Go back to first principles

Instead of looking ahead and resolving to do certain things over the next twelve months of this new year, I feel I should first channel the words of our late school principal, Mr Mayer and deconstruct the year that was.

He used to step in to teach us math and science sometimes and it felt as though he was born to teach when he told us, “Go back to first principles.”

I haven’t retained much high school math or science but I have never been able to forget the advice about going back to first principles. Life, just the way a life is lived, unraveling off a skein, across a finite number of years, it often becomes a tangled mess. The only way to straighten out the tangle is to retrace the knot, isolate a strand, reverse the snag; all a matter of going back to the place where the problem started and deconstructing as we go back in time.

Mr Mayer’s advice has allowed me a million do overs that would not have been necessary, however, if I had followed my dad’s advice, offered to me when I first flew out the nest, “Always ask yourself if you need it.”

I remember dad saying these words to me and I knew even then that this advice was worth its weight in gold. But I have never understood why this was always the hardest thing to do. I spent so many years being driven by wants rather than needs. I have tangled things up, sorted out the tangles and gone on to bigger tangles, all because I want things, mercurially and impetuously, until I start drowning in clutter and have to summon up first principles again.

2014 saw a lot of wants fulfilled while the needs languished in some dark corner of the mind or even the body.

There were some super charged moments of insight that got me so excited each time they occurred that I felt like broadcasting my epiphany to the world, or declaring an intent with manic enthusiasm, talking about nothing but the energy that was coursing through me because of a new thought, a new action. The phases always petered out and ended; extinguished in their infancy, never to return.

That’s what my 2014 was like. It’s cluttered with the stunted ruins of half finished projects. This is not how I want 2015 to be. I want to keep the peaks and the troughs, I want dad’s advice to rule so that I don’t need to summon up Mr Mayer’s words, useful as they are for all manners of troubleshooting and damage control.

This year should be one of sustained mindfulness.

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