The Sad Beautiful Fact
science cognition

Linda Holmes wrote a very interesting piece for NPR this week entitled, The Sad Beautiful Fact That We’re All Going To Miss Almost Everything. I highly recommend reading it. I came away from the article inspired. In her post she articulated the sad beautiful fact that a person can never experience the majority of wonderful things this world has to offer in their lifetime. In response to this problem, she suggested people only have two options: culling and surrendering. She had the following things to say about these two choices:

“Culling is the choosing you do for yourself. It’s the sorting of what’s worth your time and what’s not worth your time.”
“Culling is easy; it implies a huge amount of control and mastery. Surrender, on the other hand, is the realization that you do not have time for everything that would be worth the time you invested in it if you had the time, and that this fact doesn’t have to threaten your sense that you are well-read.”

While I agree with a lot of her thoughts in this post, the ‘options’ she provides are in fact not options at all in my view. Surrendering is not an option, but rather a presupposed perspective. Culling is the only option.

If we do not realize that we do not have time for everything then we cannot surrender. In this state there is no need to cull because we are unaware that we cannot experience everything in our lifetime. Therefore, in-order to exercise culling we must gain the perspective of surrendering first.

There are millions of amazing things we can choose to do in our life, but we can only choose a tiny subset. The only solution to the sad beautiful fact that we’re all going to miss almost everything is to be a culling master. Every day. Ever hour. Every minute. And yes, you’d better be a master since it’s your life and your time. To be a master, we must cull carefully in a manner that does not make us blind to new things. Ms. Holmes points out this danger in her article. There is a fine line between distraction and being open to new things.

Culling is not easy, it’s damn hard. What makes culling difficult is that many people are unclear what they wish to do with their life. How can we decide what to cull if we are not sure what we wish to do with our life? Each new and interesting opportunity in life tries to pull us in a different direction. If we try to go in all directions at once we will remain frozen. Only by culling some of these opportunities will we be free to move through life in a meaningful direction.