Thursday, April 22, 2010

Central Purpose Update: Musings on the Future

As is typical of neglectful blog authors I would apologize for my absence, only I'm not going to. Due to recent thinking I have been enjoying my life much more than before lately, and have been vigorously involved in seeking employment. Yes, I'm still unemployed and receiving no callbacks, but my drive and motivation isn't harmed in the least. If anything, I find that as a result of my thinking my drive has increased.

If you'll recall, some months ago I wrote a post that mused on my central purpose in life. I've done more thinking and collected more observations from my thinking, values, and emotional responses, and I have decided to pursue the life course of becoming a chef. In my context this amounts to a phenomenal identification, as just mere months before I was directionless in life. What made things "click" for me is this comment by Burgess Laughlin on Trey Given's blog:

> “In my imagination, I’m like Ayn Rand and woke up one morning at the age of nine and resolved to be a writer.”

Jeff Britting, archivist for The Ayn Rand Institute and author of the short but very informative biography, Ayn Rand, notes that “[e]ven at an early age [6 to 8], her predominant interest was literature.” He also notes that Ayn Rand began writing at age 8. (p. 7)

It was later, at age 9 — after observing herself in action — that Ayn Rand formed “the idea that writing would be the defining passion of her life and the career she would pursue as an adult.” (p. 8)

The point here is that Ayn Rand’s approach was objective, that is, she looked at facts (such as her own interests, emotions, abilities, and experiences) and then drew conclusions logically from them. In particular, her approach was inductive, which seems to be the approach you are taking now.

Formulating a central purpose in life can be challenging and time consuming. Best wishes for that venture.

I looked at the facts of my life. What do I like to engage in the most? Cooking. What do I like to think about the most? Cooking and nutrition. What do I like to read about the most? Cooking and nutrition. Where do I like to go the most? Good restaurants, food shops, bakeries, candy stores, etc. What's one of my most favorite television shows? Good Eats. A few months ago I told myself that my interest in food preparation and nutrition was that of a mere hobby, but when I look at the facts I see that it is taking up more and more of my time, and I see it's becoming my life rather than just being a portion of it.

Looking back now I see that this interest was always present within me, but there were various obstacles that prevented me from making the identification. For one, I've been on the Standard American Diet for most of my life, during which I disliked eating and wished that humans didn't have to eat in order to live since the food I ate left me feeling bad and in an emotional tailspin. When I tried engaging in cooking when I was younger the adults in my life not only insisted on supervising (which is proper), but also in helping out in the process beyond what was needed, depriving me of enjoying the activity, and were in fact responsible for ruining some of my undertakings. Television-wise, I dislike, and still am adverse to, typical cooking shows (excluding Good Eats). However, I did thoroughly enjoy gazing at cookbooks and daydreaming of preparing some of the recipes.

When I started living on a Paleo diet back in 2009 I suddenly started loving eating again: Food tasted better, my hunger wasn't painful when it was present, after meals I felt satisfied and healthy instead of overstuffed and miserable, and I could function better. At first I started living off virtually nothing else but bacon, eggs, spinach, and deli meat, but I wanted to take it further. However, the person I live with is in disagreement with my nutritional standards and believes my lifestyle to be unhealthy, so I had to break off from having meals with this person so I could prepare my food to my own nutritional specifications. I then started cooking and baking, and when I recognized that I needed more variety in my diet I started trying recipes outside of my comfort zone, and it eventually has led to this point where this interest takes up a significant portion of my life.

As a result of making this identification I have been a lot less interested in constructing blog posts and much more interested in cooking, looking for recipes, applying to restaurants and food shops, thinking about my aspirations, and so on. I have to say that my sense of life has been given a much needed boost by this, and I have been in virtually one long good mood for the past several days. That's another good thing: My sense of life has been predominantly negative for the majority of my life, and it took several months just to reach a state of indifference; finally I'm getting closer to happiness.

To be honest, as a result of this identification I've been considering actually quitting blogging. Reiterating from my previous posts, my original purpose in starting up a blog in the first place was to practice my writing, as I believed that I wanted to be a fiction/non-fiction writer. However, very shortly after starting and during the reading of Walt Disney's biography, I realized that I didn't value writing as intensely as I had been telling myself. I didn't daydream about it, I didn't engage in it that often, and I didn't enjoy the writing process that much. After I learned that, my blogging habits were in danger since I knew it was largely irrelevant to my ambitions (whatever I thought them to be at the time), but I was able to continue on after I identified what activist and epistemological purposes writing can serve. It's still difficult to sustain, however, since I still haven't successfully integrated my writing practices into my life, especially now considering my revealed ambitions.

