Racking Disciprine And Porpoise

I keep running aground when thinking about purpose. It’s just not something I can see my way to, no matter which way I try and attack it.

I’d like a sense of not just long-term purpose, which is a post for another time checks clock or, well…well, we’ll see.

But a sense of purposefulness, what the buddhists call mindfulness, of living in a day to day way that matters, that’s proceeding in a direction at least.

In contrast to that I tend to live a life of distraction. But I wonder to what degree are procrastinative distractions simply a matter of your brain filling in existing gaps. I’d have to experiment with it.

The entrenched habits of distraction are horrendous. I can envision, or at least imagine, having that sense of purpose which I daresay would be a calm prospect. Sure there would be times I’d have to vent off pressure and allow myself to get swept up in things. I can’t imagine that not being the case (probably a problem. But an honest one if anything.)

My distractions have gone from distractions to focused action. The amount of time I spend doing what amounts to absolutely nothing is TOO damned high. Well fine, that just is what it is.

I like to think that I’m distracted owing to a lack of clarity and I’ve really no reason to suspect it’s not at least largely true. As if taking the list of “what I’d like to have/be doing in a year” (which is NOT making it to a blog post) and breaking it down into its atomic “next actions” in David Allen parlance would make it easy to pick up a task or two and just start hacking away at it.

What I DO know is if I tried to tackle all that, or any of those, with the top level goal as my primary focus I’d be fucked without a kiss. It would be a vast gulf of nightmare, too great to hold in my head all at once at the resolution required to be truly achievable. It just makes my head explode and leads me back to the computer chair for another quick hit on twitter or reddit.

I touched on a tangential topic with Frank and Kevin about this kind of thing…last week I think, maybe two weeks ago under Frank’s gazebo.

There are a couple ways to approach meaningful existence. My problem is the problem of overarching purpose. All of the things people seem to cite when they talk about living with purpose are pretty nebulous and abstract to me.

It’s quite like the discussion about “luck” in The Richest Man In Babylon. Luck favors the prepared. If you live a purposeless life then it’s absolutely true that you’re not living as well as you can.

If you don’t know what to do and you’re lost to a greater or lesser extent, what you CAN do is prepare. Come up with the wildest awesome situation you can think of: You have the perfect idea, the perfect partner, or the perfect opportunity just appears on the horizon. ARE you in a place where you can take advantage of or accept that situation?

The desk in my office is a great emotionally uncharged example: It’s a fucking shitstorm of papers, electronic components, keyboards, books, notebooks, pens, cigars, change and dust. If I suddenly had the perfect software project or writing idea, I’m not sure I could actually work on it immediately. In fact I’m sure I couldn’t. What I would have to do is spend an hour cleaning it off so that I was ready and hope I didn’t lose it while I prepared.

The exact same thing is true, now that I think about it, about the inside of my head. Now, there’s a bunch of higher-order abstraction about how the inside of my office is a dangerously-near-literal projection of the inside of my head, but I’ll sit on that for a couple paragraphs.

If I have an idea, as I often do when I’m in the truck, going back and forth between White House and Hendersonville, I’ll sit down in one destination or the other and immediately be distracted by the rest of the crap that’s swimming around in my head.

All too frequently I forget that what I’ve got to do is purge that, to “clear the decks” as it were, so that I’m prepared to dive in to whatever the idea is without fear of me distracting myself with this bill or that weird tumbleweed of thought that’s been kicking around in my head.

And of course it’s the same thing. I sit and write through the crap on my head and more often than not, the original idea is lost by the time I get the last “pen in the desk drawer” as it were.

Quite like this time.

But it does present a way through. To prepare for possibilities.

House is a mess? Prepare it for the possibility of guests.
Head’s a mess? Get it ready for the possibility of ideas.
Workshop? Office? Kitchen?

Hell, the kitchen is a good one. The number of times I haven’t baked anything because I just couldn’t be arsed to clean off the counter space required.

Does living in a mode of preparation guarantee you the next steps will appear to you? Frankly I’d be lying if I didn’t say “yeah, it probably does.”

So much of (my) life is in stasis partially because I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of The Next Thing if it was dropped in my lap, at any level of abstraction.

The core idea then is that: In the absence of purpose, the purpose is to prepare.

And there’s another facet to this that bears mentioning: To have a clean mind and environment is to be able to even see when such things are there. If you’re too muddled with unresolved concerns then the likelihood of you even SEEING an opportunity is pretty damned low.

Of course even that can be extrapolated both high and low: Everything from cash to buy something perfect that’s suddenly on sale to unresolved trauma stopping you from healthy relationships.

I suppose what I’m doing really here is reverse-engineering the underlying principles of living a disciplined life. Being able to manage your own crap isn’t just about doing the dishes and laundry (he tells himself), it’s looking in the mirror with cold naked honesty and asking what you might be wrong about, what you have to unravel, and what you’ve got to do to put yourself together to get yourself past the stumbling blocks preventing you from seeing your optimal future.

The ones you put there.