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Responsibility

Life is difficult and full of pitfalls and hurdles. There’s no denying that.

But it’s also full of opportunities, big and small.

I have dreams that are achievable after a few hour’s effort. I have others that take days or months to achieve. Some are big successes I’m proud of. But the really big achievements, the monumental stuff, like curing a disease or colonizing another planet, can take a very, very long time to come to fruition.

And the only way to achieve goals of that scale is to dream big and work hard. If you want to make significant changes to the world, it’s your responsibility to succeed. To make yourself into the kind of person who can do such things, and to build around you the infrastructure required to take the necessary next steps.

This means making sacrifices along the way. It may mean bending your ideals from time to time, so that you can keep your boundaries permeable: otherwise you and your ideas will be inaccessible to people who don’t already ‘get’ them.

It may mean achieving success beyond your own concept of the word. Making massive amounts of money may not fulfill you personally, but it may be what allows you to achieve something that does. Becoming influential socially or politically may sound like a special kind of torture to you, but doing so may be the sacrifice required to accomplish incredible things that would otherwise lack support.

Life isn’t easy, and it may seem like an even more unaccommodating environment when you want to accomplish something huge.

But if you accept the responsibility to succeed, to build your own infrastructure for achievement, anything is within reach.

Update: February 26, 2017

This is a concept I find difficult to explain to idealists, in particular. People for whom bending on their ideals represents heresy of the highest order.

And I understand why. That’s the whole point of idealism and adherence to it. But to me, being able to expand one’s view, away from the target so that you can look around the firing range and see how you might rearrange things so that the target is brought closer, or changed so that the target is bigger and easier to hit, or so that you gun has a sight added to the top; these all seem like legitimate means of accomplishing that goal. Being unwilling to take such steps seems, to me, like a romanticization of the process of accomplishing a goal, prioritizing a specific journey, over the actual desire to get where you say you want to be.

But I’ll also acknowledge that this logic quite often leads people away from their ideologies toward something else, perhaps something easier, or even ideologically perpendicular to their original aims. It’s easy to say, “I’m going to earn enough money so that I can cure cancer,” and then never get around to the curing part. Those who do manage to meander, while still maintaining their larger goal, however, tend to have a big advantage over those who stick with the initial firing conditions, no matter how quixotic it might make their pursuit.

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Most Things

For your entire life, from birth to death, you will not know most things.

This will never change, because there is simply so much to know. So much to discover. The act of discovery alone, finding out about everything there is to find out about, would take multiple lifetimes, and as you searched you’d discover even more knowable knowledge. Anyone who tried the same task after you would have an even larger body of information to wade through.

If you’re anything like me, this knowledge, that we cannot learn everything there is to learn, is incredibly frustrating. I want to know everything. From A to Z, I feel as if anything I don’t know makes a mockery of what I do.

But despite my frustration, I’m heartened that I’ll never be lacking for something novel to discover. I’ll never have a legitimate excuse to be bored. I’ll never, ever, in my entire life look out at the world and understand every subtlety, personally lacking horizons to pursue.

For my entire life, from birth to death, I will not know most things. And that’s what keeps me moving forward.

Update: February 26, 2017

This element of my philosophy is a big part of what guides my efforts. I gave into my curiosity years ago, and each step taken since then has led me deeper into a lifestyle that allows me to explore, self-educate, and think about what I’ve learned.

I’ll never know everything, and that means I’ll never have an excuse to stop living and growing.

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Where Wonder Begins

Laying alone under the stars in a field of grass, it’s easy to be in the moment. To wonder over the beauty of it all. The smell of the air, and the taste of it. The sound of distant animals and human activity. The feel of the grass poking up through your socks.

If you understand the culture in which you live, you can also appreciate how amazing it is that you can lay outside, unprotected, without fear of being mauled by a mountain lion or attacked by a fellow human. The massive effort it took from generation to generation to clear that space for you, and to make it safe for stargazing, is worthy of awe, just like the sky. Effort invested throughout human history, from tools to agriculture to civilization to laws to advanced technologies, led to that one moment, in that field, under those stars.

Step back further and the moment becomes even more impressive. If you understand the biological hopscotch that had to occur to develop organic cells, genetic building blocks, multi-celled organisms, life as we know it, and the long, plodding process that led to us, and the grass, and the mountain lions you don’t have to be afraid of, your moment intensifies in richness that much more.

If you understand geology and astronomy and all the other sciences and studies that help us understand the massive but¬†infinitely complex world we live in and marvel over, each star becomes just one point in an amazing, utterly complex masterpiece. A moment in time becomes a work of art. Not because it’s all so mysterious, but because you’ve looked closer and learned to appreciate the brush strokes.

Knowledge is not where wonder ceases to exist. It’s where real wonder begins.

Update: February 26, 2017

I find the more I learn about more things, the more interesting and awe-inspiring the world becomes. I stare at bugs a lot more now than I used to, not just because I know more about bugs, but because I understand why, if they’re small enough, they can’t break the tension of the surface of a rain drop, and how their brains can be so small and yet result in such complex instinctual behavior.