As John Steinbeck said in The Winter of Our Discontent, “You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway.” Good one John.
We might not appreciate advice but we’re free to give it. It’s like everyone is saying, “I want what I want! Is that so wrong?” but the world says, “Sorry. You can’t have that—but… you-can-have-this.”
And we make do (or we make don’t).
Contrary to what we might think, “If you want to avoid repeating history, it’s best not to try to learn from it” (Science Behind Repeating Mistakes).
When a mistake happens, say, “Forget about it” like Donnie Brasco. Sing “Walk On By” with Dionne Warwick and move on. Like the weeping philosopher Heraclitus said in 469 BC, “Everything flows.” Nothing lasts. We’re all a little disappointed.
We all dance a tango with the world. In moments of dissatisfaction and/or lamentation it’s not surprising that we ask, “What’s the point?” and find the point lacking and/or nonexistent.
The psychologist Tim Carey wrote, “It’s a funny thing about the point… we rarely think about the point except in those situations when we question if there is one. Most people… meander through their days… getting on with the business of living by making their lives be the way they want them to be” (What’s the Point?…).
Carey concludes: “We have no objective, irrefutable, immutable point that drives us all except, perhaps, the point of keeping our worlds in the states we are satisfied with” (…life is the point).
Cue music: Les Baxter “Blue Tango” (1952).
The propensity to keep one’s self satisfied reinforces the Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) which states, “Behaviour is the control of perception,” which means: “we do things to get what we want” (PCT).
Seems like a no-brainer.
As it says on the PCT website, “When things are working normally, the person gets to experience what they want to experience. It is just right—like the perfect cup of coffee or tea… the person compares a ‘standard’—what they want—with what they are experiencing right now—their perception” (PCT).
Our brains measure the difference between what we want—a beautiful day—with what we get—mud slides.
The bigger the discrepancy between what we want and what we get, the more effort we put into reducing that discrepancy.
Rather than change our behaviour, we vary our behaviour to control sensory inputs. We do this to feel what we want to feel. We adjust our behaviour until everything is just right.
We think we should be able to control our careers, relationships, health, finances and so on. It’s a surprise when we’re told we can’t.
Effort does not guarantee success. Understand the difference between thinking and being.
It’s like you’re driving a car. Your purpose is to get where you’re going so you avoid potholes. It’s a negative feedback loop. You turn your steering wheel to cancel the negative effects of potholes to your purpose.
You want things “just right.” If the music is too loud or in some way not just right, you change the music, turn it off, suffer or seek escape.
Carey asks, “What is the point of saying “Good morning”? What is the point of a butterfly bursting from its constricting cocoon and fluttering off to find a flower? What is the point of going to school, of turning up to work on time, of going on holidays, of being kind, of asking for skim instead of full cream milk...” What’s the point of anything, really?
The point is there is no point, but that is the point! Everything has a point but if you don’t see it, it is indeed pointless.
The point is what you make because you’re the one pointing!
We are meaning makers and pointers. We see patterns and make connections. It’s apophenia: the “universal human tendency to attribute meaning to perceived connections or patterns and to seek patterns in random information” (source).
The pointillism of a day in the park might be to relax and enjoy, but if you don’t see the point, you won’t.
We want things we don’t have. We don’t have things we want. When we have things we want, they don’t last. We have expectations and attachments that bind us to how we want things to be.
Like good old Siddhartha Gautama said, suffering is caused by our wish for things to be other than the way they are.
Nobody but you feels your “you” feeling (see Here’s the Thing). Scientific instruments can show brain activity, but it can’t point to your awareness of “you-ness” and say, “There it is!” Nor can you prove that you are conscious other than to say you are. Your brain may fire and wire together a sandcastle of self but your mind controls the firing lines.
As Dr. J. Schwartz said, “The brain puts out the call. The mind decides whether to listen” (see slide presentation). The brain is the only organ that you can change (rewire) with conscious attention.
You decide what is and isn’t important. One person loves old cars, another doesn’t. What’s the point of old cars? Nothing. But to the one who enjoys them there is.
What’s the point of a flower? a tree? a you? Nothing.
The point of a flower is to flower. The point of a tree is to tree. The point of you is to you. There’s no point other than to be and do whatever it is and does.
Flowering is for reproduction but to sensory perceptions of a sensitive person there’s more to flowers than anatomy. There is beauty but not everybody gets it (if they did, they would).
Points are individual.
If swimming has a point, swim. If laughing has a point, laugh (if it doesn’t, don’t). We have expectations and preferences that we continually compare to the current state of our world. When they match, we’re content. When they don’t, we do something to make it “just right.”
Thoughts are like seeds. A seed (thought) contains a plant (new thought) which gives birth to more seeds containing more plants (thoughts) in a cycle. It’s all very useful but it can remove a person from the real world.
What’s pulling your strings has been fashioned by memories, dreams and conditioning (see: “It’s Not Me…). You need an ego identity but the trouble with our big brain is that we put ourselves into psychological prisons. Reality is not what we think it is. Reality with a capital R is something else entirely.
Prove it to yourself. When you’re done reading, go outside and experience the world with your senses. It’s like cleaning a window of thought grime. Thoughts come and go as you enjoy a timeless dimension that’s always there but obscured by preoccupations.
Don’t overthink it.
All insides have outsides inside something else. Where does it begin? Where does it end? It doesn’t. It’s all you.
Wherever you go, there you are.