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May 23rd, 2019
Many of the biggest questions that we come across, that we tend to think are the most important, are in all truth, very poor questions.
What is the meaning of life?
That’s perhaps the biggest question we have, and yet, it’s a terrible question; first and foremost because it never leads a person to a definitively better place. Attempting to answer this question is akin to a rut. One can wonder and perseverate in circles forever without ever really gaining any ground.
What to do with life? is similarly a poor question because of how large and ungainly it is.
We can ask what a better question might be?
How can we zoom this question in and carve a more productive version out of it?
We can narrow the time scope for one and ask merely: what shall we do with today?
No matter what the answer ultimately turns out to be for our larger question about life, it is invariably tied to the actions we take now, how those actions are wrapped up in current obligations and how exactly we use our time outside of such obligations to steer in new directions.
Generally, the bigger the question, the more likely the question is a poor one. There’s a simple reason for this: we do best to ask questions that are in direct proportion to our own personal agency. Asking questions about things that we cannot really do anything about is not only paralyzing, but the mismatch is more likely to cause stress that we cannot resolve than it is likely to produce any kind of meaningful result that we can work with.
Its for this relation to personal agency that we do best to refashion questions like whittling knives and trim the fat off questions that are not in accord with our current powers.
Such larger questions are not without their utility, but only if we can bridge a way for our current level of agency to one day increase to the point where such questions are not simply stressors. Questions about time help illustrate this. After answering what we will do with today, we can then ask about the week, and the succeeding weeks, then the month and future months, and slowly, if we are thorough and honest with our answers we begin to bridge the agency of a single life in a single day to much larger frames of time. If our efforts in those succeeding scales of time are directed in ways that increase our personal agency, then the sorts of questions we can handle grow bigger in accordance to that personal agency.
Regardless, however, starting with an honest assessment of where we currently stand is the most important part of all of this. Without working with the only power we have and leveraging it as well as possible, no larger aims are possible.
Such agency boils down to a much simpler question:
What can you do today with what you’ve got now?
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