Public and private answers

If you had one billion pounds, and only six months to live, what would you do?

When you ask someone questions like this, questions which are designed to plumb the depths of their being, they don’t reveal a thing. The answer they give is the truth they think you want to hear, not their actual truth. They tailor their answer to the needs and the desires of the audience.

The only time such questions are answered honestly is when we ask them of ourselves, away from the presence of prying eyes and ears. Only then, without an audience to astound or entertain, can we begin to approach an honest answer.

Another question whose answer demonstrates our ambitions and beliefs is this:

What do you want from life? How do you want to spend your time?

The opportunities for crowd pleasing abound in that question. Think of all the inspiring, beautiful things you could say.

I asked myself that question a few days ago. I’d had, by my standards, a rough morning. I had got up at 0430, fobbed off meditating and writing, fallen asleep in my chair for an hour, got back into bed, slept for three more hours, then wiled away several hours reading bullshit articles and watching jiu-jitsu videos. At about two o’clock, I sat down to think. I hid my phone from myself, turned off the music, put my laptop out of sight, and opened my notebook. This is what came out

Question. What do you want from life? How do you want to spend your time?

Answer. I don’t want fame or fortune. I just want to do work that matters to me and to others, and be surrounded by people I love.”

Why am I telling you this? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s some form of virtue signalling? Because I want to show how pure and good-hearted a person I am. That’s got to be a part of the reason. 

But another part of the reason for me sharing this is to tell you that, most of the time, I don’t want that. Most of the time, I want what everyone else wants. Wealth. Recognition. A good quality of life. To be stimulated and fulfilled and comfortable. Only during the moments when I disconnect, when I sit down and make the time to be honest with myself, do such desires reveal themselves.

Maybe that’s because the daily humdrum of life distorts and poisons what I really want. Or perhaps, in those moments of stillness, I have the space to pull the wool over my eyes and fool myself. To figure out what it is that I think I should think, and then tell myself that in an effort to massage my ego and congratulate myself on aspiring to be the person I think I think I should be.

I hope it’s the former. That my true, pure ambitions get lost in the fog of existence. But maybe it’s the latter. Maybe I’m fooling myself, and I’m just like everyone else, obsessed with ephemeral and irrelevant things.

Time will tell.