The comparing yourself-to-others bug is a dangerous bug. A nefarious bug. Here are two little cases in point:
1. I worked in a clinic on the west side of Buffalo. This clinic helped a lot of refugees. I thought: how great it would be to help so many people. And I started seeing my path as one that would need to have this big splash in the world, help a lot of people. I would de-value paths that didn’t directly help a lot of people.
2. When I first read Richard Feynman, I thought: whoa, this guy is really creative, he really gets into the deep truths of the universe. And I thought: how great it would be to be to learn mathematics and find out new parts of nature. And I started to de-value parts of life that were not science.
I have a patient being treated for cancer. She has a chihuahua that she misses. She thinks of her chihuahua when she goes to sleep.
She wants to get out of the hospital so she can be with her chihuahua. But in the meantime, she smiles and is really nice to everyone taking care of her.
It’s OK if the things you do are simple, if they don’t make this big glamorous splash.
A big (paraphrased) quote from Alan Lightman:
“I used to think that if you write a book that people read in 50 years that’s better than if you write one that lasts only a little while. But now I’ve realized that nothing lasts. I believe we are material beings. When we die, we are gone. We only exist for a short time in other people’s memories. Pretty soon those people will die and no one remembers you. So any meaning in life can’t be from any idea of permanence. It has to come from something that’s moment-to-moment. I know that I feel pleasure and pain. Not just physical pleasure and pain, but intellectual, philosophical pleasure and pain. And when I help someone, I feel pleasure. When I insult someone, I feel pain. So I try to do things that, in the moment, bring me deep pleasure. That’s where I am with meaning.”
And one from a song by Jeffrey Lewis:
I hope that the art school enjoys your big drawing of ruins
We’ve all got good things to do and it’s good when we do them
– Jeffrey Lewis, Alphabet
But maybe this song should go:
I hope that you enjoy your big drawing of ruins
It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you feel deeply that this is the right thing to do right now.
The photo is of a sculpture I made in 5th grade. I think it still encapsulates me pretty well.