Every morning I try for a clarity detached from certainty. A clarity about how I ought to be, what I should care about and focus on. Yet there are categories of dilemmas for which no amount of information or special knowledge will provide clarity. These topics drive some of us into extended existential crises. Am I spending my life well? Am I giving my time to the right people? Am I supporting the right group? Do I need to update my political beliefs?
Clarity on these types of questions is rarely accessible through study, contemplation, or experimentation alone. Sometimes external shocks — like a death experience — provide the necessary illumination. More often, however, the clarity we need seems to come through the development of certain qualities, like self-reliance, faith, and courage.
Clarity is a powerful sorting mechanism. It allows us to quickly dismiss that which is irrelevant or harmful. It’s difficult to become addicted to your social feed when you’re clear about your intentions. It’s difficult to become overwhelmed by media and options when you’re clear about what you’re looking for.
In a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power.
Sense of Safety
When you can’t sense what’s around you, it’s not safe to move.
Imagine driving on the road on a Friday night. Your car lights and those around you allow you to see where potential dangers are. Then huge rain droplets start hitting your windshield. Suddenly you can’t see as well as you previously could. The lights start blurring, creating anxious moments of blindness. You hit your brakes. A 100 Km/h trip becomes a 60 Km/h trip. People suddenly show what terrible drivers they are; you can’t trust them in these new conditions. The blocked view — the loss of clarity — reduced the sense of safety on the road, throwing everyone off.
A lie is, by definition, a distortion. When we lie to ourselves, we remove our ability to see clearly. Suppose a young man seals a bag with his unwanted emotions at twenty and then waits fifteen or twenty years before he opens it again. What will he find? Sadly, the sexuality, the wildness, the impulsiveness, the anger, the freedom he put in, have all regressed; they are not only primitive in mood, they are hostile to the person who opens the bag.
Stillness is openness. It’s what you feel on a hike, in the embrace of a loved one. Stillness is you with your ego turned way down — receptive, nonjudgmental. When you become still, the noise stops, the silt settles.
Memento Mori (A Glimpse of Death)
If you hold a healthy awareness of your own mortality, your eyes will be opened to the grandeur and glory of life, and that will evoke the good virtues such as hope, generosity, and gratitude.
Meditating sincerely on the inevitable cessation of experience can provide a clarity unavailable when we take eternity for granted. This may be our last day to kiss our wife, pet our dog, drive past that forest.