The year has begun with a challenge. My resolution had been simple: “More meaning, less bullshit.” When I said this out loud, the comma must have gotten lost. Two weeks into 2023, the theme seems to be “More meaningless bullshit.” What to do?
First week of engaging with university busywork, and I ended up becoming a fly in other people’s intricate and sometimes not-so-sophisticated webs. Insecurity, suppressed aggression, and deliberate dismissal… which must be negotiated as one dances the dance of administrative emptyhanded kindness. Apparently, every academic soon becomes a people manager (yes, please let me be your projection surface for whatever issue is at the backseat of your personality slash development!). Goodness knows, when I look at my senior colleagues, this shall get worse with promotion. No wonder people begin to detach. No time to think, ironic for a philosopher. Hell is other people, Sartre said. Well, I had a hell of a week.
I started reading the Bhagavad Gita. One part sprang at me.
You have a right to your actions,
But never to your actions’ fruits.
Act for the action’s sake.
And do not be attached to inaction.
Self-possessed, resolute, act
without any thought of results,
open to success or failure.
It hit me. Over the head. Bluntly. Yes, this feels right. But, say, what is my action, what is the source of my action? I always directed my action with goals. Goals are not results, however. And while I had pinned my goals on results, this week, some of them came crashing down with meaningless bullshit. Sometimes the hell of other people is seated deeply in your own.
This morning I felt nothing. The alarm rang, and my monkey mind soon began whirling about things that connected the experience of this week with anticipations of the coming one. This day was supposed to be about getting back to the driver of my spirit: thinking about the things that excite me, back to my own research.
Make coffee. Sit down. Nothing.
I received a note. A colleague sent me a paper draft. Just what I needed.
No, really, it turned out to be just what I needed.
Halfway through the draft, I had forgotten about my monkey mind. I wanted to go for a walk and think. My mind was self-possessed, resolutely centered on the joy of thinking, bringing various strands of ideas together to formulate related ideas and questions. It acted. Without any concern about the reception of its action. It acted for its own action.
In this week’s enormous heap of meaningless bullshit, it lay hidden: More meaning, less bullshit.