Priorities

Anton Kovalyov
3 min readJun 4, 2021

, writing about Priorities:

Up to a point, acquiring more money is a necessary evil. We all need a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. But past that, money is an empty goal that can only be at the center of a meaningless life. I’m no longer a paper millionaire, and I have no real desire to be a real one: the kind whose millions of dollars are actual, liquid cash that can be spent on things. I’ve met enough tired-looking rich people searching for something — anything — that will fill the ill-defined hole deep within themselves to know that’s not the answer.

The quest for more is a kind of prison that we make for ourselves. The idea that if we work ourselves to the bone now we can live a better life later is a convenient lie that we’ve been conditioned to tell ourselves.

Still, there are plenty of reasons to work, and to build.

This resonates with me a lot. It also reminds me of this wonderful book I read recently. It’s titled Dedicated (author: Pete Davis) and it explores liquid modernity, a modern phenomena in which we try to always keep our options open and end up being stuck: always searching for the next big thing, refusing to commit, suffering from FOMO, and so on.

The book doesn’t simply describes this phenomena, it also explores the counterculture of commitment: long-haul heroes who dedicated themselves to particular causes, professions, and places. It’s about people who found freedom through dedication, by closing some doors and turning down some “opportunities”.

It’s a great book.

Back to Ben’s post, he starts with this paragraph:

Being laser-focused is a privilege reserved for people who have no real distractions in their life — or those that do, and have sociopathically chosen to ignore them.

It’s the only paragraph I don’t fully agree with, at least the way I read it. Being able to dedicate yourself to something, to not be constantly distracted and overwhelmed by our complex and messy world, is indeed a huge privilege. And so is the privilege of being alive. Shantideva, an 8th century Buddhist monk, used this analogy in his Guide To The Boddhisattva’s Way of Life:

For these very reasons, the Buddha has said
That like for a turtle to insert its neck
Into a yoke adrift upon the vast ocean,
It is extremely hard to attain the human state.

For those of us lucky enough to have these privileges, we ought to investigate them, dwell on them, and then put them to good use. There’s no one way to go about it but, to borrow Pete Davis’ analogy, living in a hallway is sure ain’t it. Pick a room.

A wooden board with caligraphy that says: Great is the matter of birth and death /Time passes swiftly, everything is lost / Awake, awake / Do not waste your life
Source: San Francisco Zen Center.

Great is the matter of birth and death / Time passes swiftly, everything is lost / Awake, awake / Do not waste your life

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