Siege Diaries 10/26/2020

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Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt: Are my goals natural, moral, and rational?

The way this one is phrased reminds me of the phenomenon of SMART goalsetting: Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.  The thought is that this makes them realistic.  This is approach is most common in business and professional settings, where the motivation is intrinsic to the overall goals and purposes of the business.  But these are different goals, and as the Daily Stoic meditation makes clear, they’re meant for living life right now, not in the future.  “Natural,” to a Stoic, refers to “the natural order of things.”  To me, that means paying attention to facts, not beliefs.  It’s an external focus, understanding the world around me, including understanding the limits of understanding–so how the outside impacts the inside “Moral”, on the other hand, faces the other way–how the inside impacts the outside. It “puts the soul in order,” focusing on how virtues such as justice or courage intersect with one’s obligations to society.  There are differences in the two, mainly around control.  The universe–more specifically, the laws governing the universe–doesn’t care about the individual.  It does not make exceptions because you are a good person or believe in it.  On the other hand, the moral is all about how you interface with society and the universe.  Faced with a fraught and fractious world, and the deeds of others, how do you choose to be?  And the third, the rational, governs the interactions between the two.

Evening:  I’ve talked before about how I do not make specific long-term goals.  I have general ones, the main one of which is “leave the world a better place than you found it.”  When it comes to things like kindness, teaching, and learning, I do fine.  What I do struggle with is my desire to perhaps have a more influential voice in the world, which could require sacrifice and an extended period of learning and hard work.  That’s nothing I’m opposed to–in fact, I welcome that kind of process where I start at the bottom and work my way up–but I guess where I have found the challenge is finding an entry point.  There are skills I already have–how can I apply those to a new situation, maybe get “credit” for work I have already done, without being the know-it-all flouncing in to “save the world”?  It’s an ongoing process, and the interruption of the pandemic hasn’t helped.  A friend asked if I’d ever considered running for office, and it’s something that intrigues me–but that would mean casting my lot with a political party and working with that machinery, and I’m not sure that’s me.  I’ve always thought that an arts or cultural philanthropy might be more my speed, but how to begin that process?  And how do I earn at least some kind of living at it?  Again, maybe in a couple of years, when hopefully recovery is starting to happen–then, perhaps, I can look for that path.

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Eight days to the US election.  I’d kind of like to go to sleep for a couple of weeks and wake up when it’s over.  My Canadian friends are mostly gawking at it like a horrific traffic accident you cannot help but stare at–safely, from the other side of the highway, from your car.  Unfortunately, as a US citizen, I know people in those cars.  I have relatives in those cars.

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