I have decided not to quit writing, but things will change around here. Benpercent is likely to have a shift in focus, from activism in general politics to activism in the food and health industry. Musing Aloud will stay the same in its theme, but you'll probably notice that I'll more frequently post on cooking and personal health related topics, maybe even go so far as to track my self-improvement in cooking by tracking the recipes I try and grading my execution of them. As for posting frequency, I'll throw everything into the wind and say I'll just do my best, as my past efforts to remain consistent in my habits have been a failure.

In my life away from writing I need to restructure my habits as well. As a brief sampling, I need to change what types of blogs I follow, what books I seek out, by what means I'll achieve my career ambitions, what I focus my spending on, and so on. I may even apply to culinary school, but that is still in the thinking phase as I may soon be living on my own and have a greater need to focus on my career. While many things are still uncertain, I love that I have made enough progress in my thinking to have at least come to the point that I'm entertaining questions to a specific course of action.

Honestly, my main worry is about specialization. Paraphrasing Henry Hazlitt from Thinking as a Science, it's better to know one thing well and to be ignorant of a great many things than to know many things poorly. In other words, it's better to be really knowledgeable in one area instead of generally okay all around. I know that I'll be making myself greatly ignorant of many things as a result of choosing what to concentrate on, but I ask exactly what general knowledge is it that I can afford to neglect? For instance, is it desirable to study economics just enough so that I know the basic principles and can deal with my personal finances optimally, and okay to neglect advance technical knowledge? Or should I still make an effort to obtain that advanced knowledge, only working at a slower pace to attain it since it isn't a priority in my value hierarchy? Overall, I'm worried about what I'll be neglecting in other specializations by choosing my own.

But still, even with these questions, confusions, and my struggles to get a job things are going great for me. Life is worth living when you know what your life should be.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A New Book to Look Forward To!

I love the first one, so it's good to hear that the sequel, Good Eats 2: The Middle Years, will be coming out in just a few months. If this book series maintains the level of value the first one has set forth then I'll forgo purchasing DVDs of the television series, as it would be completely unnecessary.

Perhaps I might give a review when it comes out. A definite purchase on my part.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Percolating Writing

One of the difficulties I run into in writing is making sure I do an adequate amount of thinking for each piece. Some pieces take only a few minutes of thinking while others can take hours of planning. Some pieces have actually taken me over a month to think about before I felt ready to write about it.

As such, sometimes I run into the problem of trying to construct a piece when I have done an insufficient amount of thinking. Those pieces I usually end up either leaving uncompleted or deleting them upon completion, no matter how much time I spent writing them. (I don't feel bad about not having a product to show for my work since the actual writing serves as practice anyhow.) On some rare occasions I have recognized that I did an insufficient amount of thinking, went and did some introspecting, and then came back to the piece and wrote beautifully.

I would like to remedy this problem of underthinking an idea. It's the reason why I don't do as exhaustive writing as I've done before, like with Dr. Doolittleism in Foreign Policy and Slavery or the Highway: "Volunteerism", which I consider to be some of my best writing.

Here's an idea I got spontaneously yesterday while walking. I thought about how I remedied my underthinking before by actually starting work on the piece and then noting my deficiencies, and going back to do additional introspection, which cured my problem. What I was thinking of doing is this: When I get the urge to write extensively on some subject, I'll go out and construct a detailed outline on it, including clustering ideas, writing the theme, organizing the points, and all, and then afterwards putting the outline down for an indefinite amount of time so that I can gather more introspective material. In other words, turn my outlining into a process in which drafting applies.

Already I am seeing benefits to the drafting process. I have outlined a piece I don't plan on writing for a while due to a need for more evidence, but already I've noticed that after completing the outline I came upon new thoughts I want to include in that piece, thoughts that would have been otherwise neglected if I had taken to writing the piece right away.

I don't know how well this will work, but it's worth trying. This isn't a self-improvement venture I plan on tracking on this blog; I just thought it would be worthwhile to share a possible good writing practice.