We often hear, “Why bother?” Why should I be so concerned about an event, my comportment, or personal efforts? In the end, why should I care about anything? Why not just take each day as it comes — make no plans and have no goals? Reinforcing this view, of course, is the knowledge that history teaches us that plans and prognostications are mostly pointless.
Life does usually not turn out in the way we formulate — in the way we intend. When I was young if you told me, for example, that I would eventually happily live in a foreign land, thousands and thousands of kilometers away from my home village, I would have disavowed your statement. Stating it as impossible. But, here I am. Does this mean that we should not make plans and simply subject ourselves to the whims of time, of course not?
I am my own teacher and the most important person that I truly know is me. As we know, this being must be developed and this mandates a cycle and an endeavor. An education is necessary, and so is a position leading to a productive and positive existence. But herein lies the dilemma. I can, most certainly, lead a decent life without truly caring. By this I mean, at some point, I am going to have to decide whether I want to take a chance at my true potential or will I just settle for good enough — nice, but not the metaphorical climbing of Mt. Everest.
Suddenly, I am forced to care — or not. This concept of excellence now stumbles into view. To attain my life goal necessitates the very best that I can be; the desire to push myself just a little bit further than is comfortable or, perhaps, even possible. This is very hard to do. It is far, far easier to acquiesce and surrender to the vagaries of life. Yes, I will be embittered as I age, yes, I will feel like I have lived an unrequited life, but I will be safe — and perhaps even financially wealthy.
So, this is why I should care, because I am dealing with me — an individual who is only given consciousness once in this reality. In the development of the self, society is not helpful. The world at large, my friends, and my parents want me to “play it safe” and work for the government or for a large company. Danger signals should be ringing in my ears for I am not here by accident. I have a task to accomplish in my life, I believe. But as an unpolished diamond, I must be burnished to be allowed to shine — always excellence, why not? The alternative is painfully present only at the end of my life.
The great theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1) leaves us with a thought: It is the characteristic excellence of the strong man that he can bring momentous issues to the fore and make a decision about them. The weak are always forced to decide between alternatives they have not chosen themselves.
A closing thought: We will always be subject to the “good enough” philosophy. This begins with a task as simple as washing myself, my grooming, my view of the world, and my acceptance of the events in it. I can demand superior workmanship in a tailor or from a house builder, but I cannot demand this of another human being. Each of us is responsible for our own efforts and brilliance. I can be but a guide to others, a sentinel of striving and toil to realize some accomplishment in my life.
To sum up: This week we spoke about caring.
To be noted: From Confucius (2) — The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential … these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.
Just for fun:
This week, on your reflective stroll, please think of your excellence. What does that mean in your life?
Every day look for something magical and beautiful.
Don’t be a wage slave – critical thinking is great!
Quote: Don’t settle for the mediocre or the average.