What the F#%* Are You Doing?

Why are we more interested in this man's life than our own? Image via renovomedia.com

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

A couple years ago, my friend Jeff sent me a link to Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED talk.  Bolte Taylor, a neuroscientist, recounted her experience of having a stroke and her consequent brush with enlightenment.

This first amazing video led to a rabbit-hole of inspiration:  Barry Schwartz and Anthony Robbins and EO Wilson and Karen Armstrong and Al Gore and so on.  TED told unlimited tales of other people doing great stuff.

In the few years since I watched that video, I’ve noticed a guru dynamic forming between TED presenters and the TED-ophiles that loved them.  I’ve witnessed this pathological dynamic before in a couple guru-centric communities I’ve been a part of.  What happens is the guru says, “I am you, you are me.  What I’ve done, you can do.”  The disciple’s perverted response is, “You are above me.  You are better than me.  Without you, I am nothing.”

It’s not the guru’s fault.  It’s not the TEDster’s fault.  They are just doing their jobs.  But this phenomenon accentuates the very human tendency to externalize transformation.  As long as someone else is doing it, as long as someone else holds the answers, as long as someone else is creating/fixing the problems, then we are off the hook.  The problem and solution are out there with them, not here with us.

For the record, I did personally respond to watching TED in the form of an event series called Lucid NYC, which continues to this day.  I saw a need for an ongoing, local forum for inspiration, something like TED that wasn’t invite only and didn’t cost $6K.  It was meant as a place where the presenters and audience are not so separate, where someone might realize that world-changers are people who live around the corner.  It’s not to denigrate TED in any way; after all I found the inspiration to start Lucid in part through watching TED talks.  But I was addressing the chief shortcoming I saw with TED:  the literal and perceived separation between presenter and viewer.

Two-and-a-half years after starting Lucid, it’s had its intended effect on me.  I could only hang around so many doers before I started asking myself, “What the fuck am I doing?”  While it’s nifty that I’ve been bringing awareness to other peoples’ projects, I eventually felt compelled to ask myself if that was all I would ever do.  It still felt like I was talking about events and people, not my own ideas.

This is what led me to start this blog.  Spiritual growth has been a passion of mine for some time and I’ve always been a strong writer (hopefully you concur).  But I’ve hesitated putting my thoughts out into the world.  I doubted the strength of my voice.  I doubted my authority.  But a couple years surrounded by people doing shit to make the world a better place finally silenced my doubts.  I realized doers don’t start off with perfectly formed thoughts or projects.  They see a need and address it with available resources.  Getting better at addressing that need and getting more resources happens after they start, not before.

I don’t claim to be a paragon of transformational action.  I still find myself wildly lazy addressing many needs.  But I’m putting out.  I’m doing.  And I know a few other doers.  We are minorities.  Most people don’t seem very engaged with their lives.  What they do is talk about what other people do.  If online news distribution is any indicator, most of us are more interested in the life of Julian Assange than our own lives.  Sure, Wikileaks has implications for the way we live, but surely not more than our own creative projects.

So here are some questions to ponder:

  1. What are you doing with your life?
  2. Are you more a spectator or player in the game of life?
  3. Are you more interested in talking about other people’s affairs than your own?  What do you get out of this?
  4. Are you creating anything, either alone or in partnership?  If not, why not?
  5. Wouldn’t it be preferable to have things you did that you could share?
  6. Are you finding inspiration from your life or are you living vicariously through your gurus?

If you are inordinately concerned with other peoples’ lives, quit it.  Mind your own business.  Start doing something now.  Start creating.  Share it.  If I can help, let me know.

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