How do you know what is good for you? Think about it, what is the criteria of evaluating the goodness of something or an event? Is it how it makes you feel in the moment or its potential future reward, that is, the emotion it promises? Suppose you pick the first option, isn’t that myopic, and sometimes even destructive? Because what makes you feel good now may not make you feel good in the future and sometimes could actually end up being destructive. Take for example killing someone because they made you angry – I know that’s a little extreme but you get my point – even though it could feel good in the moment, since it’s feeding your anger, it may not end very well for you.
So say you picked the second option, well how can you truly know what will be good for you in the future? Because if you were to take a look at some past events in your life, what might have felt wrong or bad at some point turns out to be exactly what needed to happen for you to be the person you are today. You had to be that person you were at that time, the events and happenings had to unfold exactly like they did for you to be the person you are now. Some philosophers will even push it and claim that you’ve always wanted to be the person you are today, whether you know (consciously) of it or not, an argument I concur with. Since there tends to be a lot to who you are than you are consciously aware of, and those parts have intentions, again some that you are aware of others you are not, and every little decision you make in your life is in trying to be the person that you deeply desire to be, let me explain.
You see, by making a decision, any decision for that matter, you are taking a stand on who you are as a person. It follows then, that a human being is not definable by a “what,” like a chair or a table, rather by a “who” that is shaped by existence in time. What it means to be human is to exist with a certain past (personal and cultural history), and by an open series of possibilities that can be seized. Each moment in a human life constitutes a kind of branch-point at which a person “chooses” a kind of life, since, in principal at least, and within certain limits, one always had, and still has, the capacity to take a different path. So whatever event that is currently presenting itself in your life, it ties into who you truly desire to be. And so your current self is a totality of the small decisions you made along the way (again, most of which were done unthinkingly) and if everything is tying into who you really wanted to be in the first place, then nothing is bad or wrong, in the end, it’s what you desired anyway.
I’ve said this before and I’ll repeat it again, life is an individualistic journey, you were born alone, your experiences are relevant and have meaning only to you, and eventually when the time comes, you’ll die alone. I know they told you that you’ll get married and become one with your partner, well they lied. You can never become one with someone, not your spouse nor your kids or even parents. Your journey is yours alone, the sooner you realize that the more freedom you’ll enjoy in your waking life. You and your relations can only walk your personal individual journeys together but never the same path. This is not a bad thing, it’s supposed to help you through tough times, when you lose a loved one, you remember that their journey is over, and be thankful you shared a part of your journey with them.
This mode of thinking will not only save you a lot of agony but will help you lead a more peaceful life. Say you have issues with your relations and decide to go separate ways, ordinarily this should be stressful. But assuming you look at it as deciding to walk your different paths separately, it gives a different perspective to the issue. Remember, you were going to be walking separate paths anyway, you had just chosen to do it together and if it gets to a section of your journey that you should either walk it alone or with a different person, why stress over that? Be alive to your journey, embrace it, love it, whichever way it leads you, that’s your journey. Besides, how do you know what is eventually good for you? This current bad event (read lesson) might turn out to be the exact thing (again, read lesson) your future self will thank you for.
The meaning of our title proverb then, is that we often think we can decipher that which is good for us or others at each moment, but when you carefully evaluate it, we don’t know. I guess the best way to go through life would be to learn to enjoy the process and be alive to the fact that you are walking a personal path, pay attention to your experiences, be present, don’t be afraid to take risks, enjoy the moments, even the bad ones. Just live.