Would You Really Do Anything?

Would You Really Do Anything?

n A planispheric astrolabe from the workshop of Jean Fusoris in Paris circa 1400, on display at the Putnam Gallery in the Harvard Science Center
A planispheric astrolabe from the workshop of Jean Fusoris in Paris circa 1400, on display at the Putnam Gallery, Harvard Science Center. Photo by Sage Ross (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
We recently gave ourselves a Supernatural marathon, and along with how much the character of Sam Winchester annoys me, I have been thinking about selling souls and what people do when they really want something.  Like when they say something along the lines of “I would do anything to be (e.g. famous)?”

Do you think they would really do anything?  I don’t think they mean anything; I think what they mean is that “I would do anything that didn’t involve any actual effort or work even if it was morally or ethically wrong to be (famous).” Things like lying, or cheating or killing.  Or selling their souls (always assuming that they have them).

Obviously, if they really would do anything to be (famous), they would research what they needed to do to – maybe go back to school and work hard to gain qualifications (or at least take an acting class or two), volunteer behind the scenes (stagehand or some such) to get relevant experience and/or exposure, or find a mentor.

This can be torturous – I know this.  It took me eight years of correspondence school to get my Bachelor of Arts, and that was really hard.  I was working full-time, studying on the train on the way into work and trying to get my assignments done on the weekend.  And when we moved to the UK, I took my studies with me.  The “good old days” when it was all done by snail mail and not online, and your assignments had to arrive by the due date.

Would I have sold my soul?  I don’t really know.  Getting an education is one of those things where it is the journey that matters, not the destination.  Taking the time to think about the things that you are learning, coming to understand how and why, not just what.  (I did study Humanities).  But as I mentioned in More String Theory, even hard science isn’t really fact, so stuffing your head full of knowledge without any interpretation or application doesn’t provide much practical benefit.  Albert Einstein is responsible for a number of pithy quotes on this, including “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.

It also reminds me a little of the movie Click, where the main character uses a universal remote control to skip the “boring” bits of life.  Naturally there are tragic consequences, a second chance, and a happy ending, but in reality, you don’t get do-overs or reset buttons.  You get one chance, and when things go wrong, YOU have to change the way you think and pick a new way of managing the situation.

I actually studied at University on campus when I left school, but for dumb-arse reasons I left after one semester (in good standing) but was unable to re-enrol and ended up going to work instead.  And many years later, when I decided to get a degree.  It didn’t quite turn out the way I expected, but along with giving up smoking, it is one of my proudest achievements.

Which reminds me of something James Clear said, that “life is like a treasure hunt.”  So many of us focus on the treasure, not the hunt, but as Clear says, the quickest way to find treasure is to “set your compass and start walking.”  He suggests we need to let go of the desired outcome and focus on the trip.

So to follow up on “I would do anything to be (famous)”, we should focus on becoming (famous) not what or how we imagine being (famous) is.  In some ways, it is fortunate I didn’t have a clear picture of what my life would look like once I got my degree because I couldn’t be too disappointed with the outcome.  Similar to when we think about losing weight, I just thought I would be smart and happy, and life would be perfect.  But you probably already know that getting an education changes who you are, and that life is never really perfect.

Would I sell my soul now?  Definitely Not.  And eternal damnation doesn’t have anything to do with it.  It’s just that like Clear and Einstein, I think that the journey (not the destination) is the point.  The day before my father died, I realised that every single thing that had ever happened to me had brought me to that point where I was perfectly equipped to deal with the situation at hand.  “Good” and “bad”, it was all equally valid and equally important.  My life has made me who I am today, and if any part of it had been different, then I would be too.  Any skips or fast forwards would have left me inadequately equipped, and I don’t want to imagine what the consequences could have been.

And in regards to being famous…  Isn’t it better to be famous for something rather than famous for nothing?

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