I happened to bump into an old acquaintance of mine the other day whom I hadn’t seen in years. What I remembered about him was that he was one of the most narcissistic people I’ve ever known. And, true to his old self, he immediately began talking about money.
At one point in our conversation, I said to him (though I don’t recall the exact context) that money is not the endgame, but merely a means to an end. To which he snapped, “People may like to believe that bull___t, but the truth is that money is the endgame.
A minute or so after his heart-warming comment, I happened to mention the efficacy of having a wide range of interests over and above those things that have a direct impact on your financial success. He responded that my words sounded like altruism to him, which took me aback. Believe me, the one thing even my biggest detractors have never accused me of is being an altruist, so he clearly missed my point.
What I was trying to say to him was that by becoming too self-absorbed in their own pursuits, many people tend to lose their sense of proportion. I find it has a calming influence on me whenever I remind myself of just how small my exploits and activities are compared to the total output of the human race, and also how little of what I do has any effect at all on most of the world.
Looking at it through a cosmic prism, we tend to get very excited and impressed with what goes on in our little corner of the world during the brief period of time we’re here. We are, in fact, quite naïve when it comes to vastly overestimating our importance. The best antidote to this mistake is the development of a broad conception of the life of man and his place in the universe.
Each of us is alive for a only brief period of time, and we have only that short time span to learn whatever we can about our planet, the universe, and life itself. The world is a buffet of comedy and tragedy, bizarre events, and mysteries. These buffet experiences, I believe, are essential to a life well lived, to a life of meaning.
Learning about new and different things and experiencing things outside of our normal realm gives us a sense of proportion. And one of the direct benefits from keeping a healthy perspective on our place in the universe and the world is that it takes our focus off petty issues, trivial misfortunes, and dreading what fate may have in store for us.
If we fail to take an interest in the full spectrum of life, we grossly underuse the greatest gift that life has to offer: free will. Being aware of the brevity and minuteness of human life opens one’s mind to becoming part of the world — the whole world — as well as the universe. Only man has the power to do this — at least that we know of — because only man is aware of his awareness.
So even though a sense of proportion makes us realize how insignificant we are in the overall scheme of things, we should never forget that we are, paradoxically, perhaps the most significant matter in the universe. And the more we open our minds to connect with the universe, the more heightened our awareness becomes.
Why? Because connecting with the universe gives us an unlimited source of power. Call it God or any other name that makes you feel comfortable, but if your mind mirrors the universe, it becomes, in theory at least, capable of accessing everything in and about the universe. Perhaps it can even lead one closer to the answers to the greatest mysteries of the universe, to wit:
Who are we?
Why are we here?
What is our purpose?
How did the universe come into being?
And, of course, who or what is God?
Likewise, if your mind mirrors the world, it becomes, in a sense, as great as the world. Just having a better understanding of our little planet would be a pretty good start on learning something about life.
The significance of all this in our day-to-day lives is that having wide-ranging interests is good for both the mind and the soul. That’s because, as with perspective, having interests aside and apart from our chosen professions helps us to relax our minds and dissipate anxiety over trivial matters and irrational fears.
And while I have no data to prove it, my instinct tells me that having a wide array of subsidiary interests is probably a lot healthier for the body as well. You might want to test this theory by making a conscious effort to explore new channels and see if it leads to a more relaxed mind and a heightened state of awareness.
One thing that’s for certain is that our schools focus far too much on the acquisition of specific skills and far too little on expansion of the mind, the heart, and the soul.