November 15, 2011 1 Comment
Well, well, well it sure has been awhile. Allow me to cut to the chase. Part of the title of this post is in reference to my inability to consistently update this blog. The other part expands on this inaction by highlighting how seemingly menial tasks can easily escape our thought processes.
Let me offer some examples of easy tasks I tend to put off or forget. Updating this blog is up there along with flossing my teeth on a regular basis, waiting until my laundry basket is filled to the brim until I wash my clothes (although in my defense I will play the environmentally conscious card here), spending am extra 5 minutes of my lunch break on twitter instead of getting extra work done and then being rushed at the end of the day (although it’s all relative anyway), etcetera etcetera.
Instead of dwelling on the negatives that come from this, I’m going to take a different approach and argue that these instances occur because in today’s world we try to always keep the bigger picture in mind. That is, simple tasks are challenging to us because we are always focused on something that we are more emotionally invested in.
This is problematic.
Wait, wait, wait! If I’m pressed to deliver a presentation to a potential client that will bring me 100k why should I worry about a simple task such as brushing my teeth? I never said my idea’s were foolproof. Exceptions to the rules always exist, which is why we can claim very few things in this world to be a universal truth.
I make these claims speaking philosophically, understanding that counter-examples will always exist. Now back on topic.
In Confucius’ Analects one of the major themes is the idea that one cannot bring forth their inner goodness until they have focused on and embraced what is close at hand. Think of it as a magnificent oak tree that has lived for hundreds of years. Tree’s are able to provide every living being around it with the oxygen needed to survive. This tree would not be able to provide these amenities however if it the roots did not make sure the tree was receiving the proper nutrients to survive.
How does this apply to the modern day? Simple, how are you able to go out and fight poverty in inner cities if you have not addressed the problems in your own life and household? How is it possible to go out and make the world a better place when you have not worked on cultivating yourself to understand ideals such as humaneness and morality?
This is not a knock to say spend all day reading up on theories of ethics. Sometimes people go to Eastern Europe and build homes in war torn areas because they don’t have direction or an understanding on what humaneness is. By being able to help out and see first hand how to act in a humane manner, they will hopefully emulate those actions by working on improving what is near to them.
Now, how does flossing your teeth or doing work instead of tweeting lead towards acting in a humane manner?
Developing ritual and taking care of the small will allow you to focus on the large. Doing chores like your laundry will become second nature and allow you to perform them without thinking twice. Then, you will be able to focus on what isn’t close at hand. By taking this path, you are better able to asses larger situations in a humane and moral manner, because you have already done so with yourself.
Yet this often is not the case. We try to take care of the large and leave the small behind. Over time small tasks buildup until they become large. Neglecting the close at hand, no matter how little it may be will evemtually grow until it becomes a large issue.