Posted on October 1, 2009 by Colin

You’ll Never Be Philosophically Fulfilled (and That’s Okay)

 

Walking the Walk

In life you’ll come across many people who are adept at talking the talk, but don’t even own the right shoes to walking the walk. These people set their standards very high but in almost every case fail to measure up to their own standards.

This is especially true for lifestyle designers, partially because we set our standards very, very high, and partially because our philosophies tend to change fairly dramatically with great frequency.

I personally can remember very clearly a dozen or so major parallax shifts, after which my life seemed fundamentally different and I saw the world through completely different eyes.

What Others Say

I know I’m not alone in this, too. The other day I asked the folks following me on Twitter “Do you live your philosophy” Some replies included:

J.D. Bentley from Wage Slave Rebel said “I’m trying to 1. Finish developing my philosophy and 2. implement it.” (Mike Wilson from The Health Freak Blog concurred).

Nate D. from The Way That You Wander said “I do the best I can, my philosophy is still being formed I guess.”

Carlos Miceli from OwlSparks said “I try. But even we fail at our own philosophy sometimes. We’re that imperfect.”

Stephanie Yoder from Twenty-Something Travel said “I try very hard to every single day!”

Crystal Silver, of the aptly-named CrystalSilver.com, said “Headed in that direction. Working the plan. Some final steps are forthcoming.”

Nathan House from This Is Where I’m At said “Good question. It’s a mixed bag. My hope is to live life a little more purposefully. Sometimes that happens, sometimes not.”

As you can see from this sampling of (ambitious) respondents, very few people, especially of the lifestyle design sub-genre, believe that they are at the top of their game philosophically. And this is a good thing, because despite the semi-guru stance that most of us are forced to take on certain issues, in reality we’re just as confused and alone in the dark as anyone else; we just tend to write about it more (and use more lists!).

Can It Be Done?

I can’t help but wonder if it’s even possible for someone to reach full philosophical fulfillment and to not be full of shit. Many people claim this stature, but I think anyone who claims to have reached it has most likely hit a plateau…a philosophical block. If you take a look at some of the great philosophers of the past — Neizche, Kant, Freud, Beauvoir — they all have some really extraordinary ideas, but many of their masterworks cease to be fully relevant with the passing of time.

To me this indicates that, even though they were at the top of their game in their own day, if their remarkable ideas could degrade so quickly, how can they possibly be considered complete? This is not to say that there isn’t anything of value in their work – the opposite, actually! – but as a ‘final’ philosophy to rule all philosophies, none of their ideas measure up. I obviously can’t know this for sure, but I would imagine that most of them continued pondering and scribbling away until their dying breath, fully aware of the impending obsolescence of their life’s work and unable to seal all the gaps and paint over the plaster.

What’s the Point?

Which brings me to my next point: if any philosophy is doomed to be perpetually incomplete, why even indulge in them at all?

I can’t answer for everyone, but for me it’s a matter of determining my personal morality and purpose. Ever since I dropped religion in my mid-teens, I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Before, I had the comforting warmth of set rules and regulations which I could follow, and if I did so I would suffer few negative consequences (or so the story was told). After that insulation was pulled away, however, I was forced to really take stock and figure out what made sense to me.

How I would treat my fellow human beings?

How I would address the unknown?

How I would operate in the business world?

How I would treat the planet?

And on and on and on. It’s a lot to think about.

The more I learn about the world and the people in it, though, the more I feel the need to refine the notions I’ve already come up with, and with each clarification I feel better about what I know.

In the Real World

As time goes on I’m making more of an effort to turn my philosophies into practical applications, because I figure that knowing something seems right is fine and dandy, but actually doing something about it is better. This has already resulted in a lot of strange looks and comments under the breath from people who don’t understand my latest attempts to become more minimalistic or my approaches to relationships or my views on the business world, but it makes me feel more complete.

So even knowing there is no end to the journey, I feel like making a difference in my own way is a sort of biological imperative in that if my ideas are passed on and are able to reproduce and evolve over time, they will be like my children and my time here will have been worth more than its intrinsic value.

It’s up to you to determine the purpose of your philosophical journey, but look at the bright side: since it’s your philosophy, whatever you come up with, you’re right.

What Say You?

What are some aspects of your personal philosophy? Do you agree that there can’t be an end to the philosophical process? How do you cope with the self-exploration growing pains? Tell your story in the comments below!