small meaningful things

rethinking labels and value

I am still recovering from my last migraine, so today I had to walk instead run. While walking I found myself thinking that knowing when to do the right thing for my body – that sort of decision-making – willing myself into making the correct decision instead of the choice I desire, takes work too. It is just not the sort of work I am used to.

In one of my recent essays I wrote about the profound loss I had felt when I lost my ability to work like before. I also write frequently about the envy I feel when I look at my partner work. I realised once again this is the thing I keep doing: I have these predefined ideas of what constitutes as valuable work and I keep feeling lousy for not being able to do that sort of work.

But to make this marathon-like effort to work on my health and psyche for the past 8 years is also valuable. I just cannot seem to remember or perceive it this way. Most of the time I feel weak and useless.

On a similar parallel sometimes I am misguided into thinking that photography is “easy”. I simply press a shutter and voila there’s a photo. But to cultivate an internal world that is capable of perceiving moments worth photographing is also work. It is not something that I can set out to do and accomplish. It is a profound ongoing process.

Time and time again I find myself valuing the seemingly “harder” work. Like I prefer running over walking. I think I miss working on my interactive projects and I don’t value my writing as much because it is “easier”.

I would like to uncondition myself from this sort of thinking. I think it simply reinforces unnecessary negative feelings about my life and prevents me from seeing creative opportunities. Like instead of feeling lousy over what I have lost, I could work on my photography practice.

Sometimes I am aware of how inflexible I can be, but I am not sure how to break out of it, yet.

This note is partially provoked by Ankur Sethi who wrote:

“all the books I read, movies I watch, games I play, or music I listen to must have some sort of artistic merit…I can see how harmful it is, and I’m starting to question it.”

I think it is similar to how I label all the things I do into so-called useless and useful. I can understand the sentiment that life is short and we should optimise for time, but we our selves are works-in-progress and therefore we can’t really be the best judge of what is the best use of time. And sometimes the best use of time is to waste it.

By having very fixed ideas on what should be done and consumed, we’re setting unnecessary limits to where we can expand our selves. Who knows where inspiration may come from? And not everything needs to have a purpose. We can watch rom coms simply because we enjoy it.

In zen this sort of labelling is discouraged, in order to cultivate a mind that can perceive each moment as a fresh moment, to be capable of seeing things as they are, not just representation of their categories.

I have no idea why I chose to write this as a note versus a journal entry. Maybe I have this belief that I don’t really have to make sense in a note and it can be fragmented like this post.

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