Why seek understanding?
People are astonishingly busy, the alarm clock signals the beginning of a rush that lasts all day, there are teeth that need cleaning, showers that need taking, commutes that need enduring and that's before the energy draining and often soul sucking work begins. Then it is back home and if you're lucky there is time to read a bedtime story or you have ten minutes to drink a glass of wine before dinner needs starting. We then find that the evening runs out before we have even begun to relax, and like so many people, we end up borrowing a couple of hours from our sleeping time, just to carve out a little time for themselves.
Is it then reasonable to expect someone to then to engage in the soul searching, introverted search for meaning in their lives, when the real world is overwhelming them everyday. It might seem clever to Greek philosophers to condemn those who do not have the luxury of time as having an unexamined life which is not worth living, but it seems more like a clever advertising plan campaign for their schools of philosophy and their need for paying students.
When your life is so full, that you know what you have to do from dawn till dusk, you're too busy doing to have to understand anything beyond the immediate necessities and to do list. It is not for idle writers or philosophers engaged in producing doctorates to criticise hard-working people who are managing their time, energy and resources especially their money, which always feels lacking, so hard to earn yet so easy to spend. It is the responsibility of those who do have the privilege to spend time examining not just their own lives but the systems that manage their lives as well as others, to find the aspects of their search that is most useful to others. There is a necessity not just to say it is self-evident that greater understanding enriches and deepen your life, but that there is a real return on this understanding, that the payment for the time you will spend on it will be greater control over your time and money, and that it really will save your resources in the long-term.
These might not sound like the romantic goal of spiritual understanding, enlightenment and self-actualisation, and I have to confess they are all things that excite my mind, they are certainly not the building blocks that started my growth and built my understanding of the world around me. What did was the boring mundane everyday problems that the vast majority of people spend their entire lives worrying about, I wanted to escape my job, it made me feel like a slave (the mind loves to be a drama queen), it outraged me and I fought against it, there was nothing noble in it, I wanted my life to be better, freer and I craved independence. I certainly have no interest in leading a revolution against the capitalist system, I certainly tried to avoid work for as long as possible, but when money is the instrument of control, it will end up controlling you, so there was only one game in town, I intended to success by my own definition and if that meant at playing the game, that was the game's fault not mine.
In retrospect, I certainly do not condemn myself for my attitude, self-interest is the most natural drive within us, it is deeply wired, if you only cared for others you would not remove your hand from the fire, and I was self-interested for a long time. Once you knock over one domino, life has irritating habit of putting another one in your way. So first there was financial independence, that is building enough assets to generate income to cover the expenses of your life, then when I had given up paid work, there was the self-interest of not wanting to die prematurely from being overweight, it was entirely worth reading a stack of books and listening to many, many pod casts, to deepen my understanding the problem and finding my own personal solution through the self experimentation of trying many things and observing the results. It is an approach that I recommend to anyone as it is one the best ways to understand your own personal life situation, your own body's reaction to different foods and the only guarantee is that everyone will have a different reaction. There is never a one size fits all solution to any problem.
Then came different problems, such as why was I still not happy, but the thing is once you learn that understanding a problem help you solve a problem, understanding becomes addictive and even essential to who you are, there is a shift in your character when you start seeking understanding, you become someone who wishes to understand, who finds themselves accidentally pursuing the scientific method of observing, measuring and coming to conclusions. We become scientists investigating our own lives, our reactions and even the importance of our thoughts, and somewhere within this journey, you turn towards the internal world within you and you find an incredible depth that you did not know was there, and when you face that depth you find you seek the company of others who are also treading that path.
It is in internal understanding that we find compassion, kindness and joy both for ourselves and others. We recognise that our struggles, suffering and quest to find peace within the inherent instability and constant change of the world, is shared not just with the spiritual community and philosophers, but with every single human being. It is just that some people are too busy surviving, managing and consumed with worry about their limited resources, having to choose between paying for heat or food is a real decision for so many people, they are the problems that consumes their every thought and spare moment. It is up to those of us with the luxury of time to come up with the simplest and most straightforward steps we can possibly think of to, at least give people the opportunity to start seeking their own understanding.