Sacrifice to realize potential
A couple of days ago Daniel sent me an excerpt from a Jordan Peterson talk. So here are my variations on a theme by Peterson.
Okay so you wake up in the morning, and your consciousness emerges from nothing in some sense.
In the morning my consciousness comes swimming up from the depths. But at other times it emerges—not from nothing, exactly—but from the waking dream that is my ordinary life. Suddenly the world appears in consciousness. What was there before the world appeared?
…consciousness is in fact that part of you that deals with what is not yet determined because all the things that you do that are fundamentally habitual and deterministic are unconscious.
In the first stages of consciousness, I am observing but not determining. The things that I am doing are still fundamentally habitual and unconscious. Possibilities might arise in consciousness, and I might then do something that is not entirely habitual. But I am more likely to observe that nothing requires management attention and I can safely go back to sleep.
Okay so you wake up in the morning and what you confront, as far as I’m concerned, is potential. There’s a there’s a field of potential in front of you, and that’s the future…that potential it’s what could be and what is not yet.
That suggests a practice when I become conscious: what’s the potential in this moment? If I don’t ask that question, I might see some potential. But there’s a better chance if I look for it.
And then as a consequence of the choices that you make guided by your ethical aims then you transform that potential into actual. And you literally do that with your consciousness.
I look up from my Chromebook, and I ask that question. And the world, or my unconscious, or God answers back. The world is full of potential. And so am I. I just need to decide what to do about it.
From another Peterson talk, this one
Because it’s like, what you could be in, the future beckons to you in the present and helps you determine the difference between good and evil.
And that brings me to thinking differently about Future Me. When I wrote that post, I’d been inspired to change from resentment to gratitude. Now I’m inspired to take the next step.
…one of the things that characterizes your ideal future self is the ability to make sacrifices, and the deeper the sacrifice, the better. And then also to recover from the sacrifice, right? So that’s the death and rebirth.
Past Me didn’t just give Present Me the gift of life. Past Me died that I could live. Don’t tell me that Past Me had no choice, that Past Me had to die. That’s also true, but imagining Past Me’s sacrifice gives Present Me a better tool.
If you’re going to die, why not die for something that matters? Why not die in the service of the greatest good that you can achieve through your living and dying?
People say: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” And that’s true. But it’s also true that “Today is the last day of my life so far.” At the end of this day, I’m gone.
What would you do if you learned that you had six months to live? Or a month? Some people would go on a trip—to see what they’d never had time to see. Some people would get drunk. Some people would cry. I don’t know what I would do, but I know what I would want to do. I would want to spend my time making the world a little bit better. I would want to call people who I loved and tell them that I loved them. I want to write down things that I hadn’t written down yet. I’d want to clean up my room so that someone else didn’t have to deal with my mess.
Well, today is my last day. Tomorrow, Present Me will be no more.
So to die in some sense, and to be reborn in the service of a higher good…the direction of the world depends on you doing that.
I will die as Present Me, in some sense. And I will be reborn as Future Me. Someone who is better than the Me that will have died.
Of course, that depends on what I do today. It depends on the choices I make today. I can make sacrifices today for the person I might become. Or I can sacrifice my future for the pleasures of this day.
Peterson says that the direction of the world depends on me dying and being reborn in the service of a higher good.
So not only your own life but your family’s life. And, and because we’re networked, so intently together, you know, the whole panoply of humankind and maybe the structure of the of the cosmos.
Everything matters, he preaches.
Before I wrote this post, I looked back over some other posts I had written. I know I’ve written some stupid posts, but the ones I found we’re good advice from one Past Me or another, and I was grateful that those Past Me’s had written those posts.
I’m thinking about the difficulties I’ve sometimes had trying to write. I’m thinking about the sacrifices that Past Me made to write them. He loved (as I do) learning new things. Perhaps he got some satisfaction when he finished writing something, but his pleasure was always mixed with frustration. Nothing was ever as good as he hoped it would be. Nothing was ever as easy as he wanted it to be.
And yet, he kept on. He could have kept reading, But instead—under a kind of compulsion—he made his sacrifice.
Carl Jung, according to Peterson, “thought of people as four-dimensional entities, especially, essentially, that were stretched across time, and that you as a totality across time, including your potential, manifested yourself, also in the here and now… what you could be in, the future beckons to you in the present and helps you determine the difference between good and evil.”
Right now I feel Future Me beckoning to me. I can faintly hear Future Me calling to me, encouraging me to make the sacrifices that deep within me I know that I want to make.
Perhaps Past Me did not sacrifice knowingly. Maybe not willingly. But he is gone, and I am here, and my life is terrific.
I am grateful. And I want to make my own conscious, willing, joyful sacrifice. This post could be better. Something in me would like to work on it some more. But I will sacrifice perfection so that I can produce something else for my future self, and for whoever might read this.
Written with the help of
Blogger, and Google voice typing on Android and Chromebook, plus other stuff.