Building the Box

“Please. Draw me a sheep.”

For some folks, reading that is going to make them smile. They remember the story that is attached, of a lost pilot in the desert and a Little Prince who kept him company for a time. I warn you, those who are tempted to pick it up again: it’s not a happy book. It’s a beautiful book, and a poignant book, but it’s not the book to pull out for date night.

I speak from experience.

That particular sentence, though, and the result are a merry little life lesson. I won’t give too much away, but let’s just say that the pilot had not spent a lot of time polishing his sketching skills, and so his many attempts to draw a sheep were met with dissatisfaction from the Little Prince. Finally, frustrated entirely, he simply drew a box and said “the sheep is inside!”

Notice, it doesn't say "Amazon".
Notice, it doesn’t say “Amazon”.

Of course, that meant that the sheep inside was the perfect sheep, exactly as the Little Prince wanted, and so he was able to keep it with him forever.

It’s a neat little parable for a lot of things, and it came to mind as I contemplated a project that has wormed itself into my peripheral internal vision.

The Grand Unified Theory of Me

As you’ve possibly noticed from the many quotes and diverse posts, I’ve been exploring a few particular overlapping venues of the human psyche. There’s the plethora of cognitive fallacies in Daniel Kahnemann’s Thinking Fast and Slow, the mind-blowing way they shape our entire society as described in Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Can Mean So Much, the way we’ve possibly stumbled on a solution in Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken, and most recently McKeown’s Essentialism has been tying things together.

That’s what’s been having my mind swimming, as I sketch out the ideas in the books in my notebooks. There are so many connections. Take the idea of trade-offs, for example: Scarcity talks about how “slack” eliminates the need to choose; Reality is Broken talks about how gaming makes you more capable and less stressed about choosing; then Essentialism reminds you that tradeoffs are inevitable, and successful people don’t avoid that, they leverage it.

Oh, yeah, and then there’s the whole KonMari thing that creates slack in your life by making a game out of figuring out what is actually essential…

But as my house has been getting closer and closer to it’s essential state, I find myself wanting to apply the same process to my internal life. To KonMari my brain, so to speak. But how does one do that?

The start, I believe, is to figure out what the priority is. Money? Success? Fame? Security? Sex? YouTube fame? Happiness? Knowledge? It can’t be everything; it needs to be one thing, and trusting that if you choose the right thing then everything that follows will also be good.

Once the priority is set, then it’s just a matter of building the box to put it in – and that’s where the years of writing this blog come in handy. Tweak the morning routine? No problem! Change that habit? Piece of cake, done it hundreds of times. I’ve got asanas and mantras and credos and principles and even a law or two that are just waiting to be used to create this structure of living, this Grand Unified Theory of…Me.

I hesitated with that last word, and it still feels a little selfish, but rationally, how could you come up with a Grand Unified Theory of Anything Else? Einstein couldn’t do it for fields, parents can’t do it for kids until it’s far too late to do any good, and evidence has shown that even in something as intensely studied as finance you can do as well using a dartboard to manage your portfolio as an MBA.

So yeah, if I’m going to have any luck using all of these tools to shape this raw material into a unified theory of anything, it’s gonna have to start with myself.

How About That Priority?

It will probably come as no surprise to the readers of this blog, considering the day that this post is written, that when thinking about what the priority is, the only word that makes sense is Love. Not in any simple, puerile way (and believe me, I’ve gone that route!) but in big Buscaglia-Moore-Huber sized chunks. Every single time I’ve changed something about to increase my loving connection with someone else – partner, child, sibling, grandchild, parent, friend – it has rewarded me far more than anything else.

But those have been small steps. In the KonMari sense of the term, I’ve been tidying up bit by bit, but things always get messy again; I feel as though I’ve been wandering around a workshop, using tools to fix and tune up various things, but now I’m wanting to roll up my sleeves and build something. No, I’m not talking about things like relationships or families or Great Masterpieces; I’ve done all that (well, maybe not the third, but two out of three).

This will be much harder. But every bit as worthwhile.

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince


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