There’s no two ways about it. Every single one of us has our limitations. It’s something I have struggled with in the past and will continue to struggle with in the future. We can’t do everything, be aware of every issue, fix every problem that arises. We are but one person. Attention and time are limited resources. Some people are better at utilising those resources, but even then, they are always left with a finite amount.
This seems pretty obvious, but when you start to think about how this realisation might affect your everyday life, it can be profound. The fact is that everyone is passionate about a few things, is interested in a few others and gives almost no thought to a virtually infinite amount of subjects. Figuring out which things you really care about and letting the other things go is the difficult part.
I consider myself an avid learner. I love to find new things that are interesting to me and come to a better understanding of them. I’ve always wanted my understanding of the world of knowledge to be broad and deep. I don’t know how successful this has been. The coming years will do their best to make me feel like what I know is but the merest fragment of what the world has to offer, I’m sure. It’s not just that I’ve wanted to know everything, I’ve wanted to be able to do everything, to control every aspect of my own experience. These are lofty ideals, but they are not sustainable. In recent times, I’ve been trying to let some of these things go.
My current approach to this problem can be summarised like this: care about what you care about. There are things going on everywhere that you might find dull or trivial, and the tendency might be to approach these things with a negative frame of mind. ‘I hate [any given reality television program, pop song, politician, celebrity, activity, sport, or other topic of choice]!’ I feel like this is an incredibly ineffective use of a person’s time and attention. For every clock cycle a person expends in that way, they are at the very least preventing themselves from doing positive things about something they care about. It can be even more wasteful than that, in that these negative emotions use up more resources than neutrality. Such negativity clouds our minds, hampering our creativity and desire.
I’d call this approach ‘indifference’ if that word didn’t have a whole series of negative connotations. This approach does not advocate cocooning yourself in your passions whilst practising ignorance about the world around you. Being equipped with a sense of self-awareness is extremely valuable, and this tool allows us to be cognisant of the environment in which we live without being caught up in things that do not interest or impact on us. It does not mean that curiosity and the desire to learn must be let go. Continuing to learn about new things broadens us as people. Nor does it imply that that act of protest or resistance is necessarily negative and therefore harmful. If one of the things you care about is the plight of other people or animals, then the most effective way to improve the situations of the cause that you care about is almost always to do something positive. This could be attending a rally, volunteering at an animal shelter or donating money to a children’s charity.
It is extremely difficult to change the things that people value. We must trust individuals to make good decisions on their own, for our sake and for theirs. There is simply too many aspects of life we cannot control and should not wish to control. The most effective way to make a positive impact on the world is to figure out what is important to you, apply yourself to those things and not become overly concerned with the psths of others. We simply must care about what we care about.