There's a small and a big issue...
The big issue is deep, unfathomable, inscrutable. But it truly matters.
The small issue is shallow, irrelevant, and ultimately pointless.
The interesting thing I noticed is that in many a situation, we humans tend to ignore the big issue and focus on the small one.
Here’s few examples:
- Pursuing good enough marks instead of good enough understanding.
- Chasing wealth or perfection at the cost of health and well-being.
- Looking for success outside rather than finding joy within ourselves.
(Incidentally, this also goes to show quite well why I usually care much more about the how rather than the what.)
Why do we do that?
I suppose we (as a society) find big problems overwhelming and don’t want to accept that we can do (and know) little-to-nothing about most of it.
So we inflate the importance of silly, often completely made-up problems. And we fool ourselves into thinking that they actually matter, as if they were real.
Unfortunately, this also means that we lose whatever little power we have to tackle the issue, only to squander our energy and struggle with futile worries.
Once again, here’s an example to put everything in context. I’ll pick education because mostly everyone is familiar with some kind of school system.
(Also, because learning is something I like and have put lots of thought into. And because I have just watched a video about Italian high school that triggered these reflections. In case you know Italian: L’esame di maturità e altri deliri.)
What happened is that we have trivialized the overly complex process of assessing people’s knowledge and competence.
Make no mistake, this problem has no well-defined solution. It is an impossible issue (like most of the really interesting stuff in life, in my opinion).
There’s nothing inherently bad in wanting to approximate as best as we can an unattainable solution or a measure for something immeasurable.
The fault is fixating on grades, seemingly forgetting that we are people. We are faulty and wired to behave in certain ways. We have biases. Lots of biases.
Most of the times, we don’t really know what we’re doing. And the funny paradox here is that it takes some wisdom to understand how unwise we are.
It’s good to know math and history, but isn’t it better to be a happy person?
Why did I write all this?
To be honest, I don’t feel much like blogging lately. And surely not for a lack of interesting thoughts to share. If you have a blog, you’ll get what I mean.
Still, I usually take notes to myself. This is pretty close to it. I tend to edit my posts, but this one is almost entirely unpolished in both form and content.
I decided to publish it not only because stars lined up pretty much perfectly, but also because I’ve felt this idea could be really impactful on anyone’s life.
In fact, I could recall plenty of situations from my personal experience where I have perceived or known this split – either outside of me or inside myself.
One example about the “outside world” is something I’ve felt ever since I’m a child. An inconsistence, a deep discrepancy between what matters and what we do.
Morpheus, talking about the Matrix, put it delightfully well:
Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain. But you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life. That there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?
Another example, much more concrete and closely related to me, is this blog.
The small issues could be plentiful: finding compelling topics, avoiding grammar mistakes, getting readers and keeping them engaged, and the list goes on.
I’m not arguing these things don’t matter at all, but they easily give rise to made-up problems and worries about insignificant metrics, such as how many posts to write and how long they should be and how many people read them.
I quickly touched on this when I wrote about my Joylog, and once again I will borrow the words from Leo Babauta’s minimal web blog post:
Don’t popups and big subscription boxes and other such things that ask the reader to subscribe to your mailing list get much better conversion numbers? Sure, in the short term, your numbers will go up. But those are unimportant numbers. Much more important: How much did you delight the reader? How many readers did you lose because you disrespected them with a popup or screaming in the sidebar asking them to subscribe? How much trust did you lose? Who did you help with this popup? Try measuring those numbers with your analytics.
So, if having readers and good content in a good form are all ultimately small issues… what’s the big issue here?
Well, if I knew it wouldn’t be that unfathomable and inscrutable, wouldn’t it?
But although I can’t quite put my finger on it, I still enjoy speculating. Put simply, I think the big issue boils down to just being myself.
Whatever that means. Whatever “I” means. Whoever “am” I.
I don’t know, and I don’t know if I will ever know. But that’s what makes life interesting, at least when I consider my inner world.
I have no idea why so many times I have felt like writing an email to a cool internet person, but then I didn’t. And then sometimes I did.
I have no idea why so many times I wanted to sent a quick message to a friend, but then I didn’t. And then some other times I did.
I have no idea why so many times I have felt I wanted to share something with the world, but then I didn’t. But this time I did.
Why would this be relevant to you?
Well, I don’t know. But I don’t really care, because that’s a small issue.
It may be desirable to have a perfectly logical explanation for everything, but it’s even better to have an underlying feeling of heading in the right direction.
The big issue is, broadly speaking, seeing the heart of the matter.
We can’t just disregard the fact we are complex, nuanced, and interconnected. And we should keep in mind that we still know so little about ourselves.
Maybe sometimes you too chase pennies with dollars. Stopping for a moment to reflect on what’s more important can help us get our priorities straight.
And since it’s the beginning of a new year, I want to wish both of us to follow our deepest heart desires and become who we were born to be.