What is your North star?
On the first crossings across the Atlantic ocean, whether they were Vikings, Spanish or a very unlucky Celtic fisherman, they did not have satellite navigation, radar, a compass or even a map. Instead they relied upon one single guiding light, the north star, the only star in the night sky that did not move. The other stars moved and spun around and through the year, the north star remained the only single fixed point, not always visible but on a clear cloudless night it always returned to show the way and lead people to safety.
It is different now, we have so many guides, so much information completing for our attention, we can end up going nowhere, making no progress, if there are an infinite number of paths and destinations, how do you choose? And unlike for the early sailors, technology is not coming to the rescue, it can offer choice not decision, we think that more technology is always better and the decrease in shipwrecks is testimony to how true that can be. However it is going to be a long wait for the technology that tells us what is the right decisions for our life or at any particular moment. It is almost certain that even if it were possible for artificial intelligence to do so in a general sense, for you in particular it would be impossible given the number of variable, at the very least it is going to be one of the last problems that technology to solve, and would first require that artificial intelligence develops a theory of mind and soul-like being. We are face a very uniquely human problem, how do we want to live our lives?
Instead we need a simple guide as to how to decide where we want to go, as it is a responsibility that is going to remain in our hands for a long time to come. Which means we need another source to be our north star, and there are plenty of people who will tell you how to live your life if you let them, for the Buddhist, the least bossy of the authority figures, it is the concept of right action along with a whole noble eightfold path of rights (mind, view, speech, resolve, livelihood, effort, concentration). They use the concept of right as it is not as judgmental as sin and as they do not have the stick of hell to whip people into acting well or at least how they would like you to act. The Buddhist has to use reason to persuade you rather than force you to their will as such they recognize that right action comes from internal forces, yourself rather than external authority. Though why would you want to follow someone else's path, it may have been perfect for them but why would it be for you. Reason is a tool but you decide what nails to hit.
However the “right” concept really boils down to the question of who you want to be, who you are and what you do as a result of that decision. I do not think that given the choice to go kill and plunder like the first Vikings, that most people would want to the kind of people who do such things. It is not who they are, or who they want to be, this is not a moral consideration as such, we did not read it in the constitution and say that is the reason to do this, we did not find out it was against the law and change our minds.
Rather it comes from our nature, our humanness, our image of who we are and we are not born in splendid isolation and this is not innate knowledge. The best examples of who to be is other humans trying to do the same thing. We gain the model of who we want to be from those around us, our friends and family, we learn from the example of those that we love, that the live with us and in the modern world those we choose to surround us ourselves with, the tribe we choose, those people that we admire or wish to be like- the sport stars, artists, actor and pod casters. So if these are our sources of who we want to be, we probably should be aware of who the role models we surround ourselves with are and what they represent, we need to be mindful of what aspects of them we include in our model of ourselves. Choose your heroes wisely and with the knowledge that they shape you.
I am not suggesting a purge of anyone you consider not up to the cut or lacking in positivity, some people get very excited about how we are the sum of the five people we know the best. However the aim might be better stated as we want to be the best parts of everyone we know. Though no one is perfect(spoiler alert, I am at the front of the imperfect line) but almost everyone is perfect in some regard, and even other people's fault can be great way to learn who we are and how we want to act. It is far better to be a collector of others good points instead of operating a ruthless weeding policy of our garden of friends.
When we start looking for the strength in others, we start imagining that we could be strong, we reflect that possibility back into the world, we learn how others act and we want a part of that, we instinctively want to catch up with others on the journey of being a growing being of consciousness. So always be mindful of the search for better stars to follow, look for the positives in others and deeper in those you already know. It is a nearly impossible to find it all in one person, but if you are luck enough to discover a single person one who embodies all of that, some one who fascinates you, who shows you who you could be and believes it to be true before you are able to be the person who you are, remember to say thank you, you have been given a precious gift, your very own true north star.