may follow fads and have multiple false starts along the way. In the midst of our busy lives, it can be quite challenging to pay attention to what is needed to achieve our most basic goals in life. But without accomplishing these goals, we are considerably less likely to achieve our more lofty ones. How many of us pay attention to the foundation needed to work on those basic goals—the elemental pieces of a happier, healthier, more meaningful life? It’s not complicated—eat right and exercise, get plenty of sleep, keep your stress level down—but it is onerous. It takes discipline, proactivity, an open mind, and consistency. We have to be intentional about our foundations or they will not happen. Although everyone’s foundation may be slightly different, we all have basic requirements that include sleep, nutrition, exercise, and mental/emotional health. Many would also add spirituality to this list. But whatever our foundation consists of, it’s important to be specific and intentional and follow through on our goals for each of these elements.
Like most people, my life is made up of a variety of competing forces. They often seem like a mishmash of drives, doubts, and compulsions, and it can be hard to get a handle on them and how much each is controlling my day-to-day thoughts and activities, my path in life, and my worldview. I try to be very intentional about my vision for my life, goals, and aspirations—I have a document that I update regularly describing all of these—but I still struggle with who’s in the driver’s seat. I do feel like I have a good, strong moral compass that helps me develop my evolving worldview and guides my interactions with people, but I can also be selfish. I try very hard to be healthy and spiritual, but many of my thoughts and actions are driven by compulsions related to basic urges. Sometimes I prioritize working toward an ideal, while at other times, I tell myself that I should just have fun. Life is, of course, a balance, and I try not to sweat these competing forces too much, but when I stay aware of these forces, it can actually be fun to watch them fight with each other.
I’ve been thinking about these forces in terms of Freud’s id, ego, and superego (more here), which has been fun and instructive.
A crisis is a great opportunity to get to know ourselves better.
Some may aspire to great ideals, but when faced with a crisis, they revert to fear-driven behaviors, such as hoarding. It can be helpful to examine how we’re assessing the crisis, in terms of its potential impact both on us and on our communities. It’s also tremendously important to assess our own emotional journeys and thought processes when a crisis arises. We can feel worry, anxiety, and fear during a crisis, and those feelings can be overwhelming. They can drive us to engage in activities that we believe will give us some control over the situation. It takes honest and intense introspection and reflection to understand our feelings, how they drive us to certain behaviors, and how we might redirect those feelings into more constructive behaviors.