12 Self-Creating Actions and 12 Preoccupational Diversions

12 Actions and 12 Diversions

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On the last page of my 2009 Museum of Lost Wonder calendar, I found the following. Find out more about Museum of Lost Wonder by Jeff Hoke.

12 Self-Creating Actions

Not seeing: or not-knowing, leads to Wonder and curiosity. This starts the whole big wheel rolling. The lost blind man is the Mind trying to define its Self by groping for physical things.

Creating formative karmas: This refers to who we mold our fates by the identities initiated by our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Consciousness: This anxious monkey, jumping from branch to branch, is a metaphor for the process of thought—the mind searching for a home, or sense of Self, in its physical surroundings.

Name form: These little guys boating are a metaphor for how individuality arises in the mind by separating itself from the sea of sensation through crafting a vehicle of its own classification of thought and perceptions.

Birth of connectedness: A friendly little house with five windows is a metaphor for the senses. The perception of the world through our senses is how the drifting, isolated mind finds a port or home in the world.

Touch: This cute couple symbolizes how the mind’s desire for connectedness finds closeness by physical contact. It is the marriage of the mind to the world by the sense of touch.

Feeling: This poor fellow, with an arrow stuck in his eye, exemplifies how physical contact can cause a deeper personal influence by creating an emotional reaction.

Wordliness: The pain and uneasiness caused by our emotional reactions can give rise to a craving for temporary diversions. In this case it’s a thirsty little man drinking beer.

Picking (or indulgence): One beer is never enough to ease all the pain, so one looks for a more permanent ownership of pleasure, here typified by a man collecting fruit.

Lust: Overwhelming attraction to another is viewed as the Self seeking a sense of permanence by joining with the identity of another. (One doesn’t need to drink beer to feel this, but it’s a common result of getting drunk and picking the fruits of desire.)

Birth: A common result of lust. What better what to solidify and extend the identity one has formed than to create a copy of oneself through procreation?

Old age and death: The cycle ends—an old man follows a wrapped corpse being carried to the grave. The persona dissolves. One’s hopes for permanence are left to the identities and memories imparted to one’s children.

12 Preoccupational Diversions

Start a hobby: For some simple diversion, for many a self-defining activity. It might not pay the rent, but it often reflects our passions.

Watch TV: The great disseminator of myth and culture is also the quickest way to compare who you are with who you’re not in the world. Culture at your fingertips, but always at a comfortable arm’s length.

Take a trip: From the pilgrimage to a vacation, there’s no better way to find your Self than going someplace else.

Choose a career: The most utilized tag for establishing what you are. Money, prestige, authority … all terrific ways we gauge our Self-worth and compare ourselves to others to figure out who we are.

Go shopping: Just as accessories make the outfit, our accoutrements make the persona. Know thyself by the stuff that surrounds you while getting confirmation from others.

Fall in love: There’s no better way to determine who you are than by orbiting someone else. In the bounds of love, they reflect you, while you reflect them. Seen as a private act, it hardly happens outside a social context—with others looking in.

Go to church: This weekly adventure provides a safe haven for souls who define themselves by accepting its cozy confines with others who do the same.

Belong to a cause: From saving the world to rooting for your home team, causes have always been a great way to create an identity and give life meaning. Zealotry confirms your individuality by establishing what you stand for by being against something else.

Get drunk: The balm of wearing souls since civilization began, a temporary Band Aid for those wounds of self-doubt, a way to forget your Self while allowing your Shadow to come to light.

Have sex: The best invention since the semipermeable membrane for defining oneself, sex has always been a favorite way to feel like somebody by feeling someone else’s body.

Make a baby: When all else fails, duplicating your genes and making a new Self has always been a popular way to express one’s identity. Cute, cuddly, adorable and full of potential—all the things we once were and would still like to be.

Contemplate suicide: Potentially the single most defining act of personal freedom. A perfect way to find meaning for those tired of the vain search for an identity in society. The contemplation of death represents the pinnacle of curiosity. It’s where the persona confronts the Self and the great mystery that lies between them. It’s the basis of all the great philosophical schools that seek to find meaning by prioritizing what’s important in life by comparing it to what you won’t get to do in death.

My current diversions (in order of prominence in my life):

  1. Choose a career
  2. Take a trip
  3. Fall in love
  4. Get drunk
  5. Watch TV

My ideal diversions (what I strive for):

  1. Start a hobby (writing & reading)
  2. Take a trip
  3. Fall in love
  4. Get drunk

Diversions that won’t ever suit me:

  1. Go shopping
  2. Go to church
  3. Belong to a cause

After reading about diversions, I wonder if, in our lives, we seek out the friends or lovers who possess the same manner of diversions as ourselves. I think so.

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Posted in Life Philosophy, Reading.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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