August 2, 2019

You Are Becoming Who You Will Be

Filed under: Philosophy — camcintosh @ 11:18 am

I chronically underestimate how much time it takes to accomplish projects. I mean, radically underestimate. Something I guess will take just a few days takes weeks, even months. Months, years (e.g., my dissertation). I know this about myself, and yet still somehow fail to adjust to make more accurate judgments. And this is no mere practical error I make with writing and home improvement projects—I make it on the especially important project of self-improvement.

And then there’s procrastination. Not the useful kind, either. Nor the relatively benign, work-related kind. Moral procrastination—the kind that ignores a vice with the thought “I’ll work on that later, when [insert some arbitrary milestone].” Before long, you’re in the habit of imagining yourself as being a better person in the future, a time when you’ve successfully dealt with the vice. But that day is always tomorrow, and that better person always imaginary. And tackling some vices, no doubt, is a lifetime project. We don’t have time to put them off. The longer we do, the more they are fed, the bigger they grow, and the more imaginary that better person becomes.

Millions of people used the Facebook app that projected how they’d look as an older person. What no app could project, however, is what sort of person you will be. Will your character be roughly the same, or will you be a better person? Or possibly worse? We might not be able to control much how we look in the future, but we can control who we’ll be. The decisions we make today form the habits we have tomorrow. You are becoming who you will be. Who do you want to be?

The question of the kind of person I should be leads to two others: What sort of person do I want to be? And what sort of person am I becoming? Coming to grips with the first of these questions helps me discover my deeper desires and commitments. The second reminds me that I am surely becoming one sort of person or another. I am in process of becoming the person I will be.

It is striking how rarely we reflect on the fact that our choices, habits, and patterns influence the kind of person we become. Our culture suffers from what I call moral atomism. Moral atomism is the assumption that each choice we make is largely independent of all of our other choices. We think that our ability to decide is fresh and unhindered at each fork in the road we face. Like the ancient atomists who thought that the basic particles that make up reality were independent and interacted only by bumping into each other, we tend to think that each choice we make is isolated from every other choice. The truth of the matter is that each of our choices makes us either more or less able to make the right choices in the future.

—Gregory Ganssle, Our Deepest Desires, pp. 3-4.

It is said that the best time to plant a tree is: 20 years ago. The second best time is: now. Mutatis mutandis.

1 Comment »

  1. What is really striking to me at this point in particular is the fact that not only are we more incapable of making the right choice (after a long time of giving into bad choices), but the right choices appear to us as less and less viable. The ‘wrong choices’ end up developing the qualities of addiction, and to push against them results in a physical reaction. I just experienced this recently, in fact. It is then no surprise that to make the right choice, in an otherwise mundane situation, results sometimes in hyper-intense thoughts, restlessness, sweating. At least thats how I have experienced it.

    Comment by Jman — August 2, 2019 @ 11:41 am | Reply

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