The next life lesson

I remember hearing some theory in some psych class about how there are stages of life, and they’re something like ages 0-1, 1-2, 3-5, 5-13, 13-21, 21-30, 30-50, 50-70, and 70-whatever. Or something like that. And in each stage there’s a thing you have to learn. Like in the 0-1 stage, you have to learn trust. If your parents abandon you, and you don’t ever trust them, you’ll be kinda developmentally stunted. And like in 5-13, it’s that you have to learn to play well with others. Whatever. Anyone know what this theory is called?

Anyway, I can buy it, except I don’t think I agree with those age divisions, and I’m not sure how they know what the lesson is in each stage. Maybe it’s different for every person. For example, in my 18-22 stage, those college years, the most important thing I learned was “if you’re in a group of people and you’re worried that you’re not as cool as they, you’re incorrect.” and its sidekick, “if you’re in a group of nerdy people and you’re afraid that you’re a nerd like they, you’re also incorrect.”

I think the lesson I learned in the 14-17 block was “you should be outgoing.” (Note that these lessons are not necessarily the same for everyone.) You only learn these things after the fact.

Now I’m in the next block, the one that starts at age 22 and continues until… I don’t know. Maybe you only learn when the group ends after it’s over. And you only learn the lesson then too. But I have a sneaky suspicion that the lesson is going to be “it’s okay if you don’t save the world.” Or maybe “become a complete person, not just an intellect.” I’ve worked out the following things:

- You know, sex drugs rock and roll, the ol' dumb-hedonism is textbook not-worth-it
- I will not be remembered long after I die, even if I’m awesome (you know, Ozymandias n’at), so trying to be famous is not worth it
- I am a pretty good person, so trying to be like a superman because it will make women want me and men fear me is not worth it (this I believe probably 90%; sometimes I still want to be a superman but I’m mostly over it)
- Living “the good life” is not such a bad thing- I can easily go on to a pretty fulfilling job, a comfortable living place, hopefully a good family; these are not easy, but definitely doable if I work at them

So, you know, this is okay. The one niggling doubt is: what about all the other people? Living the good life is fine if everyone else had the opportunity to live the good life too. But they don’t! Shouldn’t I be helping them?

Anyway, besides that, I’m mostly doing okay. But I think the answer to that is sort of Beej’s question to me a few months ago, which goes sort of like this: I want to be happy. How do I think I will be happy? By helping other people to be happy. But if I’m not happy, how will I show other people how to be happy?

Or the monks' response to the people’s question “how are you helping others by just meditating all the time?” They’re purifying themselves. How do you get rid of anger, clinging, attachment in the world if you’re full of these things yourself? It is not so easy!

So anyway, point is, I’d still like to save the world, but becoming happy myself is also a worthwhile goal, and one that will be more fulfilling to me in the long run. If I’m anxious because I haven’t saved the world, there are two ways out of that: save the world, or stop being anxious. The trick is, if I then save the world, I might still be anxious, because people who keep striving for more keep wanting more. Stop being anxious, stop wanting, stop craving, etc.

Enjoy the little things in life! Enjoy enjoyment! Don’t be all like “well this is nice but I have to go do laundry.”

I might start posting things that make me happy, either incidentally or on purpose. Studies show that makes you happier. Burmese people keep photo albums of good deeds that they have done, like if they’re going to do a charity thing, they hire a photographer and save the photos so they can look back later and be all like “yeah I did a good thing.”

So. Some things that made me happy today. Warning: you might find these very tiny and not worth reading and you might think I am dumb. If this frustrates you, the problem is with you, not me.
Trees have blossoms on them now.
When I rode my bike home I got in a good pace behind someone.
I had some mushrooms, onions, eggplant, and spinach. I put the onions in butter and let them fry until they were a little burnt, quite accidentally. They turned out tastier because of it. I think I “deglazed” them.
Sarah does not think I’m a basket case, even though my mind was going in circles and I was lost in thought a lot this evening.
I like these pants that I am wearing.


Pete -

I like those pants that you were wearing too.


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