For one reason or another, these past few weeks have been difficult for me; there’s been a lot of work, some personal stress, and just a lot of late nights, including this one. It’s winter, now, and that doesn’t help my mood either. When I get really down, I start thinking about the deep, core things that make me put one foot in front of the other, as it were.
My core motivation used to be personal achievement. It’s funny how much of my life I spent thinking, I need to do X to get Y. I need to get good grades to get into a good school. I need to get into a good school so I can get into a good grad school. I need to get into a good grad school so I can become a big time academic. Personal achievement is not such a deep motivation any more. I may or may not become a big time academic, but that is my choice to make, not a choice forced on me from outside.
For some time, my core motivation were attachment and belonging. I do like people, I like friends, I like being in a relationship. For the five years I spent in grad school, I used to get very hung up over being alone. Now, I still get lonely sometimes, but I am blessed to have lovely friends nearby, and I no longer chase after company, no matter how much I think I might enjoy it. Not-chasing has been a big change for me, but that’s for another post.
What remains in absence of these motivations? Plenty, of course: wanting to do well at work; scientific discovery; getting better at aikido. These are smaller motivations. There is a big motivation still around, and it’s helping people. Not just specific, individual people; helping ALL the people (like cleaning ALL the things). Helping us be healthier, and happier. Helping us reach for the stars, and not kill ourselves in our folly. Helping us take the next step.
I think that we, the entire human race, are doing some great things. We’ve defeated diseases; split the atom; gone to space; we’ve fought for, and in some cases, got the basic rights of humanity – liberty, happiness. The future’s pretty sunny seen from the perspective of a privileged white male in a Western economy.
But there’s a lot more work to be done. We often let ignorance, and fear, get the best of us. We overlook the needs of the whole – the human race, Earth – to cater to the needs of an infinitesimal few. We’ve created horrible weapons that can destroy us at any moment. We can’t just magic our way out of these problems. There’s no super pill, no perfect religion, no Infinity Engine that will take care of them. It will take us all – scientists, writers, construction workers, secretaries, football players, people of every gender, age, and race – to walk the narrow path to becoming a solar, or galactic, civilization without exploding. I would like to help the human race walk that path.
I don’t claim to have any special skills to do so. I think I can help with games and writing and social media just as well as the next person can with her set of skills. It’s just what motivates me, what keeps me working the long hours and not getting depressed on cold wintry days. Maybe, something good will come of this motivation one day 🙂