Feels like it's been quite a while since I last wrote anything on this blog (aside from the quick copy-paste of an essay for a course I'm taking). I don't want to be making excuses though (and who the hell am I accountable to anyway?), but there's quite a few things I've been itching to write about - so here we go.
Earlier this year I set a rather large and ambitious task ahead of me: to read the "Great Books" of the Western world, and write essays, make videos about them as I go. The whole reading list is quite long, and I estimate it'll take me about a decade and a half to finish. Given the importance from a literary, philosophical, cultural and historical standpoint though, it's clearly worthwhile. Whilst it's tough going some days reading, the ardent rush of ambition still catches me off guard. For the most part however, I've now discovered how important self-discipline is. Many times throughout my teenage years I'd start some hobby or pursuit and lose steam, lose focus and give up shortly after. I really don't want that to happen now - not with writing, reading, exercising, eating healthy, studying mathematics and physics or (especially) with meditation. Actually, that quick list just about sums up what I've been focused on for the last few months.
At the time of writing, I've nearly finished the Self Authoring program - a psychological catharsis of immense proportions. You can watch Jordan Peterson (one of the founders) talking about it and why one might want to do it here. I've always been extremely goal-oriented on a macroscopic scale - saving the world kind of thing. I still am; whenever someone asks me what I want to do after I graduate, my go-to answer is nonchalantly "something along the lines of saving the world." Funny thing is, I actually mean that.
But I've always found it incredibly difficult to hone in on specifics with regards to that large scale ambition, however. Best I can do is usually narrow down the field - nuclear fusion. But even that has been shaking up recently with both international events out of my control (Brexit, Trump) and things I myself have learned about - complexity theory, non-equilibrium thermodynamics and network theory. Somehow I know I'll be able to incorporate all those interests either over time, or with one perfect career choice (looking at you, Santa Fe Institute). That all in mind, such ambitions hadn't really filtered down to actionable yearly and monthly goals. For example - what courses should I be taking? Pure mathematics (hard, abstract but making me a better thinker) or physics (more relevant, but too narrow)? Thankfully, the Self-Authoring program helped me iron out the medium to small resolution details, so I have a damn good map of where I want to be heading in the future.
A big part of that is reading and writing. That includes making videos...which I haven't done for several months now. But I can pinpoint the reasons why - angst/anxiety of putting myself into the public spotlight (especially since many people I know are aware of my channel), and the sheer effort not only in recording but editing which is a huge pain. I've had the raw footage of my video on Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson, sitting on my hard drive for well over two months now, but I've been continually putting off actually editing that together. Hopefully I'll get around to that very soon.
Thankfully, I have been keeping up with reading the books I said I'm going to read, at least. I recently finished How to Think About the Great Ideas by Mortimer Adler, who after the last two books I read by him, is now one of my all time favourite public intellectuals of all time. The problem here is that there is so much to talk about with relation to his works that I don't know where to start. Well, I do, but damn it's daunting to even think about untangling. Writing this blog is my first baby step back into hopefully a daily writing habit (as I write I see I've surpassed the 700 word mark - a promising sign) of at least 500 words a day. There's just so much I want to write about! (I do genuinely enjoy this, it's crazy). As it happens I also came across a treasure trove of second-hand Greek and Roman classics which I quickly scooped up, so I'm excited about that.
Last I deeply ruminated on my life situation I was in dire straits with an absolutely obscene workload of pure mathematics. You can read my rant on mathematical tribulations on reddit here. I made the really really smart choice of dropping one subject (the crazy fourth year course on Algebraic Topology) and swapping out the insanely hard Complex Analysis course for a much nicer, more friendly Number Theory course. So with only three courses this semester (two of which are much more chill in comparison to what I'm used to taking on), I've had way more time to relax, gather myself and focus on self-improvement.
Now I've started my fourth term - the last quarter of my second year - I'm beginning to feel the existential responsibility return. After having watched hours and hours of Jordan Peterson talking about how to make one's life meaningful (by voluntarily bearing the suffering of life, and shaping yourself into the best you can be) and reading Mortimer Adler discuss the true nature and purpose of the human condition and the Liberal Arts, I've begun to realize that at least intellectually, my leisure time from now on ain't going to be that leisurely.
As Adler describes, the Liberal Arts are meant to train you on how to use your free (leisure) time properly - self learning, self improvement, critical thinking, reading, writing and speaking. That kind of thing. Recreational time is important too, but as Peterson notes - scheduling your day (which includes scheduling both recreational and productive time) allows you to negotiate with yourself on what the balance between all three (work, leisure, play) should be. Well, after a long, drawn out and arduous negotiation, I've found out that there's a hell of a lot I want to be doing to make my life meaningful - which means perhaps not as much play, but not as much "work" either.
Now that might give you a skewed view of what my days are looking like at the moment - which isn't sitting down flipping between doing maths and reading the ancient Greeks. On the contrary, I've actually had a very relaxed past couple of weeks - a trend I plan on continuing. A massive part of that is a greater focus on my meditative practice, which I'm doing daily in the mornings, and taking super seriously now. Not the kind of seriously where I sit and hum "ommmmm...." - but rather truly exploring the landscape of secular spirituality, which I'm pleasantly surprised to have found out to be incredibly vast. This blog post has already gotten long enough so if you're curious what I mean by that, I'll link some videos and things which I've been appreciating as of late for you to explore. In future I'll certainly be writing at length about that.
(If you're in a deep kind of mood, or interested in what the hell I mean by "secular spirituality", check out some of the links below.)