The Infinite Library (finding 'perfect' in a world of infinite choices)
‘Limited’ is Frustrating…
I was talking with a new connection this week who had a very particular world view. A world view he thinks is right, and one he thinks will solve the current challenges of government of society.
And he’s frustrated. He’s frustrated because his can’t seem to bring all pieces of his solution together at once.
He feels like he’s forced to compromise, forced to exclude possibilities because it isn’t possible to create organisations that suit all people all of the time.
If we do X to suit Group A, then we aren’t meeting the needs of Group B. And we can’t do X and Y at the same time. I hate that we have to impose limits,
he told me.
Yeah I understand your frustration,
but what if restricting ourselves also (paradoxically) gives us choice? What if it allows us to focus on one thing at a time so we can do that thing, rather than not do anything? What if the answer isn’t in the ‘thing’ itself?
The Search for Perfect…
It sometimes looks as if life would be better if we could find the perfect solution: the perfect system at work, the perfect system of governance, the perfect place to live, the perfect anything...
I think like that too!
The difference, though is that I know that these are all stories, or versions of stories that I’m running that make one outcome appear to be better than another—I’m trapped by the meaning I’m attaching to my desire, not by the limitations of my choices.
The Infinite Library…
The Right Book…
My new connection and I went on to talk about the possibility that life is like an infinite library—where there are millions of books—an infinite number!
If we think that all the books are different, and no one book has all the answers, then it looks as if we need to choose carefully, it looks as if we can miss out on the ‘perfect’ book, and it’s easy to become confused by the choices in front of us, and disoriented by our desire to consume.
If life is like that infinite library then it’s no wonder we get lost sometimes. It’s no wonder we complain if only we could find and implement the perfect solution.
But what if that infinite library contains books that are all saying the same thing in different words? If that’s true, and all the books are pointing us to the same answer, then maybe we can relax a little. Maybe we can sit back. Maybe we’ll even feel something akin to freedom?
If that’s true, that all books lead to wisdom, then it doesn’t matter which one we start with. There’s nothing to be gained choosing one book over another, other than we like the cover, or we like the way that author expresses themselves versus another author. We don’t need to read all the books, we only need to enjoy the process of reading.
When There is No ‘Perfect’
When I think the books mean something, and that there is a right or a wrong, a better of worse choice, a more or less enjoyable or helpful book and it’s important for me to choose well, then I don’t get past browsing. I get lost in confusion and disorientation or finding the right book, rather than in what happens after I take the book off the shelf.
When I know that the choice of book doesn’t matter; when I know it’s about the experience of doing deeper, then I can pick any book that appeals to me.
Of course, I can see that there are an infinite number of books and maybe exploring a while will be fun, but if there’s no sense of missing out then it’s much easier for me to step into, and revel in the deeper experience.
And, if I decide that book isn’t the one for me, I can put it back and choose again.
That’s When Limits Give Freedom
By giving myself limits, by constraining myself to the choice of one book (at a time), I’m opening myself up to something beautiful that wouldn’t be possible without imposing that restriction.
The restriction serves the focus.
And, I can change it.
I’m not limited, I’m free.
Free to immerse myself in a deeper experience, to get excited about the book and live in its world for as long as I want, and then free to put the book back when I’m done with it.
Free to sit and relax, and free to dive deep into the experience of life.
This, to me, is the ultimate freedom.