Friday, May 13, 2022

A New Pursuit


I wrote this post four months ago in one go and haven't touched it since. I found it again recently and am publishing it as a reflection of where my thinking was this late winter. 
Longtime readers may remember that a few years ago, I had a "get it together" moment and started setting goals for myself. Most of these goals revolved around screen habits, home routines, financial benchmarks, and hobbies. This phase of serious goal-setting lasted two years, and was very successful. It began during a frantic, overbooked period of my life, and it helped me prioritize my responsibilities, make time for things I wanted to do, and eliminate what wasn't needed or wanted.

In the last 2+ years, life has been enormously different. Many of the habits I implemented are now regular routines — keeping social media apps off my phone, working out daily, cleaning my house on a weekly schedule, saving a certain amount of money each month, cooking regularly — and I no longer need to set up goals or a reward system to make them happen.

So, what happens after I accomplish my goals? What do I pursue now?

 Much of the advice online talks about further optimizing by honing skills and learning new ones, or experimenting with new routines and habits. But — I'm satisfied with where my life is currently. I'm a fairly disciplined person, and while there are some areas of my life that could use some work, overall I'm happy with where I am. I experiment within my routines but don't feel the need to turn those experiments into new goals. And yet, the lack of a higher aim is de-motivating; I feel like I am floundering if I don't have any goals to work towards.

Goals for the sake of goals is not the answer. But a singular aim, perhaps, is. And I stumbled upon a possibility recently: the pursuit of beauty and goodness. 

I've been mulling over the concepts of beauty and (relatedly) creativity lately — seeking them, pursuing them, cultivating them. Beauty is more than aesthetics; it captures truth. A few months ago I had a conversation with my roommate about our favorite characteristic of God, and my answer was immediately "His creativity." The best moments of any given day are those when I am fully present and appreciating the beauty He has given or the creativity He has imbued humanity with — the breathtaking sunrises I can see from my kitchen window in the morning, the words written by gifted authors, the music composed by talented musicians, the colors of a field in spring, the smell of just freshly baked pastries, the stillness of morning, the snappy dialogue in a movie, a quick joke from a friend, the coziness of a handmade quilt. Beauty and creativity point to truth, to the reality of a Creator.

Each moment, each touch of the divine imprinted on life, is worth making time for and delighting in. But beauty is not enough to pursue on its own; it works in tandem with goodness. Goodness is discernment, kindness toward fellow man, a consideration of actions and consequences and choosing what is beneficial. Goodness carries the reality of hard things; perseverance despite suffering, carrying one another's sorrows. 

I'm afraid I'm failing with my words here; far better writers than me have tackled these concepts and gone much further with them. I add this disclaimer to say: a desire for beauty and goodness is built into us as humans, and we have grappled with it for as long as we've existed. It's a pursuit that has the potential to go awry (as history can well attest), yet when rightly pursued, it is worth searching for.
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