Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Purpose, Process and Perspective (with Rob)

Rob Grave is a great friend I met at university. We had a chat...

Trev: 
A few years back I was lazying on the couch when my curly haired house buddy kept coming back from a run. I had recently moved to London and so had been using the excuse of finding something indoors to do to keep active. Rob wasn't one for excuses and so would head out whatever the weather. It was harder to carry on plopping on the couch when his royal buzzy energiness came back so obviously feeling good. I didn't overcome my aversion to the cold, but I did sign up at the yoga centre down the road. A life changing decision.

Rob:
A great decision indeed. To acknowledge something equally positive from you during that time - it didn't escape my attention how much reading you did, and how your thirst for knowledge was unquenchable. Is there any similarity between yoga, running, and reading? For me, these all generate joy in a person for a number of reasons. At their simplest, they are something to do and can drive away boredom (a deep fear of mine). But look harder and they all serve to fulfil multiple goals, including fitness, friendship, and learning. I think working towards a purpose is a key to happiness.

Trev:
Purpose is important, along with process. The end and the means. My reading habit actually came shortly before the yoga started, so perhaps there was a connection. My late twenties were a challenging time. I had realised how dependent everything I thought was on luck of the draw. Where I was born. Who I came across. Reading was a way of taking more of an active part in choosing the paths. The head, the heart, and the body are not separate. If you aren't fit, you don't think straight and you don't feel great. And relationships suffer.

Rob:
We are very lucky. Here we are working on the last block of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, and at this very moment there is a refugee crisis on the front page, with people struggling for safety, food and shelter. Can our theme of the head, heart and body connection, be expanded to a connection between ourselves and other people? The system is probably bigger than we think. In the same way that improving fitness can improve our mood and mind, I think that any development to the less "lucky" parts of the system could, like a rising tide, uplift the whole.

Lucky

Trev:
It is probably the single biggest take away from the time I have spent studying 'happiness and learning' - Perspective. Most of the people I know are already happy. We have niggles we are working on, but we always will. Widening the lense has an incredible ability to deepen the meaning. There are billions of people living in extreme, absolute poverty. People pushed out of their homes by war. Realising that working on their happiness is working on our happiness is very similar to realising that just sitting on a couch reading is going to solidify you into a blob. Even if the book is amazing. You have to get up and move.

Rob:
Spot on. The action, the "doing", that's what this is all about. A realisation on this came to me during a recent daydream around the Homo Naledi discovery. My thoughts were that in our primitive selves, the person who worked the hardest or the smartest was the one who got access to water, was safe at night, hunted or grew the best food, and basically survived and continued the species. In my head, I could equate modern day work to our primitive survival efforts, and it made me feel very positive about going to work as a deep connection to the species.

Trev:
The world we knew also wasn't abstract. Water, Safety, Food, Warmth are all very tangible, visceral, in your face measures of happiness that require immediate attention. As we move up Maslow's hierarchy we get to more fuzzy, relative measures of happiness. It becomes more a case of comparing how we use our time to the other ways we could have. In the mean time, we also disconnect from those at the bottom still building the base of their pyramid. Those moments of connection, to the species, to the environment, make me worry less about the relative happiness of my particular bundle of bones. The question becomes what to do about it.

Rob:
So now we're getting to a point where we agree that doing something, like running or yoga (the process) is good and builds happiness. We're also agreed that connecting with and improving the lot of those around us is also good. This leads me to the difficult conclusion that the ultimate purpose is therefore to be a social worker? Didn't the Dalai Lama once simply put that, "The Purpose of life is to help others". This jars with the capitalist inside me that wants to become rich and famous. What am I missing? How can the two goals become one?

Trev:
Social Workers are real champions. We sit debating the finer aspects but with aligned goals. The harder stuff can't be solved with cheque books or philosophy. Even wealthy places with a strong pyramid base have beggars and mental health challenges. Those are hard problems requiring all of us to work on our emotional intelligence. When ideas clash, the one that matters to us more ends up winning. Then we make up reasons to justify it. I think the only way to not 'miss stuff' is to build in time to step back. To get perspective. Must be why the Dalai Lama lives in the mountains.

Rob:
I think you've just established a third reason why running and yoga are so good at building joy. It's because they often provide a moment of calm when the noise of the day is forgotten and some perspective can be gained. And funnily enough, the closer to nature you do any of these activities, the better this perspective gets which is why people have yoga retreats in the Alps, and do trail runs here on table mountain. Purpose, process and perspective. These runs are punctuation marks in the essay of life which help to give it meaning.

Table Mountain Perspective

Guest Post by Rob Grave
Post a Comment