Over the last few years, fueled in part by curiosity and in part by the search for the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, I have tried implementing a variety of lifestyle changes. Most of these ideas have come from separate sources and some have stuck more than others (I swear I'll start working out everyday tomorrow). But taking a step back on some of the more impactful ones paints an eerily familiar picture:
The clear religious bent of this list would outdo many Muslims I know. Yet my belief in a traditional God is no stronger than it was before. In fact I'd wager that the intense angst and atheist identity formed in my teenage years probably made me more resistant to these ideas than most. But here we are. Like the final zoom out on Art Attack, it is surprising how a series of small unrelated steps looks from a big picture lens.
Does this mean the seemingly arbitrary rules handed down by religions are really some emergent properties that arise from one's search for truth and contentment? If so, does that justify the use of more persuasive tools such as fear and shame to keep others on the path?
While I leave you to ponder the former, I draw a hard line against the latter. It is easy, in hindsight, to preach about virtues, but applying pressure wantonly does more harm than good. For me, each of these habits came from the right conversation at the right time. And the only real teacher was lived experience.
More insidiously, packaging virtues with negative emotions can backfire in a spectacular way. Discovered individually and independently, virtues serve as a rock solid foundation for identity; but handed down from God, the slightest tremor can cause the house of cards to topple into crisis. Inoculation means bottom-up learning. And bottom-up learning means making your own mistakes.