Today I want to dig into the philosophy of Kierkegaard, specifically the burden of freedom every one of us carries. Kierkegaard coins the terms “Getting lost in the infinite” and “Getting lost in the finite.” I will be discussing the latter term in another blog post.
What does it mean to get lost in the infinite?
Well, I can attest that this dilemma is very real and very scary. I believe many of us get lost in the infinite. I will illustrate getting lost in the infinite with the task of finding your purpose or career in life. Every individual on their path to self-discovery carries the burden of trying to understand how they fit in. They must uncover their purpose and what makes them come alive. For many, this becomes an overwhelming task to accomplish because there are so many paths that an individual can choose from. There is an infinite number of possibilities that one can decide between and the result is one of two things.
1. An individual comes to the conclusion through experience and obtainment of knowledge that one path is clearly more fulfilling than all other paths.
2. An individual contemplates all paths that they can take over and over again allowing the fear of uncertainty to prohibit them from taking any path at all. They become trapped in their own minds, confined by the infinite.
The first choice is ideal, it carries with it a feeling of clarity and direction. The second choice carries doubt and anxiety. But why anxiety? The anxiety derives from the freedom that everyone carries with them. The freedom to choose and pave your own path in life is a daunting task. In this light, freedom can be seen as a burden. However, it is of paramount importance to overcome this burden to truly be your own self and create a truly fulfilling life as a human being. If this burden of freedom is not met with determination to overcome, the individual becomes part of the herd (society). Instead of thinking for themselves they follow the rule book that is handed to them, and at that point, they are no longer a distinctly separate thinking individual.
So are you lost in the infinite?
I know I was for quite a while, instead of taking action and doing something about my thoughts…I just sat around thinking in circles. The actions I did take were me just cooperating with societal standards, following the “tried-and-true” path.
I think it is important to ask yourself “why am I doing what I am doing?” Are you mindlessly taking action or are you truly thinking for yourself? I think many of us will find that we have found ourselves to be dependent thinkers – a regurgitation of other’s thoughts. Why? Because the burden of freedom and the burden of choice was too overwhelming. Now, I’m not writing this to call people out per se, because I too fell into the trap of the infinite, you can do it almost subconsciously. It takes great effort to be your own thinking person. I am writing this for you to become aware of this fact, that you may very well be either lost in the infinite, not taking action because the thought of you choosing the wrong career path and potentially wasting years of your life is scary, or you are subconsciously being motivated to follow the paths of others because it is easier. Neither of these realities is optimal for living life to the fullest extent.
So how do you overcome the infinite while simultaneously being your own person?
One word: Action.
A great example is that of a donkey. One day a donkey stands between two necessities – food and water. However, the donkey can’t decide if he is more thirsty or more hungry. He stands there all day trying to choose which he should consume first, and as a result, he never drinks or eats anything. The anxiety of choice demobilized him and ultimately killed him.
Obviously, this is a silly example, but it illustrates the importance of action. If the donkey would have just taken action, he would have realized that he could walk over to the water first and then to the food, satisfying both needs with the action of prioritization.
The key to overcoming the infinite is to get over the fear of uncertainty of the results of your actions, make a list of potential career paths that seem somewhat interesting to you, prioritize them, and just take action. If the first action doesn’t result in fulfillment or if you are still curious to learn more, try the next thing, then the next thing. With every cycle, you will get closer to your desired career path. This same ideology overcomes the infinite in all cases, not just the career example.
So are you lost in the infinite?